Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Places I Have Been: Siracusa

Siracusa: the New York City of Magna Grecia, birthplace of Santa Lucia, the city where Archimedes had his eureka moment, Epicarmus introduced the notion of pathos into comedy, and Claudio Ranieri had a one-month spell on loan from Roma in 1973.

The smell of marijuana and the sea, a 1930s entrance gate with graffiti on the sides, and whitewashed flats and palm trees overlooking the three stands.

In Sicily I lived so close to the Ionian Sea I could have chipped a pass into it. The Duomo was a five-minute walk away, work half an hour, and the football stadium, Stadio Nicola De Simone, was somewhere between the two, just before you hit the orange-squeezer church of Madonna delle Lacrime. The first time I went to see Unione Sportiva Siracusa play I sat in the posh seats and watched a routine 3-1 win. The second time I stood on the terrace and got caught up in the midst of a riot. I call it a riot because that's how it was reported and punished, but what really happened was this: Cavese scored two goals, a few fans sat astride the perimeter fence gazing moodily at the pitch, looking just as likely to start singing Coldplay songs as they were to invade it. Someone held up a banner depicting an elephant being straddled by a lion (a joke based on the symbols of Catania and Siracusa; Siracusa hate Catania, but Catania mainly hate Palermo, which makes things even worse) and a few stray objects were lobbed towards the pitch. The referee responded by taking the players to the opposite touchline, which prompted several loud suggestions that his wife was routinely unfaithful to him, that his mother had been unfaithful to his father and that he had used a donkey in being unfaithful to all three. After a few minutes of this two Carabinieri finally appeared from behind the top goal and everyone scarpered for the exit at the first sight of a riot shield.

The end result of it all was that Siracusa were banned from playing at home for the next three months. By the time they returned their promotion chances had gone much the same way as Vince Cable's, a loss to Vittoria in the end-of-season play-offs leaving them marooned in Serie D.

I predict a riot.

They finally made it up in 2009, and are now in Lega Pro Prima Divisione (or Serie C1 if you prefer your leagues in old money). As I type, they sit as comfortably as a Christian Democrat before Mani Pulite, sixth in the table, ahead of Zdenek Zemen's Foggia, Pisa and, best of all, Cavese.

Even Archimedes would have been proud of that.


  1. My football outings in Italy have been restricted to just two games (although on both occasions it was the San Siro!). For me though the lower leagues hold more appeal and I would love to do a tour of some of the Serie B, C and D grounds. Lack of time and funds mean that’s unlikely to happen any time soon.

  2. I was stuck on the south-east coast of Sicily when Newcastle played at the San Siro and sadly missed out on having flares and bags of urine dumped on my head. I did get to see Catania in Serie B, though the stinking hangover I had at the time means I can't remember much about it besides the opponents (Triestina) and the scoreline (a 2-1 defeat).