The storyline of the final Detroit City match of 2018, Tuesday’s international friendly against Serie A side Frosinone Calcio, was pretty simple prior to Friday - a celebration of what we’re building here with Le Rouge, a farewell and love-fest and re-commitment ceremony all in one. But context is everything, and the context this match will be played in has shifted dramatically since Friday, when our sister club, Chattanooga FC, took to Twitter with a one-two punch to the gut, telling of Leviathan’s movement into their fair city:
Not that this threat is new. I wrote about it last year, about the mammoth challenges facing Le Rouge. What’s different is that the fight is about to break out into the open, a fight between people who advocate for community clubs and local control, and the corporations which specialize in profiting from monopoly positions to create artificial scarcity - of real markets against a specific type of market failure.
So now Tuesday’s finale is recast, melted down to its essential elements and given a new form. Where once there might have been something almost wholly uplifting, a rainbow glissade up the keyboard of emotionality, a red-gold redgoldness, now we find something harder, angrier, Northern Guard’s black defiance mixed heavily with the blood-red Rouge and unalloyed Gold; the bass is fuzzy and well up in the mix, with staccato bursts that feel like rage, other feelings masked now behind that ur-feeling, anger, put in harness to press hard against the will of unelected masters.
Like Detroit City Football Club, Frosinone Calcio are strivers, underdogs; unlike City, they are riding a wave of steady re-investment up the ranks of the Italian league system, a feat impossible in the USA’s calcified cartels. As recently as 2004, Frosinone were in the fourth division (Serie C2) of Italian professional football; in 2013, they were a third-division side. Now they’re on the verge of their second year in the Italian top flight ever; Tuesday’s match will be their last before returning to Italy for the start of the campaign. Expect to see a very serious approach from the Italians.
We each, in our way, wrestle Leviathan.*
Until the beginning of last season, Frosinone played at Stadio Matusa (matusa, ‘old man’), a 5,000-seater built in 1932, just a few years before our beloved Keyworth Stadium.** The effort to replace the Old Man lasted more than 30 years, with a stadium begun in the mid-1980s (initially known as Stadio Casaleno) stalled for decades by permitting decisions and corruption; the resulting losses were a sufficient drag on Frosinone’s bottom line to consign the club to years around the bottom of the Italian league system. Nothing about playing in a scrappily-restored community stadium, against foes who are constrained by local conditions, will seem unfamiliar to the Canarini (the Canaries, one of the club’s nicknames).
Frosinone Calcio’s rise from revenue-challenged regulars in the depths of the Italian pyramid to a Serie A-Serie B yo-yo club is down to the usual combination of good luck, timely investment and executive/managerial competence. At the turn of the century, Frosinone were a club dragged low by financial difficulties, playing in a 70-year-old stadium that seated 5,000. They won a couple of promotions and sweated out the pain of short-term loans to expand the stadium while also clearing the political hurdles that had prevented the completion of Stadio Benito Stirpe, their current home, a 16,000-seat modern jewel of a stadium.
Suddenly it’s 2018, and the third Serie A side in the district that includes Rome is Frosinone Calcio, currently bobbing between the bottom of the top flight and the top of the second. Their first time ‘round the upper circuit had them going straight back down, but - after a couple of seasons around the top of Serie B, they won a classic two-legged playoff victory against Palermo, cheerfully resorting to the kind of dark arts that Americans recognize as ‘really trying.’***
The undoubted highlight of the Canarini’s previous stint in Serie A was earning their first-ever point in the top flight on the road to the Old Lady, Juventus, as the denizens of the ‘Old Man’ rode a late header to draw 1-1 with the Turin giants. The three-game winning streak that followed now seems, in retrospect, a burst of exuberance in a season that saw Frosinone win only five of the remaining 28 matches and relegated with a week to spare.
Remember the euphoria of City’s 2017 - the early, grounding disappointments, the turn to joy as Le Rouge caught fire down the stretch run, the ecstasy as your boys succeed on successively larger stages? Yeah, that’s what Frosinone supporters went through just a couple months ago. A terrible April saw the Gialloazzurri (the yellow/light-blues) worried about sliding out of the playoff places entirely - but those showers brought May flowers for Frosinone, in the form of a three-game winning streak and 10 points out of 12 down the stretch, narrowly missing out on direct promotion to Serie A. Their advancement to Serie A was down to a 96th-minute goal against a team that had previously been a nemesis: Camilo Ciano is their Tyrone Mondi.
We each wrestle Leviathan. For the Italians, it’s the convoluted history of their club; for us, it’s the convoluted reality facing Detroit City Football Club in America in the fall of 2018. Whatever happens Tuesday evening in Hamtramck will be part of several larger stories. We will treat it as a distinct thing, a unit of football .. them’s the rules. But its function will transcend its sporting parameters to become a sort of umbrella, a shield and backstop to any opposition to the expansion and permanence of the Detroit City FC project, a cobra’s hood, the teeth in plain view, the venom welling up and dripping, smoking with malice: We hold this dear; we will fight for this. Chattanooga FC, we stand with you.
Detroit City Football Club closes its 2018 schedule Tuesday evening against Frosinone Calcio at Keyworth Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available at http://tickets.detcityfc.com.
**Stadio Matusa was upgraded to seat 10,000 upon Frosinone’s first promotion to Serie B, in 2005. It was demolished in 2017 upon the opening of Stadio Benito Stirpe.
***As in, “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.”