Could there be a least likely but more deserving new arrival to Serie A? Little Carpi, representing a town of 70,000 souls rocked by a terrible earthquake in 2012, won the 2014-2015 Serie B title by a country mile and now stand alongside Juventus, Inter, Milan and the rest in 2015-16.
Sadly, Carpi’s 4,000-capacity Stadio Sandro Cabassi is too small to host top-flight football so the Biancorossi play their home games at the Stadio Alberto Braglia in nearby Modena. Some of the club’s loyal followers, Guidati di Lambrusco (‘Powered by Lambrusco’), haven’t taken kindly to the move, wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan ‘Il Carpi solo a Carpi’ (‘Carpi in Carpi Alone’) – but the real story here will be one of survival.
Then again, of late Carpi have been ripping up the form book. Founded in 1909, the year after local marathon runner Dorandi Pietri gained eternal fame by wobbling in first over the finish line at the London Olympics, AC Carpi did little to bother the statisticians until coming close to Serie B promotion in 1997.
Folding due to bankruptcy in 2000, the renamed Carpi FC 1909 incorporated the other main team in town, Dorando Pietri Carpi, and leapt two leagues in three seasons. On May 20 2012, Carpi were playing a promotion play-off at Sorrento, aiming for the unchartered waters of Serie B. They beat their Campania rivals, stoking hopes for the return match a week later. But when the victorious team pulled into their home town in the Po Valley, they were only met by a smattering of fans. An earthquake registering 5.9 on the Richter scale had struck Carpi just as its team was preparing to take to the field in Sorrento.
Many locals had set up tents, moved to shelters or were sleeping in cars as the aftershocks continued to roll through Carpi and the region. Playing for safety reasons at Modena’s Stadio Alberto Braglia, Carpi fell to Sorrento 1-0 but qualified on a superior league record. The match came two days before a second earthquake caused the overall loss of 27 lives and €13 million worth of damages.
For 15 days until the play-off decider against Pro Vercelli, Carpi trained away from home, at Novara, 230km away in Piedmont, and in Parma. Many attribute the subsequent defeat by Pro Vercelli and failure to reach Serie B on the earthquakes. For the new campaign in 2012-13, the town and the team had galvanised. With a frugal budget nearing €3 million bankrolled by local entrepreneur Stefano Bonacini, owner of the Gaudi fashion brand, and with renewed determination, Carpi gained promotion to Serie B.
Bringing in Lagos-born Jerry Mbakogu and Roberto Inglese up front, on loan from Juve Stabia and Chievo respectively, Carpi finished a respectable 12th in their debut campaign in the second flight. With the arrival of much-travelled Fabrizio Castori as coach in September 2014, Carpi burst out of the blocks in 2014-15, sat nine points clear at Christmas – and stayed there.
For the crucial clash at third-placed Vicenza, the wonderfully named Kevin Lasagna scored an early brace to settle the game. A 3-0 home win over Bologna all but sealed the deal, Serie A then achieved with a goalless draw with Bari.
Tickets can be purchased online via Listicket or from the windows at the Stadio Alberto Braglia – you’ll need provide ID when buying in person. For visits of the biggest clubs, you can expect to pay €27 in the home end, the Curva Montagnani, rising to €38 in the gradinata and €80 in the tribuna coperta. Prices drop around 10-15% for more middling opponents.