LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Bologna FC

Saputo aims for Scudetto as BFC echo bygone era

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Bologna FC are a hallowed name in Italian football whose glory days came in the 1920s and 1930s. Success has been all too rare since – and relegation all too frequent.

The Rossoblù haven’t competed in Europe this century, the last appearance coming in December 1999, and defeat to eventual winners Galatasaray in the UEFA Cup.

Formed in 1909, Bologna were one of the first clubs to challenge the early Genoa-Milan-Piedmont hegemony.

Initially dominant in the regional league of Reggio Emilia, Bologna became a serious force after hiring a professional coach, Hermann Felsner, from Vienna, in 1920. Felsner instilled a tactical discipline that allowed the Rossoblù to overcome league final defeats and take a first title in 1925.

Both Felsner and star player Angelo Schiavio stayed with Bologna long-term, winning the title again in 1929. Leading club scorer Schiavio also scored the winning goal in the 1934 World Cup Final.

The Bologna-born centre-forward won his last title in 1936, the start of Bologna’s short domination of the Italian league. By then the coach was Hungarian Árpád Weisz, who fled to Holland as war approached, handing the reins back to Felsner for another championship win in 1938-39. Felsner steered Bologna to the last title of the golden era in 1941.

Bologna also won the Mitropa Cup, forerunner of the European Cup, twice. Weisz perished in Auschwitz, his plaque mounted at the Dall’Ara stadium.

After the war, Bologna remained a top Serie A club, with goals coming from evergreen striker Ezio Pascutti and foreigners Helmut Haller and Danish forward Harald Nielsen. The three featured in the dramatic title win of 1964, when Bologna were docked three points after positive doping tests, only to claim them back and be level on points with Inter.

Bologna had to face the recently crowned European champions in a play-off days after the sudden death of their president, Renato Dall’Ara – the players couldn’t attend the funeral. Led by captain Giacomo Bulgarelli, Bologna triumphed in Rome 2-0.

Bulgarelli also helped the Rossoblù to two Italian cups but Bologna would never again challenge for the title. From 1982, the club slipped straight down to Serie C1 in two seasons. Ten years later, a third-flight Bologna FC were disbanded in financial disarray and a new club, Bologna FC 1909, formed in their place.

With the signing of former Lazio striker Beppe Signori, Bologna climbed back up to the Serie A table, and enjoyed a rare run in Europe to the semi-final of the UEFA Cup, in 1999.

Serie A survival has since been a struggle, and not always a successful one.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

The Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, originally named the Littoriale after high-ranking Roman soldiers, was one of the first to be built across Mussolini’s Italy.

Before then, Bologna had played at the nearby Prati di Caprara, and the Stadio Sterlino to the south-east, but the Littoriale would be a grand arena built in the classic red brick of historic Bologna. It contained a portico, a covered walkway redolent of local architectural. It ran either side of a Marathon Tower, a more squat version of the one in nearby Florence built at the same time.

The Littoriale held 50,000 people, more than half of them seated. Mussolini came to the opening fixture, Italy against Spain, in May 1927. Staging two matches for the 1934 World Cup, the Littoriale hosted the great title-winning Bologna side of the 1930s.

Renamed the Comunale, then the Dall’Ara after the club president who died suddenly on the eve of the 1964 title play-off, the stadium was modernised for the 1990 World Cup, with the installation of a running track, extra seating and a roof over the main stand. As today, the red brick, portico and Marathon Tower remain.

The home end, the Curva Bulgarelli along main via Andrea Costa, is named after the team captain from the 1960s and divided into sections A-F, C and D being right behind the goal. Home fans also occupy the Curva San Luca opposite (A-D, K1/K2), while away fans are allocated sectors A and B alongside, the Curva Ospiti.

Laterali seats in the Distinti either side of the Marathon Tower are affordable and provide a good view. The best and dearest ones are in the Tribuna Coperta, the covered main stand.

getting there

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

Bus 21 runs from the train station (on the right of the forecourt as you exit) to Stadio, a journey of about 15mins and a dozen stops.

Bus 14 also runs along Andrea Costa, from central Rizzoli, while the 20 from Rizzoli calls at the Dello Sport stop at the away end of the stadium.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

The club advises to buy tickets in advance, for cheaper prices and to avoid queues on match day. Usually it’s possible for all areas of the ground apart from the Curva San Luca.

For the Tribuna Coperta, it’s €60 in advance, €70 on the day, Distinti €35/€40 and Curva Bulgarelli €15/€18. Ladies and over-60s are given a slight reduction, under-18s are charged half-price.

If Milan, Inter, Juve or Roma are in town, then prices rise to €25/€30 in the Curva Bulgarelli, €50/€60 in Distinti and €90/€110 for the Tribuna Coperta.

Tickets go on general sale two weeks before the game, either online from the club or vivaticket, either online or from its many outlets in town, including the Macron BFC Store (daily 10.30am-7.30pm) at Galleria Cavour and the Bologna Welcome office on piazza Maggiore (Mon-Sat noon-7pm, Sun 10am-5pm).

The print@home service means that you don’t have to queue and collect at the stadium. Away fans can only buy through their own club or online, and not at the stadium on the day.

On match days, the ticket offices on via Andrea Costa and piazza della Pace open 3hrs before kick-off. In all cases, ID must be presented.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The Bologna FC Official Store (Mon-Sat 10am-7.30pm, match days) at the stadium is on via dello Sport, the narrow street running at right-angles to main via Andrea Costa. In town, there’s more Bologna merchandise at the Macron BFC Store (daily 10.30am-7.30pm) in the Galleria Cavour while opposite the train station, the AB bar carries a modest selection of red-and-blue goodies.

The storied home shirts of red and blue still keep their classic look but mention should be made of Bologna’s second kit for 2017-18, white with a red-and-blue sash created from the names of 100 players to have made the most appearances for BFC. Angelo Schiavio, Giacomo Bulgarelli, Helmut Haller, they’re all here.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

On via Andrea Costa, the Pizzeria San Gennaro (No.172) and Ciclope restaurant (No.190) stand either side of the stadium, with the fish-oriented La Langouste(No.210) further along. For a snack, there’s a Piadina Espressa van on Andrea Costa opposite the stadium.

Behind the Curva San Luca on via Pietro de Coubertin, the Billi Bar 1833 has been serving coffee and sticky cakes since its name suggests, with wine and Spaten beer also on offer.

Behind the Marathon Tower on piazza della Pace, Bar Maratona displays a signed shirt while at via Porrettana 55, spiffy Caffetteria San Luca serves fine wines and meals in its back restaurant. Its front bar is full of calcio chat, with copies of Bologna’s most recent match programme lying about.