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Unione Sportiva Città di Palermo (simply known as Palermo) is an Italian football club from Palermo, Sicily which currently plays in Serie A, the top level of Italian football. Formed in 1900 as Anglo Panormitan Athletic and Football Club, the club had various names before assuming its final form in 1987 and is currently the top-ranked football club from the island of Sicily. During its history, Palermo played in all the professional ranks of Italy, and took part in several Serie A seasons during the 1960s and early 1970s, also ending twice as Coppa Italia runners-up during that period.
Following its return to Serie A in 2004, the club has become one of the most prominent in Italy, also providing four players to the Italian team that won the 2006 FIFA World Cup. It has gained a UEFA Cup place in each of the past three seasons, narrowly missing UEFA Champions League qualification in 2007 and 2010.
The official team colours are pink and black, giving rise to the nickname rosanero; another less common nickname is aquile, referring to the eagle on both the official club logo and the city of Palermo's coat of arms.
US Città di Palermo plays its home games at Stadio Renzo Barbera (formerly known as La Favorita) which from 2007 has a capacity of 36,871 people. It was originally built in 1932, but was renovated in the late 1980s and served as a venue for the 1990 FIFA World Cup.
There is some debate about the exact date the club was founded. Some authorities think it may have been as early as 1898 due to the existence of papers addressed to Joseph Whitaker, English consul in Palermo and originally believed to be first club president, about a Palermitan football team founded in that year. However, the most common and officially stated foundation date is 1 November 1900, as the Anglo Panormitan Athletic and Football Club. The club is thought to have been founded by Ignazio Majo Pagano, a young Palermitan colleague of Whitaker who had discovered football while at college in London, England, where the sport was already popular. The initial staff comprised 3 Englishmen and 9 natives of Palermo, with Whitaker as honorary chairman, Edward De Garston as inaugural president, and with red and blue as the original team colours. The first recorded football match, played by the team on 30 December 1900, ended in a 5–0 defeat to an unidentified amateur English team. The first official match, played on 18 April 1901 against Messina Football Club ended in a 3–2 win to the Palermitan side.
In 1907, the club changed its name to Palermo Foot-Ball Club, and the team colours were changed to the current pink and black. From 1908 until the final event in 1914, Palermo was featured in the Lipton Challenge Cup, organised by English businessman Sir Thomas Lipton. The competition saw them face off against Naples; Palermo won the competition three times, including a 6–0 victory in 1912.
After a gap during World War I, the club was refounded in 1919 as Unione Sportiva Palermo, by a committee of young university students and sportsmen. During the early 1920s, the club mainly competed in the Campionato Lega Sud, a football league in Southern Italy, reaching the semi-finals in 1924 before being knocked out by Audace Taranto, Alba Roma and Internaples. The club was dissolved in 1927 due to financial problems, but was reformed one year later following a merger with Vigor Palermo under the name Palermo FootBall Club. Originally admitted to Prima Divisione (First Division), the equivalent of today's Serie C1, the team was promoted into Serie B in 1930 and finally reached Serie A in 1932. From its debut season in Italy's top division, Palermo relocated to a new home, the Stadio Littorio (Lictorian Stadium) in the Favorita neighbourhood, today known as Stadio Renzo Barbera. The club played Serie A until 1936, when they were relegated to Serie B and first played Catania in the Sicilian derby.
In 1936 Palermo was forced by the fascist regime to change its strip to yellow and red, after the official colours of the local municipality. Meanwhile, economic difficulties arose, and in 1940 they were expelled by the Italian Football Federation because of financial problems. A merger with Unione Sportiva Juventina Palermo brought the foundation of Unione Sportiva Palermo-Juventina, which joined Serie C in 1941 and Serie B in 1942.
After World War II, the team returned to Serie A by winning the Serie B championship of 1947–48. The new Palermo squad featured players such as Czechoslovakian legend Čestmír Vycpálek who signed from Juventus alongside Conti, Di Bella and Pavesi. Palermo played Serie A until they were relegated in 1954. Massive changes in the board, as well as the manager's job and the squad proved successful and the club returned to Serie A in 1956. Palermo then became a "yo-yo club," bouncing up and down between the top two Italian leagues. Several stars played for Palermo during this period, such as Argentine striker Santiago Vernazza (51 goals in 115 games with the rosanero), goalkeepers Roberto Anzolin and Carlo Mattrel, Giuseppe Furino and Franco Causio. Palermo marked its best campaign in 1961–62 season, finishing 8th in Serie A. However, in 1963 they were relegated to Serie B, and played there for five seasons. Palermo played again in Serie A between 1968–1970.
