Parma: story of greatness and decline

When a club disappears from the world of football, it is always a heavy blow. In the UK and France for instance, clubs like Wimbledon FC, Accrington FC, Sedan, Le Mans, or Evian-Thonon-Gaillard (to a certain degree) are a part of such.  A disaster for the fans, workers, but also for the economic and cultural activities of the city or region. If these examples stated here are about less prestigious clubs, the same tragedy can also affect a football institution. Let’s take a look at Parma, mythical Italian club of the 90s.


The recent descent towards hell for Parma actually began in 2003, as a result of the bankruptcy of the shareholder Parmalat.  While the financial difficulties were multiplying, Emilia-Romagna’s club was alternating between European qualification and season’s drought, to be finally relegated to the Serie B in 2008. But the team only remained there for one season, finishing the season in 2nd position of the division and going back to Serie A. The return to the elite division was a success, as the Gialloblù finished 8th, missing European qualification by just a notch. Parma seems then to have made a long lasting comeback to the top flight of Italian football, and even finishes the 2013-2014 season in 6th place. A real success!

Sadly, the illness which had plagued the club for years now was brutally awakened. Despite its qualification for the Europa League, Parma was disqualified from participating due to an unpaid bill and  non-compliance to the financial fair play. Like so much dirt buried under the ground, and now coming back to the surface, and the club could not survive so many years of mismanagement, bankruptcy and questionable successions of shareholders and presidents.

In 2015, this historic club found itself in Serie D, just like veneziacalcio..

What a story! 

To understand the cataclysm of seeing such a team sink, one has to look into the past. In only 10 years, from 1992 to 2002, Parma Football Club has won 8 trophies: 3 Italian cups, 1 Super Cup, 2 UEFA Cups, 1 European Cup Winners Cup and one European Super cup. An impressive record in so few seasons, which made it during this beautiful decade of the 90s one of the most prominent teams in Europe.

So many future great players wore this beautiful yellow and blue jersey. Buffon (trained in the club), Lilian Thuram (winner of the World Cup and Euro during his Parma days), Cannavaro (future world champion and Ballon d’Or), Zola (the ultimate artist of the team) or still Crespo (93 goals in 198 matches). It is true that a team of the late 90s composed – in part – of a column Buffon, Thuram, Cannavaro and Crespo, it has a great bite, comparable to what Man City did this season.

Get up and walk

During its sudden arrival in the Serie D, the club was taken back in charge by industrialists in the region and changed identity to Parma Calcio 1913.  If certain purists can say « the new Parma » is nothing like the club they knew and loved, now « dead and buried », others can rejoice of the rebirth of a Parmesan club and take Parma Calcio 1913 as being an evolution of the same entity. We clearly prefer the second option, well more romantic than a football that rises from its ashes.

Do you need a proof? Here it is: being in the fourth division in 2015, the club qualifies quickly for to Serie C the next season, repeats the same performance by getting back to the world of professional football by the next season, in Serie B. If a third climb in a row would be an incredible feat, the promoted Parma is today in solid 8th position, having the second-best defence of the championship, and only within 6 points of the 3rd place! With only one player who has enjoyed the best level in Italian football (Alessandro Lucarelli, 40 years old and 300 matches in Serie A), evidently the parmesans have to think about stabilising themselves durably in the second division before thinking of rejoining Juventus, Inter Milan or Fiorentina. So as to really take time to secure themselves on the financial plan. Besides, no folly: like it will be perfectly said by Thomas N’Gijol: « experience proves that », well proves that all can crumble all of a sudden.

Football is unpredictable. Oracles, bookies or algorithms cannot tell the future. It can swallow all raw, someone made of songs and trophies, burn him and spit him out for dead, then bring it back gently to life, before reaching out gently for him.  Just like Strasbourg did, such a phoenix, Parma was rising from its ashes. If nothing is absolutely certain, time may soon bring our club back to the peak of Italian football.    

Parma: story of greatness and decline

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