Amid Boxing Day Racism In Serie A, Fabio's Story Gives Hope From San Siro

At the end of the 2016-17 campaign, Benevento shocked Italian football by reaching the top-flight through the playoffs in what was their maiden outing in Serie B. It was no surprise that there were wild parties in the streets upon their promotion to Serie A, but what followed was an unmitigated disaster in terms of results — a case of too much, too soon. 

“Le Streghe” (The Witches) had become only the fourth team from Campania to ever reach Italy’s top division along with Napoli, Avellino, and Salernitana, with the latter pair no longer present. The resultant derby with the Partenopei was the first between sides from the region since 1987-88 and club President Oreste Vigorito was overjoyed with the accomplishment.

“These players aren’t [Gonzalo] Higuain and [Paulo] Dybala,” he admitted to Sky Italia following the promotion. “But they have big hearts like them, maybe even more so.”  

The gulf between his squad and the rest of the more established sides in Serie A was proven as Benevento were relegated with 29 defeats from a possible 38 matches, conceding no fewer than 84 goals along the way. However, their presence in the league was not wasted, the passion of their supporters having entertained everyone despite having bombed in terms of results.

There was also that goal versus A.C. Milan, when the minnows secured their first ever point in the division as late as November, goalkeeper Alberto Brignoli drawing worldwide headlines with his headed 97th-minute equalizer.

Yet those headlines faded as Benevento dropped out of the top flight and therefore out of the spotlight, with only those hardcore supporters still willing their side on. Perhaps their only chance to play against Italy’s biggest clubs will come via the Coppa Italia in future, and sure enough they came across Inter in this year’s round of 16.

For a little boy named Fabio, the chance to see his beloved Benevento in action at San Siro was the cause of fervent excitement and his only wish in his letter to Father Christmas. As it happened, he was lucky enough to receive a ticket under the Christmas tree on Dec. 25, and it was not Santa who would ultimately let him down.

The very next day, a section of Ultras in Inter’s Curva Nord racially abused Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, the shameful Boxing Day events prompting the powers that be in Serie A to issue a two-match stadium ban. That meant that Fabio wouldn’t get to realize his dream after all, as not even away supporters would be allowed to enter the magnificent San Siro.  

Determined that his son still be able to get to see the match, Fabio’s father Daniele made an appeal via social media, also writing to the president of the Italian National Olympic Committee, President Giovanni Malago. Benevento owner Vigorito got on board with the campaign, and so it was agreed that the little boy would see the match after all. 

Just as during the 2017-18 campaign, Benevento suffered a heavy defeat to the comparatively gigantic Inter, but that did not matter to Fabio. Not only did he see the match, but he met his idols afterward, receiving a shirt from his favorite player, Riccardo Improta. 

It may be of small comfort to those who witnessed the abhorrent abuse of Koulibaly on Boxing Day — or those other fans who were blocked from watching the match — but at the very least Fabio’s story provides a small window of light on a very dark incident for Italian football. 

In the case of this little boy, the racists were not allowed to spoil his day, his dream having turned out better than he could ever have imagined in the end. It may only be a small gesture, but Fabio and those who have been touched by his story must never forget that sometimes good things come out of bad, and you simply cannot allow people with bad intentions to get in the way of your hopes for the future.

Chloe Beresford specializes in Serie A for a number of outlets and can be found on Twitter and on Facebook via her page CalcioByChloe.

Matthijs De Ligt Could Be More Crucial For Juventus Than Cristiano Ronaldo

A year after Portuguese megastar Cristiano Ronaldo ended Juventus’ Champions League run, 19-year-old Matthijs de Ligt did the same thing, his powerful header sending Ajax through at the expense of the Bianconeri.

D.C. United Overcome Second Half Penalty, Beat FC Cincinnati 4-1

D.C. United were quite unhappy about a second-half penalty awarded to hosts FC Cincinnati on Thursday night in the first-ever meeting between the two clubs. Emmanuel Ledesma converted the spot-kick in the 54th minute, canceling out Lucas Rodriguez's first-half goal. However, instead of being put off by the call, United responded in aggressive fashion, scoring three second-half goals to win 4-1 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. 

USMNT No. 1 Zack Steffen Heads To Fortuna Dusseldorf On Loan

Throughout the decades of ups and downs in U.S. Soccer, there has always been one thing that fans of the men’s national team have been able to count on: a good goalie between the sticks. Tim Howard, Kasey Keller, and Tony Meola each earned at least 100 caps since 1988, and a host of dependable reserve keepers since that year has kept the position completely solid. 

18 Players The USMNT Should & Shouldn't Play In The Concacaf Nations League

When my wife and I got to our car in the parking garage this morning, I realized with great sadness I had left my cell phone — which I use to stream audiobooks on my morning commute — up in the condo, and since we were already a couple minutes late I decided not to waste several minutes retrieving it. 

Bournemouth & Girona Are Paragons Of Small-Market Success In England, Spain

You’ve probably heard the tale at least once by now. 

D.C. United Face FC Cincinnati For The First Time In Need Of A Win

A week after facing off against an MLS original, D.C. United head to Ohio to take on the league's newest team, FC Cincinnati, in the first meeting between the two clubs. Last Friday, the Black-and-Red had to fight back for a 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution, giving them just one win in their past nine league games. Meanwhile, Cincinnati, still mired in last place in MLS in 2019, have reeled off two wins in a row.

Fiorentina's Federico Chiesa: The Most Talented & Divisive Starlet In Italy

Growing up, there was this kid named Albus Dinglefeet — I’ve fictionalized his name for anonymity’s sake — in my brother’s grade, and Albus was one of the fastest kids around. 

Everton, Sevilla & Nantes Feature On Top 5 European Friendlies On FloFC

With the Women’s World Cup, Copa America, and Concacaf Gold Cup officially in the books, your significant other is breathing a sigh of relief because a break in summer soccer has finally arrived, right? 

Orlando's US Open Cup Quarterfinal Win Hints At Future Potential

In the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals against NYCFC last week, Orlando City SC nearly blew it. They held a 1-0 lead at home, with a chance to squeak into the semifinals of a tournament that could be a boon for the playoff-less Lions. Simply playing important knockout games is enticing for a restless fanbase just waiting to get excited about something.

How FC Cincinnati Beat The Chicago Fire En Route To A 2-Game Winning Streak

Fresh off their first three points in nearly two months, FC Cincinnati burst out of the gates and held on for their second win on the trot against the Chicago Fire on Saturday.