Venezia are back, and Serie A is better off for it

Date: 20th September 2021 at 9:00am
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STADIO PIER LUIGI PENZO (Venice) – You could have been just about anywhere in Venice’s centre on Sunday and not realised just how big a day it was for the city and its football team. After 19 long years, Serie A football was returning to the Floating City with Venezia once again hosting a top-flight game at the Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo.

Their last was in 2002, and there was an eerie symmetry with Sunday’s outcome. On April 28 that year, Torino were the guests and they too scored a result-changing goal in stoppage time, with their 91st-minute strike sealing a point for the Granata.

By then Venezia’s fate of relegation had already been sealed though, while this weekend’s loss to Spezia could make a difference come May with both sides expected to be battling against the drop this season.

This weekend was big for historic reasons, but also those very much connected to the present. Had you been in Venice on the day, though, you could be forgiven for not even knowing the game was going ahead.

With little to no reference to the club nor their fixtures in the more touristic areas of the city, only a brief march from a small group of ultras through the iconic Piazza San Marco drew some questions from those who were quick to stand aside to let the singing fans through while diverting their smartphones away from Campanile di San Marco in order to record the supporters in full voice.

Only by venturing down along the waterfront and onto Via Garibaldi would you have seen so much as an obvious football reference, with the football shirts gathered for pre-match lunch and drinks. On the 15-minute walk from there to the stadium, it became increasingly clear that there was a game on, never more so than when a police-escorted boat packed with singing Spezia supporters passed in the water.

On the pitch and off it, Venezia in Serie A is good

Venezia might just be one of the most marketable clubs in European and world football. Their home city being arguably the most uniquely picturesque around facilitates that, and their kits for 2021/22 – and in recent seasons – being stunningly designed has helped as well.

The Penzo mightn’t be a perfect stadium, but despite having just one fixed stand it has a lot of character and – however trivial it may seem – the coloured seating really works there in their Arancioneroverde colours. Those temporary stands are used well by the ultras and fans all around the ground to add to the noise, making even the sounds unique to top-level football.

To criticise the stadium would be easy, but that the Penzo is so different to any other Serie A stadium just adds to its charm. It could never be accused of being just another Stadio Friuli or Stadio Benito Stirpe, and there’s a lot to be said for that. Differences make football more interesting, and a trip to Venezia is definitely that.

A potentially significant game

Spezia were the visitors to the Penzo on Sunday, and they left with all three points thanks to two fine goals from the blue. Simone Bastoni put the visitors ahead with a gorgeous first-half strike and, just as it looked as though Pietro Ceccaroni’s leveller had earned the Arancioneroverde a point, Mehdi Bourabia popped up in stoppage time with an excellent effort to win it for Spezia.

Venezia haven’t won a home match in Serie A since February 8, 2002. While their waits for a top-flight game and a Serie A goal at home both ended on Sunday, they’ll have to bide their time for a little longer. With Torino, Fiorentina, and Salernitana their next three home games, the Lagunari will fancy their chances of celebrating a win before too much longer.

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