It’s been a long time since Brescia and Atalanta went head to head in their Lombardia Derby, but they’re set to meet again at the Stadio Mario Rigamonti this Saturday afternoon, bringing an end to a 13-year wait.
Despite the wait and inevitable anticipation, the derby won’t quite feel right. Atalanta’s fans are protesting and are planning to sit out the short trip due to what they consider to be overly intensified security measures.
By 11am on Friday morning, only 16 away tickets had been sold as the Bergamaschi are uniting with their ultras’ call for unity in protestation.
It’s a shame, too, because the rivalry between Bresciani and Bergamaschi is one that goes beyond football, and it would have made for quite the spectacle.
Roots in the 12th century
The bad blood between the clubs, or more accurately the cities, goes back 900 years.
Property belonging to Bresciano Giovanni Brusati was up for sale and purchased by the City of Bergamo in 1126, only for Emperor Federico I Barbarossa to order the land’s return to Brescia, prompting the outbreak of a war in 1156.
Pigs and rabbits
Residents of Bergamo refer to their near neighbours as ‘pigs’, while the Bresciani return the insults by calling Bergamaschi ‘rabbits’. Of course, those insults haven’t always been limited to name-calling and during a derby in the 1930s, the Stadio Rigamonti pitch had hundreds of rabbits released onto it by home supporters.
Naturally, Atalanta felt the need to respond and they delivered their revenge in the reverse fixture in Bergamo by letting dozens of pigs loose into the away section of the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia.
These incidents have been seen more recently too, with blue and black rabbits set loose and Atalanta having a pig wearing a Brescia shirt in their own end.
The Mazzone Derby
Derbies tend to see heads lost and tempers flared, and Carlo Mazzone provided one of Serie A’s finest examples of this in 2001/02.
Mazzone’s Brescia hosted the Nerazzurri on September 30, 2001 and all looked well for them when Roberto Baggio put them ahead. But Atalanta came back and found themselves with a 3-1 lead.
The away fans aimed insults and mocking chants at Mazzone, but when Brescia got within a goal he turned to the away fans.
“Now we’re going to get a third,” he shouted “and when we do I’m coming under the curva.”
He delivered on his promise.
Baggio scored again, eventually levelling in the 90th minute, sending his irate coach down the sideline, ready to take on the thousands of away fans single-handedly.
The fans don’t forget
Rivalries are taken seriously in Italy, and Fabio Gallo learnt that words aren’t forgotten so easily.
Having played for Brescia from 1992 to 1995, he them moved to Atalanta for a six-year stay. “Finally, real fans,” he said upon his arrival in Bergamo, and those he left behind made it clear that he could never return to their club.
But when Marco Giampaolo was appointed at the Rigamonti in 2013, Gallo went as his assistant. The fans complained, it didn’t work out, Giampaolo and his team resigned shortly after.
During one of Atalanta’s annual summer parties – Festa della Dea – new signing Giulio Migliaccio sought to endear himself to his new fans.
His statement couldn’t have been any more emphatic, either, taking a tank and driving it over two cars – one painted in Brescia colours and the other in `Roma’s – destroying them completely.
President Antonio Percassi defended it as a joke, but the FIGC didn’t agree and Migliaccio was hit with a €17,000 fine.
The derby looked lost
Both sides had been yoyo teams for a while, but Gian Piero Gasperini’s arrival at Atalanta elevated them to European football, while Brescia were struggling in Serie B.
With Atalanta beating Lyon and Everton in their Europa League group a couple of seasons ago, a local paper in Brescia published a full-page advertisement explaining that the Rondinelle supporters shouldn’t concern themselves with the rivalry any more, and instead praise their neighbours’ success.
Now, La Dea are still travelling around Europe in the Champions League, while Brescia sit bottom of Serie A.
But Gasperini said this week that the table doesn’t matter, and he’ll be wary of the threat Fabio Grosso’s side can pose, particularly after a tiring week that’s seen them play Juventus and a crucial Champions League game against Dinamo Zagreb in midweek.