In 1970, Renzo Barbera took over the club as the new chairman. After 1973, Palermo FBC remained firmly rooted in Serie B. Despite this, Palermo reached two Italian Cup finals, both of which they narrowly lost: in 1974 to Bologna on penalty shoot-outs, and in 1979 to Juventus after extra time. Barbera left the club in 1980 and Palermo were relegated to Serie C1 four years later. The 1985–86 season which ended in the summer was however the last for Palermo FBC as having just saved themselves from relegation, the club was expelled by the football federation due to financial problems. In the summer of 1987, after a year without professional football in Palermo, the club was re-founded bearing its current name, and began to play in Serie C2, which it promptly won.
In the 1990s, Palermo played between Serie B and Serie C1 with a few highs, such as its 1995–1996 Serie B and Coppa Italia campaign, the latter ending in the quarter-finals, and a number of lows such as the 1998 relegation to Serie C2 after defeat in the play-offs to Battipagliese, later revoked by the federation to fill a vacant league slot.
In March 2000, AS Roma chairman Franco Sensi, led a holding company to purchase Palermo and Sergio D'Antoni became the President of Palermo and Palermo were promoted to Serie B one year later after a dramatic final week of the season, with Palermo coming back from behind to take first place from league-toppers Sicilian rivals Messina. The first comeback season in the Serie B, with Bortolo Mutti as head coach, was a eventless one, with Palermo ending in a mid-table placement.
In the summer of 2002, Friulian businessman and Venezia owner Maurizio Zamparini acquired the club from Franco Sensi in a 15 million euro bid, with the clear intention to bring Palermo back to Serie A and then establishing the club as a Serie A regular with aims of participations to European competitions. Palermo failed in its first attempt to reach the Serie A in 2002–03 on the final week of the season, but later managed to achieve it after a hard but successful 2003–04 campaign which saw Palermo crowned as Serie B champions and promoted to Serie A after 31 years under head coach Francesco Guidolin, who was hired in January 2004 as replacement for dismissed Silvio Baldini.
The 2004–05 season, the first in Serie A for the Palermo club since 1973, ended with an excellent sixth place, securing qualification for the 2005–06 UEFA Cup for the first time in its history. Luca Toni broke the Palermo Serie A scoring record by notching up 20 league goals. Guidolin left in 2005 and was replaced by Luigi Delneri, who did not manage to repeat his predecessor's successes and was later replaced by Giuseppe Papadopulo. Despite an unimpressive eighth place in the Serie A table, Palermo reached the last 16 in the UEFA Cup as well as the Coppa Italia semi-finals. Guidolin's return was followed by Palermo being admitted to play UEFA Cup again due to the 2006 Serie A scandal and Palermo players Andrea Barzagli, Cristian Zaccardo, Simone Barone and Fabio Grosso being crowned 2006 FIFA World Cup winners. A number of impressive signings were made to establish an ambitious team, and a good beginning in the 2006–07 campaign appeared initially to confirm this. However, a winless 11 games streak caused Palermo to fall down from third to seventh place. The club ended the season in fifth place and qualified again to UEFA Cup for the following season, with Stefano Colantuono at Guidolin's place. A number of unimpressive performances left the rosanero in eighth place, seven points shy of the fourth UEFA Champions League spot, and a crushing 5–0 away defeat to Juventus led Zamparini to sack Colantuono on 26 November 2007 and call in Guidolin for a fourth spell as Palermo boss. On 24 March 2008 Guidolin was sacked and left the club for the fourth time with his predecessor Stefano Colantuono taking charge for the second time in the season.
Colantuono was confirmed as Palermo boss for the 2008–09 season. During the summer transfer market, club stars like Amauri, Barzagli and Zaccardo were sold. New signings included former and current Italian internationals Marco Amelia, Fabio Liverani and Antonio Nocerino. The rosanero started their season with a disappointing 1–2 home loss to Lega Pro Prima Divisione side Ravenna in the Third Round of the Coppa Italia. After just one game from the new campaign, a 1–3 loss to Udinese, Zamparini sacked Colantuono, and the head coach role was then given to Davide Ballardini. With Ballardini as head coach, Palermo ended the season with a respectable eighth place, and also won its first Campionato Primavera national title, under the guidance of youth coach Rosario Pergolizzi. After the end of the season, Palermo dismissed Ballardini from the coaching post following disagreements with the board, and replaced him with Walter Zenga, whose appointment from Sicilian arch-rivals Catania was greeted with surprise and dismay from supporters of both parties. Zenga's reign however lasted only thirteen games, as he was dismissed on November 23, 2009 due to poor performances, ironically after a 1–1 home tie to Sicilian rivals, as well as Zenga's former team, Catania, with former Lazio boss Delio Rossi being appointed at his place. Under the tutelage of Delio Rossi, results dramatically improved, and Palermo established a record of seven consecutive home wins, and also achieved prestigious results such as two 2–0 wins against Italian giants AC Milan and Juventus; the latter win, achieved on February, led Palermo to climb over the bianconeri in fourth place, establishing the rosanero as serious contenders for a UEFA Champions League spot, which they ultimately lost to Sampdoria by one point only.
