Friday April 11 2014
Sicilian football’s changing face

Sicilian football has seen plenty of change over the past year, as Lorenzo Vicini explains.

It was a scene many Palermo fans still have burned into their memory. In late April, a raucous crowd of 13,000 held up signs with the letter ‘B’ on them at Catania’s Stadio Massimino – a harsh welcome to the coming reality of life in Serie B the following season.

The match would end in a fiercely contested 1-1 draw with Josip Ilicic netting the equaliser in the fifth minute of stoppage time to cancel out Pablo Barrientos’ 69th minute strike. A few weeks later, Palermo would be relegated while Catania would continue to enjoy life in Italy’s top flight. Now nearly a year since that last meeting, both clubs are heading in opposite directions and Serie A could very well be without a Sicilian derby once more.

This year, Catania seem to be paying for the presumptuousness of last season’s eight place finish. Club President Antonino Pulvirenti clearly did not learn from Palermo patron Maurizio Zamparini’s mistakes the year before as the Elefanti sit in last place in Serie A, seven points away from safety. With only four wins this term, Catania has struggled in every facet, sporting the League’s worst attack with 24 goals, the third worst defence, conceding 57 goals, and going winless away from home. Furthermore, in a page out of the ‘Zamparini Book of Errors’, Pulvirenti has made three coaching changes. After Roland Maran was sacked in October, Luigi De Canio lasted till mid-January before Maran was brought back. After Maran’s second stint with the club ended last weekend, Maurizio Pellegrino was brought on as a caretaker for the remaining six matches. Serie B is looming large.

On the other side of the island, Palermo have enjoyed life in Serie B after an initial bumpy patch under Gennaro Gattuso. Zamparini admitted his mistake in appointing the young tactician, replacing him with promotion specialist Beppe Iachini after just six matches. Iachini has so far lived up to his reputation as Palermo sit in first place, leading second by a 13 point margin. The club sits on 66 points after 32 rounds, a total that has only been surpassed by Juventus - 75 - and Sassuolo - 72 - during the same stage.

Zamparini righted many of the wrongs he committed the previous season by building a strong side capable of promotion outright. He kept leaders like Edgar Barreto, Ezequiel Munoz, Stefano Sorrentino while adding solid role players like Francesco Bolzoni and Alen Stevanovic coupled with burgeoning youths in Andrea Belotti and Achraf Lazaar. The result has been a Palermo side that has dominated the competition, underscored by a staggering record of just two losses in the 27 games Iachini has coached. With seven matches to go, Palermo will face another Sicilian side hoping to make history and keeping a derby alive in Serie A next year.

Just over an hour west of Palermo lies Trapani, a small coastal town known more for its fishing than for its football. And yet, Trapani – in their debut season in Serie B – are making waves for their incredible run towards an unthinkable promotion. Led by the masterful tactician Roberto ‘Rocco’ Boscaglia, the Granata have made the jump from Serie D to Serie B in just four seasons.

The up-and-coming Coach now has this modest club on the verge of the play-offs with the hope of joining Palermo in Serie A, sitting in sixth place on 49 points, just four away from second place Empoli. This remarkably well-run club is getting the most out of its unheralded players like goalkeeper Emanuele Nordi, midfielder Simone Rizzato and Serie B’s leading scorer Matteo Mancosu with 20 goals. Boscaglia is hoping Mancosu can net a winner in the weekend’s derby with Palermo and propel the Granata towards the promised land.

For Sicilian football, the hope is that perhaps a Sicilian derby will once more be played in Serie A next season.

Have your say...
Palermo is the best team in Sicily right now. They have a promising young strikers, like Andrea Belotti and Paulo Dybala and also world class strikers, Abel Hernandez and Kyle Lafferty. In midfield, they have B&B, captain Edgar Barreto and Francesco Bolzoni with their great teamwork and Franco Vazquez as a playmaker. Il Rosanero also have a strong defenders, such as Ezequiel Munoz and Eros Pisano. Beppe Iachini'squad also have 2 class goalkeepers, Stefano Sorrentino and Samir Ujkani. Perfect!
on the 12th April, 2014 at 2:13am
Also Bari and Crotone have been excellent as well spanning the sicilian thing into Calabria and Puglia. Bari had a great crowd out last week for their home game..I think it was about 20,000 turn up for a league game.
on the 11th April, 2014 at 10:35pm
It is great to see an article like this nonetheless, as we all do not want to get provincial and talk about Juventus all the time! Tuttosport provides that!But Serie B is very close this year with only 10 points seperating 3rd from 17th, so everyone is fighting for a play-off spot.
on the 11th April, 2014 at 6:44pm
Palermo have been very good, offensively and defensively this year, solid and reliable and Trapani have been a mini revelation with Mancuso, SBs top scorer and such a valuable player for the team. A couple of blips recently but surely they get playoffs Its a real shame for Catania, the players have it, they just lack real management, real organisation. They could still survive. Sicilian teams deserve respect for the people that have passed through those teams.
on the 11th April, 2014 at 6:39pm
Serie A needs Sicilian teams. They bring such comedy. Seriously though shame to see Catania go down (I assume they are). Palermo will be back with more madness in pink next season. I'm sure Milan will give Catania a few chances on Sunday so they'll have at least one more chance to show what they could do in Serie A. On that note please Seedorf give me one week where I don't have to watch Bonera or Mexes. A little piece of me dies every time they take the pitch!
on the 11th April, 2014 at 3:34pm

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