Italy always represented a rampart inside the economy of the ultras world, and it’s still nowadays a landmark for a numbers of nations with smaller and latest cultures and traditions, compared to the Belpaese. In such a fizzy ambient both on the past and in these days, the numbers of derbies and rivalries are extremely high, and there are very few countries that could offer a similar scene. Inside the several contentions, one of the most felt and with a lot of history is the one between Atalanta, the biggest club in Bergamo, and Brescia; in this occasion the fan bases don’t hate each other just for conventions or simple geographical proximity, but there are accurate historical reasons behind the contrasts between the two Northern Italian cities.
La Dea (the Goddess) against La Leonessa (the Lioness): pills of actual football
Despite Atalanta built a bright future in these last years compared to their rivals of Brescia, with a presence in the European cups which is slowly becoming a habit, historical stats crown the Leonessa as the best team of the two in direct clashes. In all the competitions, Brescia won 23 matches, with 22 draws and 18 Atalanta wins. The same trend could be found analyzing individually only derbies played in Serie A, and the same with derbies played in Serie B. However, at the moment the Bergamo club is qualified for the UEFA Champions League quarter finals, and owns a 4th place in this current Serie A, with a media attention that the city never had football wise. We doubt that the tifosi bergamaschi would change those hard earned privileges with the current situation at Brescia, newly promoted in Serie A after a long time in the second division, and already struggling at the bottom of the league. The first derby took place in 1920, but became a regular clash between the ‘60s and the ‘70s, in either Serie A or Serie B, with the two clubs that always used to seesaw through the two divisions. This season’s derby, in the first leg of Serie A, has been the first derby in the top division in 15 years of time, and has been clearly won by Atalanta, 0-3 away from home. We don’t even think that it’s necessary to state that the away fans weren’t allowed to attend the match, with the event being one of the hottest in recent history of Italian ultras scene.
The historical roots
As said before, the rivalry between Atalanta and Brescia is not only a simple automatism, but there are precise motivations on which this grudge is put. Both the cities are nowadays strongly industrial, with citizens grown with the work culture, so in a way we can find some similarities between the two regions. However, tons of provocations and insults are easy to be found on the streets of the cities, also outside the football world, with the bergamaschi renamed as conigli (=rabbits) and the bresciani as suini (=pigs). The first news we could find through history come from the twelfth century, precisely in 1126 with the figure of Giovanni Brusati, a noble citizens of Brescia, with some possessions in the region; in order to finance a Crusade in the holy land of Israel, he decided to make some money out of those possession by selling it. In those years, the Brescia curia (a sort of regional administration) was in a deep economical crisis, and it was easy for the neighbor of Bergamo to buy the lands in question. The towns and areas in matters are still existing nowadays, and each of them had a city center with also a strategical castle. Also the area itself was and still is very strategic, with the presence of a main river dividing the two regions, and a lake split in two between Bergamo and Brescia. The keystone of this matter was a clash in 1154, with the Brescia troops defeating the Bergamo ones with a sneaky operation, causing more than 2500 deaths. A numbers of small wars and battles happened in the following years, in a context of Italy always split in hundreds of regions and ownerships, until the actual conformation earned in the nineteenth century. The localism between regions still happens nowadays, with big moments of tensions between the two cities through decades and centuries. Last but not least, for istance, the assignment of val Camonica, a valley historically owned by Brescia, to the lands of Bergamo during the Napoleonic period; despite the valley is now back to Brescia ownership, there is still a reason to discuss especially in the border towns.
