Football Italia: a name that still fills fans of a certain era with joy and nostalgia, while evoking memories of a television show that brought the best league in the world to our living rooms every Sunday.
The summer of 1992 had seen something of a revolution in the way we viewed football in this country.
Sky Sports was busy bringing what they cheekily called a “whole new ballgame”, after snapping up the exclusive rights to the newly formed Premier League with their first ever Super Sunday deal between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool to be shown on the first weekend. week of the Premier League. .
And just a few weeks later, Channel 4 introduced an intrepid British football audience to the joys of Serie A, a cult following that would later become an obsession and ingrain in the consciousness of fans for years to come.
He was the signing of the summer for the UK’s fourth-largest television network, which had snapped up the rights to Series A for a bargain of £1.5m prior to the 1992/93 season to kick off a decade of decadence that had armchair fans glued to their sets every Sunday afternoon.
And if the Premier League was looking to change the way we watched the domestic game with fresh presenters, foreign imports and lavish TV commercials, Italy was able to show off the finished article.
Both local stars and foreign imports, including David Platt, Paul Gascoigne and Des Walker, were showcased each week and unlike the Premier League, which required viewers to pay hundreds for a satellite dish not to miss a thing. – This was free football, but superior in many ways to the paid version.
Roberto Baggio was on his way to becoming the best player on the planet, Vialli and Mancini were taking Sampdoria to new heights, while in Milan, the Rossoneri pitted Paolo Maldini, Demetrio Albertini and Franco Baresi against Christian Vieri, Bergami and Zanetti from the Nerazzurri. .
Valiente Parma had legendary Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in their ranks alongside French defender Lilian Thuram and the world’s best central defender Fabio Cannavaro, while Fiorentina’s deadly duo of Rui Costa and Gabriel Batistuta terrorized defenses on a weekly basis. .
The first match broadcast live to our homes was on September 6, 1992, between Lazio and Sampdoria; with Des Walker signed by the Genoa-based club and Paul Gascoigne plying his trade in the Eternal City, he seemed like an obvious choice to captivate the greater British public.
As it turned out, Gascoigne was absent through injury in what turned out to be a wildly entertaining 3-3 draw, a match that shattered the common myth that the Italian game was boring and defensively dominated.
And what Football Italia lacked in production budget compared to newcomers to Sky, it made up for in simplistic charm in a pre-internet age, where football from foreign climes seemed far more exotic and romantic than it does today.
Host James Richardson, who had moved to Italy to be with his Italian girlfriend, was a natural and made everyone feel like a friend who had been invited to his home to watch the game, combining natural warmth with a wicked sense of humor. humor while delving into a vast knowledge of the Italian game that few of us had at the time.
Another key to Football Italia’s popularity was commentator Peter Brackley, who called the matches from a London studio using his wit and wisdom to transform us into stadiums hundreds of miles from where he was, assisted by Ray Wilkins, Luther Blisset, Paul Elliott and Joe Jordan who, as experts, brought a new and profound approach to scholarship that few had seen before.
The success of the live offering on Sundays even spawned a Saturday morning offshoot in the form of Gazzetta Football Italia, which offered a light-hearted look at the previous weekend’s games with a plethora of humorous skits and skits; often with James Richardson in place at a street-side cafe, complete with copies of Corriere dello Sport and La Gazzetta dello Sport, not to mention exotic-looking desserts, in front of him.
Football Italia was finally lost from Channel 4 in 2002 and endured a nomadic period of migration between Eurosport, Bravo and Channel 5, until it finally came to an end at the end of the 2007/08 season.
But during those halcyon years of the mid-1990s, he was responsible for producing fans as passionate about all things Serie A today as they were three decades ago.
Simply put, if you were a football fan in the 1990s, Channel 4’s coverage of Calcio, along with its signature theme song, was the soundtrack to your season.
*18+ | BeGambleAware