AFC Südtirol passed a milestone in the away game against Benevento Calcio on Wednesday. It was the 27th game for the newly promoted team in Serie B, the second-highest professional Italian soccer league. Eleven games remain until the end of the season on May 19. At the traditional club near Naples, which has already completed two seasons in Serie A, the upper house of Italian professional football, the kickers from Bolzano won 2-0 goals.
FC Südtirol now occupies fourth place with 44 points and 30:27 goals. The goal of staying in the class has been achieved, although only three quarters of the season has been completed. The mood among the team and coaches was enthusiastic after the away win in the middle of the English week. “We’re unlikely to slip below the line,” said coach Pierpaolo Bisoli in Benevento. In fact, the 18-point lead over the relegation zone is reassuring. “Today we can say that no one will take Serie B away from us. We’re in the process of writing a fairy tale,” continued Bisoli, known for his overly cautious outlook on the future.
It’s only four points up
That’s why Bisoli, who took over the promoted team at the beginning of September after a thoroughly unsuccessful start to the season with three defeats at the bottom, didn’t want to look “up”. The gap to second place, which would mean direct promotion and thus the march through to Serie A, is currently just four points.
Unlike in Germany, the third promoted or relegated team in Italy is not played out between the third from last in the first division and the third in the second division. Rather, three teams are always relegated from Serie A, while the last promotion place in Serie A is played out in a play-off series between the teams ranked third to eighth in Serie B.
FC Südtirol’s “cushion” to ninth place is currently seven points. The newcomer in Serie B could actually play for promotion to Serie A at the end of May at the end of his first season in the second division. “We’ll celebrate at the end of the season, even if we finish ninth,” says the notoriously sober coach Bisoli.
The South Tyrolean weekly magazine “ff” recently christened the Bozen club “FC Maximum” because no other club in Serie B has gotten so much out of its financial means. After that, the club spent about 390,000 euros for each point, if you put the number of points in relation to the squad value according to transfermarkt.com. According to this calculation, the relegated from Serie A such as CFC Genoa, Cagliari Calcio and FC Venice score between 1.9 and 2.4 million per point.
In addition to the extremely efficient purchasing policy of the club’s management, managing director Dietmar Pfeifer and club manager Hannes Fischnaller, as well as the coaching staff, there is the way the team plays under head coach Bisoli. In Benevento, the hosts had 72 percent possession, but failed to bring about a significant goal. It was the fifth away game in a row that the back team of the Red and Whites from Bozen survived without conceding a goal. Conversely, FC Südtirol uses its few chances with an efficiency that the media describes as “brutal”.
Damian Gruber as the only fan
In the meantime, football reporters all over Italy can easily hear the club name of the sensational team from Bozen, albeit as “FC Sudtirol” instead of the strange umlaut. The fact that the club from the predominantly German-speaking northern province would have to be given an Italian name, such as “FC Alto Adige”, as South Tyrol is officially called in Italian, after promotion to Serie B for the sake of national acceptance, has long since ceased to be an issue. In the provincial capital of Bozen, the association has long been an “engine of integration” between the German and Italian language groups. And all over Italy, the famous “FC Sudtirol” increases the good reputation of South Tyrol.
This fits the story of Damian Gruber from Bozen. He was the only FC supporter to travel the 850 kilometers to the away game on Wednesday: first in his own car to Bergamo, from there by plane to Naples and finally by rental car to Benevento. After the pictures of the loyal fan with the red and white scarf in the gaping empty guest block at the Stadio Ciro Vigorito went viral, Gruber was knighted by the Italian football press as a “tifoso eroico” (heroic supporter).
In a conversation with the broadcaster “Sportitalia”, the employee praised his boss, who also gave him time off during the week when FC away games were coming up. After the final whistle, Gruber was generously presented with jerseys by the winning players, and Benevento Calcio’s Tifosi also paid tribute to the lonely fan with a banner that read “Onore a chi macina km” (roughly: honor the one who eats kilometers) .
This Sunday (3 p.m.) FC Südtirol welcomes AC Perugia. The domestic Drusus Stadium has a capacity of 5500 seats, 600 of them in the guest block. And what if next season Juventus come from Turin, Inter and Milan from Milan, and Lazio and AS Roma from the capital?