Cesena show Serie A the way forward

The first midweek round of the Serie A season and already Inter are top of the table, but the defending champions have an unlikely pace-setter matching them stride for stride.

Cesena are enjoying the late summer warmth on their return to the top-flight after a 19-year absence and it is not as if they have garlanded their seven points the easy way.

A more than well-deserved draw at AS Roma on the opening day was followed by a stunning win over AC Milan which had Silvio Berlusconi claiming that a left-wing plot had been hatched by the match officials – after all Cesena is situated in the old red-supporting Emilia-Romagna region.

Then at the weekend they demonstrated they could defeat a club of similar stature in fellow newly-promoted Lecce.

Much has been made of the fact that Zlatan Ibrahimovic earns more than the whole Cesena combined but the Cavallucci marini (Seahorses) are no floundering minnows.

Their Dino Manuzzi stadium is a 23,860 capacity envy of any club in Italy and has a playing surface that would put the San Siro and Olympic stadium to shame never mind the potato-fields in Naples and Bari.

If Italy had won the bid for Euro 2016 then it would have been one of the host stadiums ahead of the Luigi Ferraras in Genoa

Even last season, the club had a record 8,175 season-ticket holders in Serie B and once promotion to the elite league was ensured, 36-year-old president Igor Campedelli launched a promotional campaign that encouraged families and females to join the 'fun' at the Manuzzi.

Five hundred family packages have been sold and 2,000 females have signed up for all the home games. There is also a burgeoning fan-club of German fans no doubt drawn to the team’s white and black kit.

The total number of season-tickets across the board has now gone beyond 10,000 to almost 11,000 – compare that to Milan with 26,000 season-ticket holders for Serie A games and you get a fair idea of the buzz for football when it can be watched correct environment.

They are certainly one of the most progressive clubs in a region that has never felt it should be held back by the Italian affliction that you can only beat the system by looking after number one.

If la dolce vita really existed then it would be in the Emilia region which boasts the best quality of life in the country – and so it is no surprise that the club put fans first and ensure that families can watch matches in a manner you would never witness in most other grounds around the peninsula.

The playing staff are mostly those who came up through the divisions but they have augmented by experienced performers who form the spine of the side such as 41-year-old goalkeeper Francesco Antonioli, yet to concede a goal, Albanian striker Erjon Bogdani, now 33, and the scorer of two goals so far having gone almost a year without finding the net.

The Argentinean defender Maximilano Pellegrino is approaching 30 as is midfielder Stephen Appiah who came back onto the radar during the World Cup with Ghana after a serious knee injury.

In fact, South Africa was a success for Cesena who also picked up Japan left-back Yuto Nagatomo who has formed one of the speediest and certainly vertically-challenged partnerships down the flank with the team’s star man Emanuale Giaccherini.

The diminutive 25-year-old winger has made the rise from the fourth division and having torn Roma and Milan’s defences apart, he is expected to force his way into Cesare Prandelli’s reckoning for an international call-up.

Massimo Faccadenti is a no-frills coach who has followed the attacking blue-print drawn by Pierpaolo Bisoli after the latter’s move to Cagliari.

Even when they were reduced to ten men against Lecce at the weekend when captain Giuseppe Colucci was sent-off on 30-odd minutes, in one of the worst ever cases of mistaken identity when Nagatomo had been the culprit, they kept going forward to find the winner.

It may only be the early stages of the campaign but Cesena’s aim will be to repeat the feats of Chievo in 2001 when the side from the suburbs of Verona came up from Serie B and surprised the world of Calcio to finish fifth in their first season.

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