LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Genoa CFC

Italy’s oldest club last lifted title a century ago

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

‘Italy’s oldest club’ boasts the website and, sure enough, Genoa Cricket & Football Club have a heritage dating back to 1893 – September 7 to be precise, when members of an expat social circle met at via Palestro 10.

That evening, mine-owner and British consul Sir Charles Alfred Payton and associates founded the Genoa Cricket & Athletic Club, revised to the Genoa Cricket & Football Club when the influential Dr James Richardson Spensley formed the soccer section four years later. They later abandoned shirts of England white for the red-and-blue quarters still worn today.

In 1898, Genoa won the first Italian championship in Turin, and then another six before Milan and Juventus came to the fore. It took the arrival of ex-Blackburn winger Willy Garbutt for Genoa’s fortunes to swing back again. As manager, the first of many in Italy to be referred to as ‘Mister’, Garbutt took Genoa to three more titles, returning to coach the club in the 1940s. Garbutt instigated fitness training, paid transfers and arranged matches with foreign opposition.

Spensley, captain Luigi Ferraris and other key players perished in World War I but defender Renzo De Vecchi survived to win three championship medals under Garbutt. The last, and Genoa’s last to date, came in 1924.

Garbutt left just before the Fascist authorities forced the club to change their Anglicised name to Genova 1893. The club lost their way and a lone cup win in 1937 is their last honour to date – they were even relegated in the same decade.

Spells in Serie B, even Serie C, followed before Il Grifone (‘The Griffin’) hired coach Osvaldo Bagnoli, who had taken Hellas Verona to a title in the era of Platini and Maradona.

With heavyweight Czech striker Tomas Skruhavy, Brazilian Branco and popular libero Gianluca Signorini, Genoa snatched a fourth-place finish in Serie A in 1991 and went on a UEFA Cup run, past Liverpool, before coming up against Ajax in the semi-finals.

After Bagnoli’s departure, came chaotic mismanagement and relegation. Things became worse in 2005 when a match-fixing scandal saw Genoa stripped of their Serie B title and relegated to Serie C, despite fiery protests on the streets. Carrying a six-point penalty, Genoa still achieved promotion, achieving a near miracle by going straight up out of Serie B the following year thanks to a last-match draw with fellow giants Napoli.

Despite the departures of Diego Milito and Thiago Motta, Genoa have maintained a top-flight spot – but too often only just.

A promising campaign under Gian Piero Gasperini in his second stint as coach saw Genoa finish sixth in 2014-15 – only to miss out on Europe through bureaucratic ineptitude, and allow through Sampdoria instead.

After Gasperini left to work miracles at Atalanta, a succession of managers, including a re-returning Davide Ballardini and Andriy Shevchenko, kept the Grifone above the relegation zone. 

Off the pitch, toy mogul Enrico Preziosi, who had somehow survived any number of scandals to oversee the club for nearly two decades, sold the club to Miami-based private investment firm 777 Partners in 2021. Italy’s most venerable club was now in American hands.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Genoa have been playing at the same Stadio Luigi Ferraris since 1911, but started out almost two decades before then, at Campasso, in Sampierdarena west of town. It was there, to celebrate the fourth centenary of Columbus discovering America, that two Scottish foundry owners, John Wilson and Alexander McLaren, allowed a horse race to take place on their site. 

A year later, the newly formed Genoa Cricket & Football Club used it as their first pltch. Alongside, a trattoria, Gina del Campasso, served as Genoa’s meeting place. After the railway bought the land, in 1897 Genoa moved to right the way across town to a pitch by Ponte Carrega, just north of today’s Luigi Ferraris Stadium.  

Once a huge gasometer was slated for the location, Genoa moved again, to San Gottardo even further north. With distances becoming impractical, and the Italian championship embracing more clubs, club member Musso Piantelli suggested installing a pitch in the grounds around his villa, in the area known as Marassi.

