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“Those Who Love Football” changed the story of football on television

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Study for “Quelli che il calcio” in 2001 at the Ray Production Center in Milan (ANSA).

He did this by mixing variety reporting, sports reporting and comedy: the first episode aired 30 years ago

At 2.25pm ​​on September 26, 1993, Sunday, the first episode of the series Those who footballa variety TV show born in a completely experimental way, without references and almost blindly, but which has managed in a short time to become one of the most watched and recognizable programs on Italian television.

The program was created by Angelo Guglielmi, the historical director of Rai 3, who in his years in office (from 1987 to 1994) helped shape the identity of Rai, the third, newer, alternative and niche channel. For management Those who football – The name it was inspired by Song 1975 by Enzo Janacci, then the theme song for the first editions in editions with the text modified several times – Guglielmi initially thought of Dario Fo, who was sixty years old at the time and the author of a very long artistic and literary production and who in 1997 would be awarded Nobel Prize for Literature.

Fo was taken into account because the broadcast should be halfway between the football news of the so-called “Championship Sunday” and the traditional Sunday afternoon television programme, but from Rai 3, and therefore with elements of current affairs, culture and entertainment. But in the interview with the show’s writers, Fu declined the offer (second “My Dario would never do nonsense like that,” said journalist Marino Bartoletti, author and then co-host of the show, his wife Franca Rami.

So the choice of hosting went to Fabio Fazio, who is not yet thirty years old but has already been hosting children’s programs for several years. It was a choice made by Bartoletti and the then head of the RAI structure Bruno Foglino which, however, did not please Guglielmi at first, as Bartoletti revealed years later. Before giving the green light, the director of Rai 3 warned both of them, saying: “You bear full responsibility because in my opinion this Fazio is ‘incorruptible’.”

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But the idea of ​​transportation remained the same. Al Rai Channel did not have the rights to broadcast the matches live, so the story of the tournament day was based on comments from reporters from the stadiums and guests who watched the match on television in the studio.

For its first few seasons, the radio program’s historic voices participated in game coverage – at that time it was still concentrated on Sunday afternoons All football minute by minute, like Nando Martellini and Sandro Ciotti, who told the country about football when there was no football on TV. After that, their role as reporters was given to minor show business personalities who had little knowledge of football, even if All football minute by minute He continued to be a reference point in the most important moments, of which there were already many in the first ten years: the successive Italian League From the two Romanian teamsthe last day match for Milan under Alberto Zaccheroni in 1999 and the famous match on May 5, 2002 that Inter lost and Juventus won.

Among the reports from the stadiums without pictures of the matches, but with shots of the press stands and the crowd in the stands, the guests intervened in the studio, called on their support for football, and the program’s correspondents were sent to all parts of Italy to report. In the most disparate events, which were sometimes not real events, in an almost serious way. The result was a seemingly chaotic program that allowed everyone to follow the matches, but among many other things could also entertain the audience without any special interest in the tournament.

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The football story was also entrusted to only a small part of the specialist journalists, who were in any case only two in the studio: in the early years they were Bartoletti and Carlo Sassi, who was one of the creators of the so-called slow. a movement Sunday sports By Enzo Tortora. Then Sassy said In an interview“Tell the truth, coming from Sunday sportsI was confused as to why I was on such an innovative show. As for Fazio, he had become known as a host of children’s programs, but assuming the helm of a Sunday afternoon program, while respecting the added sanctity of heroism, seemed like a huge gamble. Instead, in the third episode, I went up to him and said, ‘I’m sorry, because I didn’t think you were that good.’”

Fazio himself was aware of the fragility of broadcasting: “A program was born without any hope. Rai 3 in those years had a viewership of between 5-6 percent on Sunday afternoons. She said In a special opinion dedicated to history Those who football, which worked instead immediately. Its popularity increased from year to year, even changing a lot from one season to the next, until it moved to RAI 2 between 1998 and 1999, which saw its eventual success with a peak of over 7 million viewers.

Thirty years after the first season, Those who football It is also remembered for its many performers, some of whom have already arrived famous, others who remain unknown. For example, comedians Teo Teocoli and Anna Marchesini have been regulars on the show for years with their characters, as have Juventus fan Idris, Paolo Brosio, and Lazio Sor Paola fan Peter van Woude, who was already in Italy. Known in the 1950s as a musician. to Those who football Van Wood was above all the president of Van Goff’s Atlético, a real soccer team from the Bologna region whose program was “adopted.” Initiatives like this were followed by many others, such as the one in which a group of footballers and former footballers, coached by Gigi Mifredi, participated in reproducing goals scored by Serie A teams live which could not be broadcast on Sunday.

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Between 2000 and 2001 the program changed host for the first time. Fazio continued his career in rai music becoming a composer and host of what’s the weather like His place for the next ten years was taken by Simona Ventura. In that period, the program continued to have some success but was also beginning to grapple with the changes occurring in the world of soccer. In fact, the scheduling of tournament days has become increasingly irregular due to the needs of televisions broadcasting matches for a fee, at different times and days.

Football is part of Those who football Then it declined more and more until it became almost a variety show separate from the football being played. However, matches have always been at the heart of the programme, even if in an unglamorous and niche way, and their reduction has served to distort the idea behind the format. After Ventura, it was led by Victoria Capello, Nicola Savino, Luca Bizzarri, Paolo Kesisoglu and Mia Ceran, with low ratings and increasing importance until its final closure in 2021.

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