Madison Solow is a Canadian midfielder playing in Italy for Chievo Verona. We interviewed her in the summer to find out how the move came about, and here Madison tells us more about little Verona, its four Serie A clubs and the upcoming local derby between her newly promoted side and their long established top flight rivals.
Verona is not a big city, yet it is the only city to have four teams in Serie A. Two men’s teams (Chievo Verona and Hellas Verona) and two women’s teams (Chievo Verona and AGSM Verona). Which means there are plenty of derbies year round. Last weekend we saw an emotional derby on the men’s side, with Chievo coming out on top 3-2 and Hellas going down to ten men. This weekend, it’s my turn.
A little bit about Chievo. A suburb of Verona of about 4500 people. Thus, an atonishing fact that they have two Serie A teams. On the men’s side, Chievo rose from the lowest level of Italian football, until finally arriving in Serie A in 2001. Since then, they’ve successfully remained in the top division, apart from being relegated once in 2006 and immediately getting promoted again the following year.
Chievo are truly a special team in men’s football. They are one of the lowest paid teams in all of Serie A, often facing opposition for whom two or three players make more than the entire Chievo team combined. Many Chievo players have better offers from other clubs, yet choose to remain in Verona, where 99% of the city’s population are die hard fans for their rival team, regardless if Hellas is in Serie A or B.
On the female side, this is the first year of an official female Chievo team. It was formerly Fimauto Valpolicella which had been associated with Chievo, but relationship is now official. Similar to Chievo, Valpolicella is a small suburb of Verona. Most of the current coaches, as well as the President, are former players, and the club has built up quite a following.
Now, some simple facts about this Saturday’s derby. My team, Chievo Verona, are newly promoted. The past two years that I’ve played for the club, we have faced AGSM twice in the cup. We lost both times. Thus, on a personal note this is a team that I’ve wanted to beat for years now. In addition, several of our squad are former AGSM players, so they’ll have a point to prove as well.
On the other side of the pitch, AGSM, despite having been a Serie A team for years now, have a very new squad. They lost almost their whole starting line-up from last season and have signed at least eight new foreign players. Almost all of their Italian players this year are 18 years old or even younger. I see this as a huge advantage.
Some presume that foreign talent is of higher quality than domestic, but any player of the game knows that in a derby it doesn’t matter. In a derby it’s all about heart and grit. After being pushed to the ground year after year, being thought of as ‘the other’ Verona team and not being seen professionally on their level; this derby is packed with emotions for us.
What does this mean? Emotions can only take you so far and moreover, they have to be kept in check. I can’t speak for every individual on my team, but there’s been a feeling at training lately of a team that’s ready to battle. We’re the underdogs, we’re the ones who have never been good enough and we’re the ones with nothing to lose.
Yet, unlike last Sunday, the streets won’t be filled with fans. There won’t be anyone waiting at the tunnel for the players to arrive. Our game won’t be televised and there won’t be millions of dollars worth of players on the pitch. What’s left then? Just the game, in it’s purest form.
We will wake up Saturday morning in our own beds, not at a hotel with the team. Some girls will go to work before the game. Others will simply go about their day. Relaxing and preparing their pre-game meal. No, professionally we don’t have the same luxuries as the men’s side. But, come kick-off Saturday, we will lace up our boots and two Verona teams will walk onto the pitch. It’s a derby just like any other.
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