Genoa are one of Italian football’s most high-profile clubs, but that status does not necessarily stem from their impressive array of silverware, given that their quest for an elusive tenth league title has now lasted for 88 years.
Indeed, the venerable Liguria team are as well-known for their breakthrough achievements: the first to win the Italian championship in 1898, the first to establish an U-16 youth academy in 1902, the first to play a game abroad in Nice in 1903, the first to lay on a train for away supporters in 1906 and then a boat in 1922, the first to play in Argentina and Uruguay in 1923, and the first to go through a 34-match league season unbeaten, also in 1923.
As part of its series on classic clubs, FIFA.com charts the history of a fascinating outfit striving to relive past glories.
Birth of an institution
Genoa Cricket and Football Club was officially founded on 7 September 1893, making it the oldest existing Italian side. British businessmen were at the root of the club’s formation, especially future tycoon Sir Charles Alfred Payton, then British Consul to Italy in Genoa. The development of the nearby port and markets had led to a significant presence of Britons in the city, and the ‘British sporting club abroad’ that they created was initially reserved for the Queen’s subjects only.
However, the arrival of English doctor James Richardson Spensley, the club’s first coach, would change all of that. On 10 April 1897, he opened the doors to Italians wishing to join, limiting it to 50 applicants at first, before removing all restraints to enrollment in the years that followed. On 2 January 1899, the club adopted the name ‘Genoa Cricket and Football Club’, which became ‘Genoa 1893’ in 1930, before reverting to its original moniker in 1998.
The making of a legend
The early years were marked by glorious success, as I Rossoblu racked up six league titles between 1898 and 1904. Their all-conquering XI – Baird, De Galleani, Ghigliotti, Pasteur, Spensley, Ghiglione, Le Pelley, Bertollo, Dapples, Bocciardo, Leaver – would reign over the Italian game for the best part of a decade.
The majority of these embryonic championships took place over one day, and generally involved just four or five teams. Two Turin-based sides, Internazionale Torino and FBC Torinese, as well as Unione Pro Sport Alessandria, Sampierdarenese – which would later merge with another club to become Sampdoria – and even the crew of British navy vessel HMS Clementine, constituted some of Genoa's rivals during this successful era.
Over the years, the league expanded to include rising forces such as Milan, Pro Vercelli and Andrea Doria. To deal with this increased level of competition, Genoa, whose star players had seen age catch up with them by then, took the ground-breaking step of hiring Italian football’s first-ever professional coach, William Garbutt, on 30 July 1912.
Under the Englishman’s tutelage, the club continued to dominate the domestic championship, winning three further league crowns and narrowly missing out on two others, all the while providing a healthy contingent of players for the Italian national team. After the First World War had ended, the league resumed in 1919, and Genoa took up where they had left off, bringing in future international brothers Augusto and Giacomo Bergamino, as well as forward Guglielmo Brezzi.
During season 1922/23, Il Grifone, at the peak of their powers, won the Scudetto in style, negotiating 34 matches without suffering a single defeat. The following campaign saw them claim their last title to date, after which they would unfortunately enter a long period of mediocrity.
Genoa oscillated between Serie A and Serie B over the next few decades, always managing to earn promotion back to the top flight, as demonstrated by their six Serie B championships attained between 1935 and 1989, but never able to truly recreate those memorable triumphs of the past.
After having reached their nadir in 2005 with relegation to Serie C, Genoa won two successive promotions to make a remarkable return to the top flight, and they followed that up with a best-ever finish in the modern era, securing fifth place during season 2008/09. That achievement enabled the side from north-west Italy to enjoy another taste of European football, 17 years after their previous participation.
Three years down the line, that particular feat appears to have been nothing more than a flash in the pan, as Genoa’s tendency to blow hot and cold has since seen them serve up two mid-table finishes and a relegation battle to their long-suffering and loyal supporters.
Genoa’s first stadium, which was built on land gifted to the club by two Scottish industrialists, was officially opened prior to the Genoa-Inter Milan match of 22 January 1911. The British-style arena originally boasted a capacity of 20,000, prior to the construction of the north and south stands, where the oldest supporters' clubs could be found.
On 1 January 1933, the stadium was renamed ‘Stadio Luigi Ferraris’, after a former captain of the side who was killed in the First World War. Regarded as the most modern ground of its time, its capacity was increased to 40,000 on 27 May 1934 for the FIFA World Cup™ match between Spain and Brazil.
The biggest crowd to ever fill the stadium for a club match was 57,815, which came about during a Serie A derby match between Genoa and city rivals Sampdoria on 28 November 1982. The overall record of over 60,000 was set during Italy’s 4-1 victory over Portugal on 27 February 1949.
With the 1990 FIFA World Cup approaching, the stadium was completely demolished and rebuilt between July 1987 and September 1989. The work was stretched out over two years, and completed section by section, so that Genoa and Sampdoria could continue to fulfil their fixtures. The Luigi Ferraris' current capacity is 36,536 seats, all of which are protected from the elements.
Genoa Cricket and Football Club
* 9 Italian titles (1898, 1899, 1900, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1915, 1923, 1924)
* 6 Italian Serie B titles (1935, 1953, 1962, 1973, 1976, 1989)
* 1 Italian Cup (1937)
* 2 Alps Cups (1962, 1964)
James Richardson Spensley (1896-1906), Edoardo Pasteur (1896-1904), Henri Dapples (1898-1903), Luigi Ferraris (1907-11), Guglielmo Brezzi (1915-20), Augusto Bergamino (1915-26), Giacomo Bergamino (1919-21), Ottavio Barbieri (1919-32), Edoardo Catto (1921-29), Giovanni De Prà (1921-33), Virgilio Levratto (1925-32), Amedeo Cattani (1942-55), Fosco Becattini (1945-61), Roberto Pruzzo (1973-78), Vincenzo Torrente (1985-2000), Gennaro Ruotolo (1988-2002), Gianluca Signorini (1988-95), Carlos Aguilera (1989-92), Tomas Skuhravy (1990-96), Diego Milito (2004-05 puis 2008-09), Marco Rossi (depuis 2005)
Official website: www.genoacfc.it
*The honours listed above are considered to be the club’s major titles and, as such, are not intended to be a full list of achievements.