Padraig Whelan Date: 3rd April 2015 at 2:00pm
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This Friday, April 3 marks the 109-year anniversary of the date that La Gazzetta dello Sport first hit news-stands across Italy.

Over a century later, it is the most recognised sports paper in the world, thanks in no small part to its distinctive design, and is available around the globe both in print format and online.

It is a staple of everyday life in the peninsula with a circulation of over a quarter of a million and has a readership that hovers around the 3 million mark.

Yet for a paper that leans so heavily on its nation’s love of calcio, it did not always start out as such in its humble beginnings – in fact, moving in the opposite direction to that of Juventus, they were not even always pink.

Founded by Eugenio Camillo Costamagna from Turin and Alessandria’s Eliso Rivera, both in their early ’30s, they were situated in a small office in Pasquirolo behind Milan’s famous Duomo and had a staff of just five people in the early days.

Gazzetta dello Sport N1

There first issue saw 20,000 copies printed. Every single one was sold at a time when other big sporting papers like Corriere dello Sport and Tuttosport were still some way off inception.

Much of the early coverage centred on cycling (always the traditional front page), motorsport, hunting and fishing and it was three years, in January of 1899 before the paper was printed in pink for the first time.

It was not until the late 1930s and ’40s until football’s popularity began to grow under the editorial guidance of Bruno Roghi, known as ‘the poet of sport’ and he oversaw an increase in coverage of the sport, helped greatly by Italy’s successive World Cup triumphs at that time.

Gianni Brera

Other iconic Italian sportswriting greats to have featured throughout Gazzetta were the immortal Gianni Brera, who became editor at the age of just 30, as well as Gino Palumbo who reshaped the design of the paper and Candido Cannavo who enjoyed a lengthy spell at the helm.

He was there during a prosperous period in the ’80s in which they outsold every other paper together and incredibly shifted 1.5m copies the day after Italy won the World Cup for a third time in 1982.

Italy WC 1982

Among the most popular part of the pink paper is their pagelle, or system which are pored over by spectators, commentators and even those receiving them with every number and letter scrutinised carefully since their inception in .

The first player ever to receive a perfect 10 in their numbered ratings was Alessio Scarpi, a goalkeeper at Cagliari who saved the life of teammate Gianluca Grassadonia by performing CPR after he collapsed on the field.

Others to have been recipients of this hallowed honour are Buffon and Fabio Cannavaro for their World Cup final performances, Roberto Baggio for helping Inter to the Champions League after inspiring them to victory over Parma in 2000 as well as Robert Lewandowski and Oleg Salenko for scoring multiple times in big games as well as for orchestrating Inter to their Champions League final success five years ago.

Gazzetta dello Sport pagelle

These ratings are so important to the Italian consciousness that Careca took it upon himself to take a to task in an unsavoury manner after he was handed a lowly marking following a 5-1 defeat suffered by Napoli against in the UEFA Cup while a 2005 Rome derby in which both sides played for a draw resulted in no individual marks being awarded.

So, 109 years on, things still look good for Gazzetta; in a time when newspapers worldwide are struggling, they continue to be a major player in print as well as growing into the modern age with a heavy online and social media presence. Life remains pretty in pink for them.