The Derby di Puglia between Bari and Lecce is a battle not only on the football field but also amongst the proud people in the region of Puglia on the peninsula’s south-east coast.
The two cities might be in the same region but each has their very own way of doing things. From having the most beautiful sea, Bari’s Monopoli and Polignano a Mare versus Lecce’s Gallipoli and Santa Maria di Leuca, to who has the best food, orecchiette with broccoli of Bari versus Ciceri e tria of Lecce, while even the dialect differs in both cities.
On the football field both clubs were formed around the same time, but the Galletti can boast to be the older of the two, as they were formed on January 15, 1908, while the Giallorossi were born on March 15 of the same year.
Like the majority of early Italian football clubs, the Biancorossi were formed by a mix of foreigners along with local merchants including Giovanni Tiberini, while Austrian Floriano Ludwig was not only a co-founder but also one the first foreign players to line out as goalkeeper in the club’s first game against English sailors at the San Lorenzo field in the San Pasquale area of Bari.
The Salentini on the other side were originally name Sporting Club Lecce and not only included football but also track-and-field and cycling sports. The first colours worn by the Lupi were black and white stripes unlike the present day of red and yellow.
Both teams have spent most of their history outside of Italy’s top flight, although the Galletti did enjoy a golden era in the 1930’s and 1940’s, spending most of that time in the top division with a seventh place finish in 1947 being their highest achievement.
A move to the Stadio San Nicola in 1990 from the Stadio della Vittoria coincided with Italy hosting the 1990 FIFA World Cup and in 1991 saw the club splash out nearly €8 million on England midfielder David Platt.
The Giallorossi finally ended their spell in Italy’s lower divisions, when in 1985 they gained promotion to Serie A but were relegated after only one season under Eugenio Fascetti.
Perhaps the 2004/2005 season will go down as one of the most exciting in the club’s history, as a 10th place finish might not sound spectacular, but the 66 goals scored and 73 conceded under Czech coach Zdenek Zeman, certainly kept the fans entertained, and gave the top flight their first look at exciting prospects Valeri Bojinov and Mirko Vucinic, who lead the Salentini forward line.
The first Derby di Puglia between Bari and Lecce took place on 8 December 1929, in Serie B, with Lecce coming out 1-0 winners on home soil, while in the reserve fixture the Biancorossi ran out impressive 3-0 victors.
The majority of fixtures between the sides have taken place in Serie B and it wasn’t until the 1985/1986 season that saw the first meeting in Serie A, when on 27 October 1985, the Galletti sealed a 2-0 victory at the Stadio della Vittoria.
Overall there has been 68 meetings between the sides in the history of the fixture, 12 in Serie C, 32 in Serie B, 14 in Serie A and 10 in the Coppa Italia, with only a hairs breath separating the teams, with 21 wins for the Biancorossi, 22 for the Lupi and 25 draws.
The last fixture to take place was on May 15, 2011, at the Stadio San Nicola in Serie A and saw a 2-0 win for Lecce with goals from Nenad Tomovic and an own goal from Andrea Masiello against an already relegated Bari.
It was later discovered during the Calcioscommesse scandal that then Lupi president Pierandrea Semeraro had attempted fixing the fixture, which he was found guilty of in August 2012 and subsequently banned for five years from any football activities, which was reduced to four on appeal in 2013.
The scandal saw the Giallorossi demoted to Lega Pro Prima Divisione in 2012, and the 2014/2015 season saw Alberto Bollini’s side finish sixth in Lega Pro C.
Who knows when the next Derby di Puglia will take place but when it does expect fireworks and local passions to resurface once again in the heel of Italy.