“This team deserves even more – Serie A,” said Parma Coach Roberto D’Aversa following promotion to Serie B. “Usually it is said that the Coach leads the team to promotion, but in this case it is the opposite and the players brought me.”
Promotion was no fluke. Three Coaches, chopped and changed, whilst President Nevio Scala stepped down following disputes. It wasn’t easy. When is promotion ever easy?
The opening round was a dud, 0-0 to Modena, as was Week 3 away to Santarcangelo. Venezia’s midweek visit reiterated Lega Pro would not be a walk in the park. Leading 1-0 thanks to Felice Evacuo’s early penalty, the eventual champions netted twice – in the 89th and 91st minute. From an unbeaten Serie D season – 94 incredible points notched – Parma were 10th and far from their best.
But this is not a story about overcoming obstacles. This football club has achieved greatness in yesteryear – three-time Coppa Italia and double UEFA Cup winners. The 1990s was their time – but it was ‘that’ Parma’s time.
Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluigi Buffon, Hernan Crespo, Lilian Thuram. Names that make the little kid inside of every Italian football fan in the nineties do a mini-somersault. The 1990s Parma was a joy, though that is exactly where those memories should stay. The story being written is a new beginning. The 2015 Parma that started from nothing. Those named were the pinnacle of a 20-year building process from the seventies, not the starting point of their accomplishments.
Enter Parma of today – this is their time. D’Aversa was one of those pioneers. Suave, rugged, something a bit ‘Javier Bardem’ about him, took the reins before Christmas. An early present for Parmensi to unwrap like giggling schoolgirls. The Gialloblu hadn’t enjoyed the perfect start to third tier football – 25 out of a possible 45 points saw them eighth in the league - before the 41-year-old was pacing the touchline.
The beginning of an incredible upsurge was upon Parma. On just four occasions they would leave the pitch with tails between their legs and no points. Second place and a spot in the play-offs was secured, especially thanks to the goals of a 35-year-old. A man who may be known best for his goals with Napoli and Siena, but last season wrote himself into the history of not only a 103-year-old club, but the rebirthed two-year-old club too. A man who goes by the name of Emanuele Calaiò.
“I cried with joy when we were promoted to Serie B,” confessed Calaiò. “It was a very long championship and there was a fear of not [achieving] it. The tension transformed to joy and we managed to get to Serie B.”
Calaiò played the most minutes in his entire career – 3,550 – starting 39 matches out of his 42 appearances. Ageless. His goal-scoring record was that of his 21-year-old self, just three-short of his 2003-04 tally when featuring for Pescara in Serie B. One man does not make a team, however.
Kudos to Alessandro Lucarelli, captain of a club he has been at since 2008. A scorer in all eight playable seasons, he told Radio Anch’io in 2015 he would play for Parma in Serie D if necessary. It was, and he did.
At 40 years of age, Lucarelli confessed he would’ve retired had the club remained in Lega Pro. Video of his locker room speech before the Playoff Final victory over Alessandria went viral, like a real life version of Any Given Sunday. He has forever earned his place in the Parma pantheon, every bit as much as Cannavaro, Thuram or Crespo. This was a side rebuilt from Serie D in his image.
Parma are now a second-tier club, but their story is only just beginning. It is not about replicating or reproducing success from 20 years ago, but to make their own.