SPAL Ferrara – Calcio England

Unsuspecting groundhoppers might encounter some difficulty in pinpointing SPAL on a map. Societa Polisportiva Ars et Labor is one of Europe’s only acronymic football clubs and is unusual in that none of the initials reference the historic city of Ferrara from which they hail. 

The origins of the football club can be traced back to a cultural and religious order founded by a priest in the early 20th century. Over time, an independent sporting arm broke away, but those ecclesiastic roots are still evident today in the club’s blue and white colours taken from the coat of arms of the Salesian Society of San Giovanni Bosco.  

SPAL are synonymous with the name of Paolo Mazza, a storied figure who served the club in numerous capacities over the course of forty years. Arriving as coach in 1936, he then assumed the role of President when football recommenced after the Second World War. Under Mazza’s shrewd leadership, SPAL rose from Serie C to Serie A, spending the majority of the 1950s and 1960s in the top flight. 

Mazza’s greatest attribute was his ability to recognise and nurture young talent. SPAL developed an unparalleled reputation as a nursery club, consistently unearthing rough diamonds to replace a succession of star players picked off by larger clubs. The pinnacle of Mazza’s dealings came in 1962 when he persuaded a 16-year-old boy by the name of Fabio Capello, then playing in his village team, to reject the advances of AC Milan and sign for SPAL. 

SPAL have endured some lean years since that high watermark, but the good times have started to return to the eponymous Stadio Paolo Mazza. After an absence of nearly half a century, SPAL regained their Serie A status in 2017, staying there for three years. Most recently, the club has been acquired by American-Italian Joe Tacopina, who had previously held interests in Roma, Bologna and Venezia.  

The City 

Our arrival in Ferrara was amongst the most efficient…


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