Messina is the third largest city in Sicily and thirteenth in Italy; founded in the 8th century BC throughout its history it has endured countless catastrophes. Seized by Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans and Spaniards for its tactical position; it has also been the site of plagues (rumoured to be the port where the Black Death entered mainland Europe), earthquakes and even a tsunami. The most recent earthquake in 1908 brought the city to its knees killing 60,000 people and destroying most of the ancient architecture. A further catastrophe is on the verge of occurring for the fans of the city’s football team.
On Sunday Messina who are now in Serie D (Italy’s fourth level) failed to show up for a game against Real Nocera in the province of Salerno, near Naples. This was the 2nd consecutive game they had been unable to put a team out for and there are fears that the team risks being ejected from league football altogether should it fold.
A troubled past…
The club have had a far from stable history, both on and off the field, and are a true yo-yo team. They have been constantly rising and falling through the Italian pyramid having played just 5 seasons in the top flight in their 110 year history. Messina were the club that gave the world Toto Schillaci; his sale to Juventus by Zdenek Zeman in 1989 allowed the virtually unknown striker to go to the 1990 World Cup and pick up the golden boot.
Schillaci had been with the club since 1983 and helped haul them up from Serie C2 up to the heady heights of Serie B where they managed to secure mid table mediocrity for 4-5 seasons but could not maintain their status for more than a few seasons following the Palermitan’s departure.
The club were relegated to Serie C1 and then due to financial difficulties the FIGC decided that they were not going to allow Messina to compete in any form of professional football. This led to four seasons in the Campionato Nazionale Dilettanti (National Amateur Championship) was followed by a merger with local club Peloro to avoid relegation again to a regional championship. The merged club began it’s ascent up the Italian Pyramid culminating with promotion to the top flight in 2003-04 for the 2nd time in the club’s history. Messina were able to pull off a number of shocks during their stay in Serie A; including beating AC Milan and Inter in their first season up. Sadly, after 3 years relegation came and the disastrous spiral began leaving them where they sit now penniless in Serie B.
…and an uncertain future
The club was declared bankrupt in 2008; new investment couldn’t be found even after the club having been put up for auction countless times. It appears that the men in charge have reached the end of the line, they now think that letting the club fold would be less dishonourable than the past 19 months the fans have had to live through.
They began the season disastrously with a 6-0 defeat where they had to field a makeshift side comprised mostly of youth players from a local football academy just to avoid forfeiting the game. The players have been without a fixed above after having been evicted from a hotel where they were staying three weeks ago due to debts owed to the establishment totalling €39,058, the hotel made a statement saying they could no longer offer such large gestures of good will. The players are no longer in the city, the local council had offered them guest rooms but even that has been withdrawn.
On Sunday 24th the team failed to show up for their home game against Cittanova, they have been fined €1,000 and the visiting side were awarded a 3-0 win. Together with the absence from Sunday’s away game at Real Nocera mentioned above, the club is in a dire state once more. The league has threatened them with expulsion if they fail to fulfil 2 more fixtures, leaving the city without any football team. The debts are in the region of €650,000 – money that will not be easy to come by for people in the city. They may see the sale of their 40,000 capacity stadium to help with the debt repayments, rendering a return even to Serie B improbable. We can but wish the giallirossi well, and hope that they may have some form of football soon.