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When Parma qualified for the Europa League at the end of the 2013/14 season, elation erupted across a picturesque city. For years, the fans of the Ducali had to endure the club battling for a mid-table finish, or worse, scathing off relegation. Nonetheless, the wheel of fortune looked to have finally changed direction for the better when Roberto Donadoni led his charges to a sixth place finish after embarking on incredible club record of 17-matches unbeaten.
It would be the first time in eight years that the Parmigiani had managed to book their ticket to a European competition – a long enough space of time to queue the celebrations. However, the festivities were short lived, due to UEFA denying them a license to feature in the competition. Their qualification spot – which wasn’t granted due to an unpaid tax bill - was instead handed to Torino.
It was hard not to sympathize with a the club that had once made European history in the 90’s with their quality-packed squad, and one which saw their President Tommaso Ghirardi make a pretty good argument on the matter.
“The Uefa license problem is due to the stadium and overdue debts with other clubs which we have honoured to the last penny. Nobody said anything to me until April 30, but I am convinced that we have paid – we have fulfilled our requirements,” he said in a press conference.
"Only a fool would think that this is an act of cunning to save €300,000, after spending €13m and now losing €8m. When I am calmer I will assess who will reimburse me for these damages.
"We are good people who run a house in good order. But they have managed to push me away from the game. I'm done with football.”
That was the end of Ghirardi at the club. Well, almost…
His attempt to resign as club president immediately failed miserably, as he struggled to find a buyer for Parma. The only thing that was selling at the Tardini outfit were the players.
Influential midfielder, Marco Parolo, left to join capital club Lazio, while pacey winger, Jonathan Biabiany, saw his proposed move to Milan fail to materialize after Cristian Zaccardo refused an exchange deal to return back to the Tardini. It was then later revealed that the Frenchman had a heart condition, and by the time March 2015 came around, he had featured just once for the club.
This was the start of things to come. The duo’s absence from the squad ultimately damaged the set-up to the team, but the morale and the spirit of the club was further dented when the players’ bank accounts remained stagnant with each rolling month.
In December 2014, the club looked to have been handed a silver lining when Albanian businessman, Rezart Taci, stepped in to buy the club and, hopefully, resolve its monetary problems, which had spread to the backroom staff.
The Albanian was no knight in shining armor sadly, and he was forced to sell the club just two months later to Giampietro Manenti for a measly figure of just €1.
Since then, chaos has erupted at the club with La Gazzetta dello Sport claiming the club are in debt of €197.4m. Games against Udinese and Genoa have been called off due to a lack of funds to participate in the fixtures, while gym equipment and Donadoni’s famous bench have also been seized.
If things weren’t bad enough, the club was branded a farce when it was announced that the players were washing their own kits because there was no electricity at the club to operate the remaining facilities at Collecchio. This, all while the club languishes at the bottom of the Serie A table, and with Manenti failing to put his money where his mouth is...
There was talk of the remaining 19 Serie A clubs helping to fund Parma for the campaign so they can see out the season - Sampdoria President Massimo Ferrero offered to sponsor their transport for the remainder of the campaign. A fantastic and honorable idea, but this initiative, though, would require a unanimous decision, and Cesena’s President, Giorgio Lugaresi, had already conveyed his disapproval on the matter.
“We’re in favour of Parma completing the season,” he explained to Tuttomercatoweb. “We don’t mind that, [but] I’m against attempts to bail them out.
“They must face up to their own responsibilities, not just to their players, but to other creditors. The club should be saved the way we saved Cesena in Serie B: by coming to terms with their debt.”
This then leaves the league facing a strong possibility of seeing Parma fold due to bankruptcy, with a hearing being scheduled for March 19, unless some sort of an intervention arises.
Perhaps a Real Oviedo- type intervention? The Spanish club went through a similar financial situation back in 2012/13 and they called on the clubs fans and footballers around the globe to buy shares in the team.
The initiative spread across the globe and many supporters of Oviedo and the Beautiful Game chipped in with some funds, while the likes of Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata, Michu and Adrián – who all started their careers at the club- deposited in a respectable amount of financial support.
The club had until November 17 to raise €2 million in order to prevent closure, and they were so famously saved by the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, who invested in the remaining figure.
The very next season they finished fifth in Spain’s 2nd Group B, as they continue to find a way to return back to Spain’s elite group.
With players such as Hernan Crespo, Fabio Cannavaro, Lilian Thurman, Faustino Asprilla and Gianluigi Buffon having all once pulled on the famous Gialloblu jersey, many have asked why they can’t rally together and form a ‘Real Oviedo initiative’ along with the club’s ultras?
Problem is, Italians don’t seem to think that way…
Parma’s story is probably one of the saddest ones to have hit Calcio in recent seasons, and it seems that the players and the club are just counting the days until the club folds.