The official badge as of 2004 is a pink/black escutcheon with an eagle poised for flight within it, and the official club denomination "U.S. Città di Palermo" in capital letters on the top. The eagle instead represents the city of Palermo, as it is also part of the city's official coat of arms.
Palermo originally played with red and blue as its official colours since its foundation in 1898, but decided to switch to the current choice of pink and black on February 27, 1907, contemporaneously with the change of denomination to Palermo Foot-Ball Club.
The colour choice was suggested by count Giuseppe Airoldi, a prominent founding member of the club. In a letter Airoldi wrote on February 2, 1905 to club councillor Joseph Whitaker, he defined pink and black as "colours of the sad and the sweet", a choice he asserted to be a good fit for a team characterized by "results as up and down as a Swiss clock", noting also the fact that red and blue were a widely diffuse choice of colours at the time.
The club had to wait for the new jerseys for three months, because no pink flannel was available in Palermo, forcing the appointed tailoring company to import it from England. The new shirts were first worn in a match against Sir Thomas Lipton's crew team; the match ended in a 2–1 win for Palermo. From 1936 to 1940 the team played in red and yellow jerseys due to an imposition by the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, red and yellow being the official colours of the municipality of Palermo. When the club was refounded in 1941 following a merger with Juventina Palermo, they started dressing in light blue shirt on the pitch, switching to the more popular pink and black one year later.
The choice of pink and black as official colours for a football club is still unique today, as Palermo appears to be one of the few top-flight football teams to use these official colours. Another club with these colors is the first division club Sport Boys in Peru.
Palermo plays its home matches at Stadio Renzo Barbera, located in the Favorita neighbourhood. The stadium was opened in 1932, during the fascist regime, with the name Stadio Littorio (Lictorial Stadium). The inaugural match was played on January 24, 1932, against Atalanta; Palermo won it 5–1. In 1936, it was renamed Stadio Michele Marrone, after a fascist hero who died in the Spanish civil war.
Initially a racetrack was present, and there were no curved sections, but only terraces and a stand. In 1948, following the end of World War II and the fall of the Fascist regime, the stadium assumed the denomination of Stadio La Favorita, after the neighbourhood where it was located, and was also heavily restructured, without racetrack and with two curved sections, thus increasing its capacity to 30,000. In 1984 it was again enlarged, giving a capacity of circa 50,000. This higher capacity was however completely covered in only twice, respectively in a Serie C1 league match against Messina and a friendly match against Juventus. On the occasion of the 1990 FIFA World Cup, the stadium was renovated with the addition of seats, but the capacity, which was reached on only two occasions before 1990, was reduced to 37,619. During the 1989 renovation works, five employees died following the collapse of a section of the stadium. In 2002 the stadium was renamed in honour of Renzo Barbera, legendary Palermo chairman in the 1970s.
Plans to move the club to a new state-of-the-art stadium to be built were announced in 2007 by current Palermo chairman and owner Maurizio Zamparini; the new venue is expected to be built in the area of the Velodromo Paolo Borsellino (a smaller venue which also hosted some Palermo games in the past) in the ZEN neighbourhood of the city of Palermo.
The majority of Palermo supporters come from the city and its neighbourhood. However, Palermo is also widely popular throughout Western Sicily, as well as among Sicilian immigrants in northern Italy, leading Palermo to have one of the largest followings in its away matches. US Palermo supporters, mainly Sicilian emigrants, are also present outside Italy; a number of Palermo fans living in and around the German city of Solingen have even founded a club named after their favourite club, FC Rosaneri, which as of 2007 plays in the Kreisliga B league.
Support for Palermo is closely associated with a strong sense of belonging to Sicily; indeed, it is not uncommon to see Sicilian flags waved by fans and ultras during Palermo matches. Palermo fans are also twinned with Lecce ultras. The latter was even more strengthened in recent times by the acquisition of Fabrizio Miccoli, who is originary from the outskirts of Lecce and a well-known supporter of the local team, who then went on to become a key player and captain for the Sicilians.
Palermo's biggest rivals by far are fellow islanders Catania. Matches between Palermo and Catania are usually referred to as Sicilian derbies, despite the existence of a third valid Sicilian team, Messina, who played in Serie A alongside Palermo and Catania in recent years. Rivalry with Messina, although historically older, is instead less intense than that with Catania.
The 2006–07 return match between Palermo and Catania, played on February 2, 2007 at Stadio Angelo Massimino, Catania, is remembered due to the death of policeman Filippo Raciti who was injured during riots between the local police and the Catania supporters. This event led Italian Federation commissioner Luca Pancalli to suspend all football leagues and national team events in the whole country for a couple of weeks.
Below is a list of prominent head coaches who served at least two seasons, reaching at least a promotion or a tournament final during their stay with the club:
Over the years Palermo has had various owners, chairmen or presidential figures; here is a chronological list of the known presidents:
Not including league playoff matches