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The Little Club That Dreamed Big

Words by Francesco Fabbroni
Illustration by Case Jernigan

Pistoia, a medium-sized town in the heart of Tuscany. It is the summer of 1980 and after 50 years the local football team (Unione Sportiva Pistoiese) has just been promoted again to the top league, Serie A. For a 10-year old boy who fell in love with football a couple of years earlier this is potentially the pinnacle of his existence.

The summer is a magical season, school is over and the transfer market frantic. In the ’70s foreign players had been banned from playing in Italy, supposedly to strengthen the local youth. But then, at the end of the decade, it was decided that foreign players actually would add value to Italian football and should come back.

Having a foreign player in your team now adds a new dimension to the football fever, introduces an exotic variable which makes the game, if possible, even more riveting. Superstars’ names are flying round and just the sound of it makes fans feel a sharp sense of excitement. It is ground-breaking, enthralling, no risk to overstate the intensity of the emotions. Endless heated discussions take place in the bars of the peninsula.