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Parma – The fall of one of Europe’s former great clubs

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ome 19 years ago, before some bright young players of the modern day were even born, newly promoted Parma experienced their best season to date, only missing out on winning Serie A to Juventus.

Household names such as Hernán Crespo, Faustino Asprilla, Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro and Gianfranco Zola all rose to prominence during Parma’s famous late 90’s era where they won the UEFA Cup, European Cup Winners’ Cup and the Coppa Italia. Parma were glorified as one of the most ‘rags to riches’ success stories in modern football.

Almost two decades later, things are very different at the Ennio Tardini stadium. On the 22nd of February, it was reported that, due to the ongoing financial issues at the club, the Italian football association were forced to dissolve the club and relegate them.

While those reports of winding down the club with immediate effect appear to have been premature, owner Giampietro Manenti allegedly hasn’t paid players or staff at the club in some time.

Though it was relatively common knowledge in the Serie A that Parma were struggling for funds, it comes as a massive shock that such an influential club in Italian and European football is now in the desperate situation it is currently in. Amidst all this, Parma have just 11 points in the Serie A to date, and have already been sold twice this season.

Parma UEFA Cup 1999Unable to guarantee security for the home match against Udinese on February 22nd, Parma were forced to postpone, and a second matchweek – that would have seen Parma visit Genoa – was affected when the northern Italian team’s players refused to play.

A third successive week of postponed matches was avoided this weekend after the Serie A clubs voted to provide a €5 million emergency fund to Parma, in order to allow the club to honour it’s schedule commitments for the remainder of the season.

Parma now face a March 19th bankruptcy hearing amid investigations into the club’s activities, as well as investigations of the previous administration of the club, and much will hinge on the authorities decisions in these cases. Parma already look destined for relegation to Serie B, so any points reduction applied this season for entering administration, in addition to the one point reduction already levied for not paying their players, looks like it would have little effect on the club’s destiny. The club will look to avoid a case like Glasgow Rangers, where the club was forced to dissolve and start again from the bottom of the league structure.

For the players, staff and fans, this is a truly awful situation for any football club to be in, with the AIC (Players’ Association) starting all Serie A games last weekend 15 minutes late due to the fact that nobody at Parma has been paid since July.

What the fate of the top players at the club currently such as Jonathan Biabany, Massimo Codi, Ishak Belfodil and Jose Mauri will be is yet to be seen, but chances are that they won’t be there at the start of next season.

All we can hope for is that through some intervention through the Italian FA or a new buyer, this former world-beating club can be returned to its former glory.

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