There will be a huge sense of satisfaction and accomplishment throughout the city of Parma when their football club take on Serie A champions Juventus this weekend. The Crociati (Crusaders), as they are famously known, have virtually been to hell and back; they could have barely dreamt of a game of this magnitude three years ago.
Parma was originally formed in 1913 and have played across the various divisions of Italian football. Starting in 1990, the club enjoyed relative stability – even buoyancy – for about a decade and a half. The height of their success in that period came in 1998, when they won a Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup double.
The magnitude of the club can be proven by the names that have been associated with them over the years, both as managers and players. Cesare Maldini, Arrigo Sacchi, Carlo Ancelotti and Claudio Ranieri are some renowned managers who have coached Parma. The list of legendary players to have worn their white and black is even more illustrious. Hernán Crespo (94 goals) and Gianfranco Zola (67 goals) are ranked first and third respectively among the club’s all-time top goal scorers, while Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Lilian Thuram, Juan Sebastian Veron and Hristo Stoichkov are among a glowing list of former players.
The club was declared insolvent in 2004, and was re-formed as Parma Football Club (SpA) in June of that year. Three years later, Italian businessman Tomasso Ghirardi bought the club out of administration, but their struggles continued off the field.
Under the guidance of Italian manager Roberto Donadoni, the club qualified for the UEFA Cup in 2014, but they were refused entry due to a lack of a timely payment of income tax on salaries. They were also docked points for the 2014/15 season for the same reason. Eventually, the club was declared bankrupt in 2015.
The process of rebuilding started as the club was once again re-founded as S.S.D. Parma Calcio 1913 in July 2015. Under the control of a group of local businessmen dubbed Nuovo Inizio (New Beginning), the club entered Serie D for the 2014-15 season. In an incredible show of loyalty, fans bought more season tickets that season than they had the previous season in Serie A.
It has been an upward curve for Parma since, with three consecutive promotions that have seen them back in the Italian top flight in the shortest time possible. Under the management of Roberto D’Aversa, the season started in promising fashion for the club. They took a 2-0 lead against Udinese in their opening match, but they threw it away and the match ended 2-2, before they then lost 1-0 to SPAL last weekend.
It will take something of a miracle for Parma to beat Juventus, but the fact that they get to face them in Serie A again is already measure of just how far the club has come again.