Pisa vs Livorno – Derby del Tirreno
In a nation littered with derbies stretching the length of the peninsula, the most notable and enticing games to the outsider are the likes of the Derby Di Italia, the Rome derby and the Derby della Madonnina.
However, scratch beneath the surface behind the glitz and glamour of Serie A’s most alluring clubs and you’ll see derbies which have their roots in centuries of ill feeling.
One such match which is embodies such emotions is A.S Livorno Calcio against A.C Pisa 1909. A mere twenty miles separate Pisa and Livorno and while Tuscany is renowned for its beauty and culture, the region also contains numerous towns and cities which have been vying for power and independence for countless centuries.
Livorno and Pisa have spent much of their history erratically scaling between divisions, the amaranto’s most successful season came back in the 1942-1943 campaign where they finished runners-up in a pre-World War Two Serie A.
Like their counterparts on the Tyrrhenian coast, Pisa’s most successful season came before World War II in 1920/1921 when they also finished second. You have go back two decades, to the 1990/1991 season to find the last time Il Nerazzurri dined at the top table of Italian football, containing no less than a young Diego Simone at the heart of their midfield.
Pisa now find themselves in the Lega Pro Prima Divisione formally known as Serie C1 after being relegated from Serie B in 2008/2009. Livorno on the other hand, have spent all but two of the last seven seasons in Serie A, even taking in the bright lights of the then UEFA Cup.
Their most recent season in the top flight was in 2009/1010, which saw them relegated after finishing bottom.While not the most well known of derbies, its story is a fascinating one.
The first indication of a rivalry between the two Tuscan town’s can be traced back to the 13th century when in the battle of Meloria, Pisa lost a naval battle to the Genoese a few miles of Livorno’s shore. Livorno then became the main mariner town under the Medici rule. Pisa lost its right as a vital port, a position it previously held due it’s location at the base of the Arno river. Pisa then flourished through its expansion in the art’s and academia, gaining noteriety as the provincial capital of Tuscany.
Livorno was the birthplace of the communist party of Italy in 1921, and can stake a claim to be the countries leading leftist city. Due to it’s standing as port town it became a safe haven for those persecuted for their religion, politics or race, thus making it a melting pot of customs and cultures.
It’s ultra’s are fiercly proud of their leftist roots and their banners can be seen displaying the communist hammer and sickle. So strong are the communist ties that the ultras have formed a united “brotherhood” of ultra’s with other leftist supporters from Olympique Marsielle and AEK Athens.
One of the most infamous clashes came in the 2000/2001 season in Serie C1, clashes before and after the game between both sets of ultra’s and police as well as a dozen wounded and four arrested. The Labronici had clashed with the police upon leaving Pisa train station, some 1,500 ultra’s had to be restrained with tear gas.
Upon the start of the game tension remained high in Pisa’s Garibaldi Arena. Pisa fans began launching garbage bags and firecrackers down onto their own pitch after Livorno took the lead from a dubious penalty decision. The game had to be stopped for over 25 minutes as the officials implored the players and managers to try and regain some control within the stands.
One banner in the stands ominously read ‘this is the choreography you deserve’. Once the game to begin again it didn’t take long for the chaotic scenes to resume, Pisa supporters lit a bonfire causing the linesman to abandon his position for his own safety. This was understandbly the last straw for the referee as the game was called off.
There was still an air of apprehension around the ground as the Il Torri ultra’s exited the infamous curva nord, the police had to use heavy handed measures to keep back the throngs of ultra’s exiting Pisa’s stadium.
While the 2000/2001 clash will sit uncomfortably in the history of both clubs, the 2008/2009 fixture attracted attention for all the right reasons.
The Serie B match between the two brought about an incredible and unlikely alliance between the sides supporters. Livorno fans were banned from Pisa’s Garibaldi Arena to avoid any potential flare-ups. Pisa fans organised for those opposed to the ban to meet on the steps outside the stadium to listen to the match on the radio whilst partaking in anti-Livorno chants.
This extradionary act of solidarity with their Livornese cousins tells you how the identity of a club can be enriched and triumphed through it’s relationship with another club. The Pisa supporters who took part in the boycott were adamantly against the idea of a Derby Del Tirreno without their rival fans being a part of the vitriol spectacle of these two old historic towns fighting for provincial pride.
Derbies between local rivals can often hold more significance then city derbies, whereas in medievil times the two cities fought over resources and power, nowadays the arena of calcio showcases the bitter and frayed relationship these two clubs enjoy.
Follow Enzo on Twitter: @Enz_88
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