Story of Cagliari football team: striker Gigi Riva’s team
When talking about sport in Sardinia is impossible not to mention the glorious story of the Cagliari football club, founded in 1920 and better known as Cagliari.
Cagliari is the only Sardinian team that made it to Serie A and the only team in the south of Italy which won the 68th edition of the Italian football championship in 1968-1970 after being second place in 1968-1969 with just a four-point difference below the Fiorentina which won the tournament.
The red and blue team had many other great victories including the Italian championship in Serie C in 1951-1952, the Italian championship Serie B in 2015-2016 and the Italian Cup in Serie C in 1988-1989.
Cagliari football arrived second in the Coppa Italia in 1968-1969 and in the European competitions, it reached 8th place in the finals of the champions cup in 1970-1971 and was one of the semi-finalists in the UEFA cup in 1993-1994. Cagliari is one of the 5 teams, including Genoa, Bologna, Napoli, and Verona, to have won the national championships of first, second and third levels.
An important period in the history of the Cagliari football team was with the presence of the great Luigi “Gigi” Riva: a symbol of Sardinian football and Italian striker holding, still to this date, a record of 35 strikes in 42 matches played with the national Italian football. While he was wearing the Cagliari colors, Gigi Riva was the top scorer in Serie A three times running and is remembered as the absolute best striker in the club’s history (208 strikes in 377 presences) and best striker of Europe in Cagliari’s history (4 strikes in 6 presences). After leaving football, he decided to stay in Cagliari and he founded the football school in 1976 which was named after him, in 2019 he was nominated honorary president of the red and blue team. Pier Paolo Pasolini, greatly passionate football fan, described Riva a “realist poet” who “plays a kick into a poem”.
Alongside Riva, the trio from Uruguay must also be remembered in the history of Cagliari: Enzo Francescoli, midfielder Pep Herrera and striker Daniel Fonseca. Another two important players are striker Gianfranco Zola and midfielder Daniele Conti.
Of course there are also some great trainers to be mentioned: Arturo “Sandokan” Silverstein, Manlio Scopigno, Gustavo Giagnoni, Claudio Ranieri, Carletto “Sor Carletto” Mazzone, and Massimiliano Allegri.
History of Cagliari football team: from 1920 to the Second World War
The story of this team begins on the 30th of May 1920 when Gaetano Fichera, surgeon and sport leader, founded the Cagliari football Club. On the 8th of September that year, the team had its first victory against Torres di Sassari at the Stallaggio Meloni stadium.
Coached by Giorgio Mereu, who became the new president of Cagliari after Fichera, the team won the “Torneo Sardo” after its victory against Torres and became rivals of Eleonora Maddalena, Ilva Maddalena and Torres.
The players wore the famous red and blue colors in 1926 for the first time and two years later the team was coached by Róbert Winkler, Hungarian trainer who was also goalkeeper and midfielder.
The first official tournament Cagliari participated in was the Divisione Meridionale. The team got into the finals but was defeated by Lecce, Palermo, and Foggia. In 1930 Ernő Egri Erbstein took Winklers place, but on the 4th of May 1949, he disappeared in the tragedy of Superga and ended the fable of the Grande Torino.
Five years later Cagliari had so many debts it failed and split up. From the ashes of the old team was born the Unione Sportiva Cagliari and in 1937 the club entered the Serie C championship, in 1938 Winkler started coaching the team again and brought the red and blues to classify fifth place.
At the end of the 30s the team was taken on by Mariolino Congiu before the Second World War caused the championships to stop.
Story of Cagliari football team: from the Second World War to the championship
The red and blue team returned to the field in 1945 and during the season of 1951-1952 it won the Serie C championship and was promoted to Serie B where it classified 6th in the next championship.
Over the years the team leader was changed 50 times, and in 1960 Cagliari slipped back into Serie C. The team was promoted again to be in Serie B after just two seasons while coached by Arturo “Sandokan” Silverstein, who led the team to be in Serie A in 1964 while Gigi Riva was a part.
Cagliari’s first appearance in the Serie A championship in 1964-1965 marked the beginning of a new era in the history of the football team which classified 6th. During the 1965-1966 season, the red and blues came 11th and in the next one, after Silverstein left his place to Manlio Scopigno, Cagliari closed the championship with 6th place.
In 1968-1969 the team played against the Fiorentina and Milan and won its first and only national championship in 1969-1970 with two days of advance. That same year Cagliari came third, just behind Torino, in the 23rd edition of the Italian Cup, won by Bologna.
In 1970-1971 Cagliari appears to unstoppable, but unfortunately, Gigi Riva was injured during the Austria-Italia match and compromised the season, the red and blues came 6th in the championship and where eliminated at 8ths by Atletico Madrid at the Champions cup.
In 1971-1972 Riva joins the team again and conquers 4th place at the championship and access to the UEFA in 1972-1973 where they were eliminated at the first round against Olympiakos.
During these years the Cagliari bench was occupied by many different coaches: Edmondo Fabbri, Beppe Chiapparella, Luigi Radice and Luis Suárez.
The desired result was not achieved and during the championship in 1975-1976, Cagliari fell back in to Serie B when Gigi Riva had another serious accident marking his retirement as a football player.
History of Cagliari Football: after Gigi Riva and the difficulties in the 80s
Cagliari was coached by Lauro Toneatto during the championship in 1976-1977 and was classified 6th place. When it was about to be a part of Serie A again, a team fan threw an orange from the stands and hit the player from Salento, Ruggiero Cannito, directly in the face during the Cagliari-Lecce match, leading to the Lecce victory 0-2, and Cagliari losing the promotion.
The red and blues were again in Serie A while coached by Mario Tiddia and when Pietro Paolo Virdis, Luigi Piras and Franco Selvaggi where playing.
In 1983, unfortunately, the Sardinian team fell back into Serie B because of having only 26 points.
Difficult years lay ahead, the team fell back into Serie C1 after being involved with the Totonero-bis club in 1986, the scandal of Football betting which involved many players and sport societies. Nonetheless, that same year Cagliari was in the semifinals at the Italian cup but lost against Napoli with Maradona.
In 1988-1989 the arrival of Claudio Ranieri brought the team to be part of the Serie A once again during the next season. In 1992-1993 the team is again in Serie B but the next year the Sardinian team coached by Gian Piero Ventura, conquers it’s place in Serie A.
At the end of the 90s, Cagliari is led by Renzo Ulivieri and fights for its place at the beginning of the new millennium but falls back into Serie B.
Story of Cagliari football: the years 2000
Cagliari was promoted to Serie A in 2003-2004 while Edoardo Reja was on the sidelines and Gianfranco Zola in the field, the next season the team plays its third semifinal in the Italian Cup.
In 2008-2009 the sidelines are occupied by Massimiliano Allegri and in 2014 by Zdeněk Zeman. On the 17th of May 2015, Cagliari is again in Serie B after playing 11 consecutive championships in Serie A, but after just one year it regains it’s place in the highest category while coached by Massimiliano Rastelli and the team has many good new players: the European champion Bruno Alves, striker Marco Borriello and midfielder Artur Ioniță.
The season in 2017-2018 was more difficult than expected but the red and blues, coached by Diego Lopez, managed to save themselves in the last two days of the championship by defeating Fiorentina and Atlanta.
Since the 7th of June 2018, Rolando Maran, ex-player and more than 200 sidelines in Serie A, is coaching Cagliari football team.