Minnows To Mighty – The Rise Of Carpi FC

It’s certainly been a week for fairytale stories across European football’s elite leagues.

Bournemouth’s rise to England’s top flight has been well-documented in a week where Bavarian club FC Ingolstadt, founded just eleven years ago following a merger of two clubs, won promotion to the Bundesliga.

Road To Riches
But probably the most remarkable story of all is how a Carpi FC, a club with a ground capacity of 4,144, will rub shoulders with the likes of Juventus, AC Milan and Roma in next season’s Serie A.

Hailing from a town with a population less than the capacity of the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, their meteoric rise has been in no small part down to passion, a bit of luck and that dreaded word – philosophy.

Their fourth promotion in six years has capped a remarkable turnaround from a 1999 bankruptcy that threatened extinction.

A subsequent merger with another local club and a new name – Carpi FC 1909 – marked the beginning of a journey for a club that had languished in Italy’s lower divisions for almost 100 years.

Promotion Heroes
Four consecutive promotions led them to Serie B for the first time in 2013, where they finished just three points from a play-off place in their maiden season. Then Lady Luck, or more pertinently, Fabrizio Castori entered. The journeyman manager had been due to manage Metalburg this season but the onset of war in Ukraine led him instead to the Stadio Sandro Cabassi, where he’s moulded an exciting young side with an average age of 24.

The 2010 takeover by local textile businessman Stefano Bonacini has helped but they’ve not broken la banca to achieve success.

Their annual budget of around €4 million might only keep the likes of Raheem Sterling happy for a few months but has been enough to attract several hitherto relatively unknown players who have now been linked with bigger clubs.

Nigerian striker Jerry Mbakogu’s 14 goals this term have led to links with the likes of Borussia Dortmund, while the division’s stingiest defensive record has been aided by AC Milan’s on-loan keeper Gabriel Ferreira’s 20 clean sheets.

This focus on young, unheralded players has won many plaudits but calcio’s elite are not as enamoured. Lazio president Claudio Lotito said earlier this year that if a small club like Carpi won promotion it would “ruin” the league’s ability to negotiate TV deals.

Ain’t No Party Like A Carpi Party
The town of Carpi has undergone extensive renewal in recent years following two earthquakes in 2012 but the next restoration project could be the club’s tiny stadium. Serie A standards require stadiums with at least 20,000 seats so a move to Modena’s Stadio Alberto Braglia may be essential in the meantime.

Wherever they play next season, their passionate ultras will continue to take great glee in putting the elite’s noses out of joint. In the midst of the delirious celebrations by I Biancorossi fans following their promotion this week, one banner stood out. It simply read “In your face, Lotito”.