There aren’t many populations prouder than the Sardinians, or ‘Sardusu’ in the island’s language – and dare you call it a dialect – when it comes to a deep love of their land, culture, food, heritage and of course, Calcio.
The Sardegna arena, Cagliari’s temporary ground, bears constant witness to murmurings of their legendary 1969/70 season, be it a full attendance or a vastly reduced allocation of 1,000 as locals glance back in the hope that someday they’ll have stories new to share, of success and jubilation, just like their famous title-winning season half a century ago.
Many good things are in the pipeline in this transitional period with plans for a state-of-the-art stadium ready to be realised, the first brick to be laid next year, all being well, but this so-called temporary structure is starting to feel permanent with its weathered, once white sheeting that covers the concert-like, scaffold stands as the locals await a place they can really call home.
One thing that is more than ever evident is that the saying, ‘football without fans is nothing’, rings truer than it has done before on a glorious afternoon in which some of Casteddu’s luckiest fans witnessed yet another Serie A goal-fest, an end-to-end encounter that finished 4-2 and had the lot, including a red card for ex-Rossoblu midfielder, Luca Cigarini.
The hustle and bustle of the pre match was accompanied by the usual blasting of Fatboy Slim’s epic ‘Right Here, Right Now’ on the stadium’s speaker system as those in attendance did their best to create some kind of atmosphere with their ‘Forza Cagliari’ chants, while the press box also felt less makeshift than before, funky new screens for each reporter to get to grips with.
As if there aren’t enough signs of Sardinian pride on any given day, the ‘Quattro Mori’ – the island’s iconic and recognisable flag – strewn all across the city, plastered in shop windows and worn on tracksuits with intent, regardless of whether they’re club merchandise or not, then come match day it’s definitely in your face in an almost ‘this is our land, our team’ manner in keeping with the club’s motto of ‘Una teraa, un popolo, una squadra’.
From children with Cagliari themed masks to the elderly woman with her full strip and red-and-blue dyed hair, the Cagliaritani don’t leave chance for anyone to wonder whose side they’re on and this afternoon was no different, the well-known woman in attendance once again and thankfully so, drumming up support with her random shouts of ‘ajo’ – meaning ‘come on’ in Sardinian – to get the team going.
As the game ebbed and flowed, groans accompanied lost balls and cheers followed every tackle as they do on any given weekend. The people’s game being enjoyed by the people and Cagliari Calcio by the people for whom it has such importance. Blissfully simple yet enough to trigger goosebumps during these brief moments, these tiny wins for football and more importantly for its fans in the shape of moans and groans.
— ForzaItalianFootball (@SerieAFFC) October 25, 2020
The first half saw five goals and the hosts head in with the lead, Giovanni Simeone grabbing his fourth of the season, Charalampos Lykogiannis sending a world-class free kick into the top corner and Riccardo Sottil getting his first for the club after his summer move from Fiorentina while Salvatore Molina and the extremely impressive Junior Messias kept the visitors in an extremely entertaining tie.
Although the fans did their best, the screams, shouts and tactical calls from the players and coaches down on the playing surface don’t go unnoticed. Giovanni Stroppa’s voice bellowed out instructions throughout, some more basic than others, ‘get it out’ screamed on several occasions while Crotone’s back-four were in possession, perhaps even unnecessarily as they managed to forge a chance on at least one of the occasions they ignored his orders.
Then came the moment, the one that stuck. Cigarini was given his marching orders, for a second yellow card, just after half-time to ironic cheers before one fan shouted, ‘Luca, sei uno di noi, grazie’ – meaning, ‘Luca, you’re one of us, thank you’- and if I heard it from up high then the ex-Casteddu man certainly did too. Football encapsulated in a beautifully simple moment.
On went the game after a spattering of applause for their former midfield man, wry smiles all around. There was enough time for Joao Pedro to put the game beyond doubt towards the end, a very important goal that moved the Brazilian joint-second with fellow countryman, Luis Oliviera, in the club’s all time list of Serie A goal-scorers with his 45th strike, needing one goal to sit clear behind the legendary Gigi Riva, albeit 100-odd goals back.
In times of such uncertainty, the ‘Sardusu’ have a hero to help guide them through, Pedro wears the captain’s armband with pride and is held in high regard on the island, often known to stop and natter in the street and particularly appreciated after supposedly turning down other clubs in the summer in order to establish himself as the main man, to modern fans what Riva is to those old enough to have witnessed him lead the club to its only Scudetto, you know the one.
Who knows what the future holds, but one things is for certain and it’s that football brings people together, especially in times of adversity, and nowhere more so than in a city and on an island where Cagliari Calcio is life.