|Unione Venezia (in white) takes on Mezzocorona of Trentino, 8 December 2011|
As recently as 2002 the Venice team--or, at times, Venice-Mestre team--was in Italy's top league, Serie A. But since being declared bankrupt after the 2009 season (as it had been after the 2005 season as well) it has vied for top spot in Serie D as F.B.C. Unione Venezia.
A local friend who has rarely attended a game since its demotion from Serie A said that the stadium used to have a great many more bleachers, which were removed as the team's fortunes declined. To attend a Serie A game in the old fully fitted-out stadium was, he told me, a thrilling and terrifying experience. Thrilling because the fans were rabid in their support. Terrifying because the old metal stands never seemed particularly sturdy and when the crowd got to stamping its feet in unison, as it often did, complete structural collapse seemed certain and imminent.
Venezia fans still stamp their feet, and sing, and jeer their opponents, and are still as passionate as before--but there are far fewer of them. Perhaps 3,000 per game, as compared to more than 20,000 in the Serie A days.
|A sampling of the team's most boisterous supporters|
But the games are worth attending if only to observe the fans. I always sit near the large group of ultras in the Distinti section--there's another isolated group of them in the Curva Sud, behind the goal. The price for a seat in either section is the same, so I'm not sure why someone would choose the latter place, as the view is much worse, but there may be some details about each group of supporters I've yet to learn.
At least two or three of the ultras who lead the songs and chants and cheering spend the entire game with their back to the action--not even American high school cheerleaders see so little of what's going on. As there is no in-stadium screen showing instant replays, nor even a scoreboard, these young men miss everything. In the church of calcio they are the most selfless of sacristans.
But try as they might, there was no helping i lagunari this day. Venezia hardly even threatened to score. In frustration, I took to wandering all over the stands, then down close to the field, then up to the very highest most distant bleachers in the place, trying out different vantage points. But there was no beauty to be found in the so-called "beautiful game" last Thursday, at least not for a Venezia fan. So I turned my back to the field and looked out over the shipyard behind the stadium, the harbor, the lagoon. I was not disappointed.
|When there's no beauty to be found on the field, there's always the lagoon|