The ground was duly opened on January 22, 1911 with an exhibition game between Genoa and Internazionale. The villa and stadium stand to this day, the mansion said to be haunted though this doesn’t deter old locals from playing cards in the courtyard most afternoons. The bar upstairs is decked out in archive photographs of pre-war football at Marassi.

In 1933, to mark the club’s 40th anniversary, the ground took the name of World War I hero Luigi Ferraris, who had played for Genoa in the early 1900s. During the ceremony, his silver medal for military valour was buried in the Gradinata Nord of the Marassi. 

This corner of the ground is now awash with Genoa iconography, including a plaque signifying the club’s foundation date of September 7, 1893, and another dedicated to Ottavio Barbieri. The Genoa-born half-back played for the Grifone from immediately after World War I to 1932, winning two league titles in the early 1920s. 

When he became manager either side of World War II, he is said to have introduced the role of libero, a free-moving defender. Although he was to die young, only 50 years old, his influence remained long afterwards. There was also a local tournament named after him, the Coppa Barbieri.

It’s not surprise, then, that Genoa fans not only occupy the Gradinata Nord but they’ve covered this side of the stadium, along via Clavarezza, in Rossoblù murals. The Little Club Genoa 1962, a meeting place for the supporters’ association formed 60 years ago, is also located here.

For transport details to the stadium, see Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

The club distributes tickets online through Sport Ticketone and the Genoa Store (Mon-Sat 10am-7pm) at via XII Ottobre 43r in the city centre, near De Ferrari metro station.

Ticketone also has three outlets around Genoa: near the club’s training ground at via S Pacoret de Saint Bon 5r (Mon-Sat 7am-7.20pm, Sun 9am-noon) past the airport in the city’s far west; the Tabbacheria Barbarisi Debora at largo Ernesto Jurse 5r near Genova Sampierdarena station, and the Tabbacheria Tredici Bis di Galli Fabrizio at piazzale Parenzo 23r, about 1km north of the stadium.

In all cases, you need to provide ID to buy a ticket. 

For an average Serie A game, you’ll pay €39 for a seat in the Tribuna Inferiore, the lower row of seats in the main stand, and €18 in Distinti along the opposite sideline. Seats in the Gradinata Sud or Nord, usually both filled with Genoa fans except on derby day, go for a few euros. Under-16s are charged half-price for a place along either sideline.

Visiting supporters are allocated the section of the main stand nearest the Gradinata Sud, seats around €20. Again, this differs on derby day when Sampdoria occupy this south end.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The club’s main outlet for merchandise is the Genoa Store (Mon-Sat 10am-7pm) at via XII Ottobre 43r in the city centre, a short walk from De Ferrari metro station. For 2021-22, the historic colours of red and navy are divided into halves, with contrasting shirt sleeves and collar. Away choice is white with a chest band of red and navy, third-choice grey with a darker grey stripe down the left-hand side.

Accessories are many – flip-flops, dog coats, sweatbands – but classy items include the salt-and-pepper set, soap dispenser and reading glasses.

club Museum

Explore the club inside and out

The Genoa Museum (€5/€3.50-€4 reduced, Tue-Sun 10am-7pm) moved to the club’s city-centre HQ at via al Porto Antico 4 by the port. Run by the Genoa Foundation, the museum should reopen post-pandemic at some point later in 2022.

Across ten rooms on the first and second floors, it covers 130 years of club history, from ‘Mister’ Willy Garbutt to the present day. Divided into sections (‘Games, shirts and players’, ‘Supporters’), this well-conceived attraction also features a display of trophies and some 200 videos. Rarities include a ball used in the first Italian national championship of 1898 – won by Genoa, of course – and the oldest existing document in  the Italian game.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

Behind the Gradinata Nord on via Clavarezza, the Little Club Genoa 1962 is a small bar decked out in souvenirs from the Pope’s visit and the Anfield victory of 1992. It’s open most weekday lunchtimes and before Genoa games next door. The date refers to the year of the first away trip, to Bergamo, organised by the group, said to be Italy’s first tifosi, formed in 1959. 

For other pre- and post-match options around the stadium, see Stadio Luigi Ferraris.