On the stands
Both clubs always had more of a regional following, than national, but they’re lucky enough to be in the most populated region in Italy, as well as one of the most crowded in Europe, Lombardy. During the years Atalanta and Brescia have had a massive support from their tifosi, falling outside the poor results on the pitch, rarely exciting on either way. Atalanta’s ultras movement finds his roots in the early ’70s, when Atalanta Commandos takes control of the curva; during the first years, the main idea is the pacifist one, resembling a family with only few faithful components. The birth of Brigate Neroazzurre in the early ‘80s unsettled all the organization chart in the Bergamo scene, transforming a passional and enjoyable tifo in a proper ultras group, idea which was very appreciated by a lot of fans, and allowed the Brigate to enlarge themselves quickly. Despite always being quite distant to proper political questions, the Atalanta tifosi often had some leftist thoughts during a lot of periods in the last decades, including nowadays. The clash between the ones supporting the idea of an apolitical curva and the ones closer to leftist propaganda still go on today, but it never exploded in violent internal riots and tensions. During these decades the curva nord always was tendentiously violent towards many rival Italian fan bases, excluding few close and twinned clubs, and always very cohesive inside, also with many examples of mutual help for the components. The few friendship (to highlight the ones with Ternana and Eintracht Frankfurt), don’t even come close to the number of rivalries, both territorial (Brescia, precisely, Inter and Milan), and historical (Torino, Napoli and Roma above the others). Alongside Atalanta fans, but on the other side of Oglio river, Brescia fanbase moved its first steps in the early ‘70s, with a meltin pot of ideas that found its first true conformation in 1979, with U*BS as the main group of the curva, immediately with a violent imprint against the neighbour of Atalanta. The early ‘90s represents the golden period for the bresciani: in each season at least a massive episode of ultras movement ended up on the first pages of all the newspapers, making Brescia a famous spot for tifo in the whole country. Invasions, fights against ultras groups in the cities centres, and a number of turbulent manifestations, preceded a period where Brescia was also a good team on the pitch, creating a lovely scenario with good football, high attendance on the stands for regular fans, and a feared curva as the previous years. Despite few antiracist declarations and positions, curva nord Brescia has always been apolitical for all the years of their movement, likely reason why there haven’t been big discrepancies in more than 40 years, in spite of the presence of few small fascist groups in the last years, always put aside by the main flow.
A rivarly with such big dimensions, in a big scenario such as the Italian one, offered, offers and for sure will offer a bunch of hints and ideas for the ultras chronicles. It’s enough to think that for the return of the derby in Serie A in 2019, Atalanta fans joked on the Italian FA after some unjustified rules ahead of their away day in Brescia, and totally boycotted the match, making everyone’s eyes pointing towards this topic. Probably, a similar statement and decision would have been done also by Brescia fans for the second leg of the derby, net of the current Covid-19 situation which sentences the fans to stay out of stadiums. Some ultras references could be find already in the ‘30s, when Brescia fans managed to bring and unleash hundreds of rabbit during a derby, when the Atalanta players were coming on the pitch: a clear lure to the feelings of fear and cowardice, often associated to rabbits. Apex of the decennial ultras clash between the two bases stands the episodes of 1992/93 season; crossing the pitch of Stadio Mario Rigamonti, Brescia ultras managed to reach the away end, full of Atalanta fans, stealing dozens of scarves and banners, burning most of them. Atalanta’s reaction of course didn’t fail to arrive, and consisted in the exact same treatment. All the attentions on the match moved on the ultras chronicle, with more than twenty injuries and wounded brought to the hospital, dozens of DASPOs (stadium bans) and various complaints. Also, to add to the list, the unexpected and loud resignations from both chairmains and boards of the two clubs, not understanding so much brutality and violent, and to stay away from all the events. Many other clashes and dark days also followed always through this “style”, but for the non-violent fringes of the support, light hearted irony surely is the principal element of this rivarly. Pigs brought in curvas with the rivals colours on them, historical celebration runs from old and white haired managers under the rival sector after a late draw, and many other contentions and clashes on dialect, history and tradition.
Long life and prosperity to Atalanta-Brescia, a rivarly which between devotion, history and Italian localism will always be a massive example for all the ultras world.
Last year the guys from Copa90 made a nice documentary on this rivalry.