Adelaide's football history is steeped in Italian heritage, with the top four clubs in South Australia's Premier League all stemming from an Italian influence.
Adelaide is a city famous for its churches, vineyards and for being the birthplace of Cold Chisel. What is less widely known is that it is also a hotbed for talented footballers of Italian descent - who-ve been rocking in the city-s top-flight long before Jimmy Barnes belted out ‘When the war is over-.
Indeed it was the conclusion of World War II that brought an influx of migrants to Adelaide, to the point where the city now has one of the highest concentrations of Italians in the country. They brought with them a rich and proud footballing history, and this tradition would flourish in the north-east of the city in the Campbelltown area.
This year in the South Australia (SA) NPL the top four teams at the end of the regular season all descend from Italian footballing origins. MetroStars, Adelaide Blue Eagles, Adelaide City and Campbelltown City, while all maintaining a unique identity, share a common heritage.
The first club on the scene was Adelaide City, which was known as Juventus when it was established back in 1946. They were later joined by the Blue Eagles and Campbelltown, which represented people from Naples and the Abruzzo region respectively.
The most recent club to sprout in the area - MetroStars were formed primarily by second generation Italians and they were this year-s run away leaders in the SA Premier League.
Campbelltown City-s Mario Scalzi is a former player who served on the club-s board for 11 years and has seen Adelaide-s football strength underpinned by those of Italian heritage for decades. He attributes Italians being fiercely protective of the region they come from as the reason why various clubs have formed in the north-east of Adelaide.
“The different clubs in the area were all formed by people of different regions,” he said. “They brought old-school skills and were powered by the strength of their volunteers.”
“In the last 15 years this has transitioned into a knowledge of the corporate world, which clubs desperately need in order to survive.”
On whether the strength of these various clubs could unite to one day form a second A-League team in Adelaide, Scalzi said he would like to think this is a possibility but predicted the fruition of such a proposal was still some way off.
“There-s been talk for some time and we-ve looked at forming a consortium to prepare an A-League bid,” he said. “Certainly we have the numbers, money and strength so it is achievable but it will require a change in mindset from the clubs.”
It seems uncertainty and division reigns over what model a potential A-League bid would adopt in order to be successful. Clubs fearing such a move would trigger a loss of identity if they were to amalgamate.
In theory it-s been proposed that these big four clubs remain autonomous in terms of housing their vast number of juniors but unite in fielding a competitive A-League team. However in reality the gush to make such a move trickles slower than the River Torrens.
Another club in the area that also heralds from Italian background is the recently formed Eastern United. By contrast they have focused their attention on junior development.
According to club treasurer Tony Fuda it-s been a long but relatively successful first season for the Saints.
“We had approximately 130 players in our first season, with many players competing in higher divisions than their age would dictate,” he said. “Our focus has really been on junior development and providing an academy style structure in a cost effective way.”
The club-s links with its Italian identity recently received a tangible endorsement with teenagers Samed Altundag and Antoni Trimboli signing contracts with Italian club Perugia.
The pair had trials organised by their coach and technical director Diego Pellegrini - who played for Perugia when they were in the Serie A, and were subsequently offered contracts.
While the top teams in Adelaide are in the midst of battling it out in their NPL finals, the seeds of their success were planted with a distinctly Italian flavour. It seems certain that the champions - who will earn the right to go to the inaugural national play-offs, will be of Italian influence. In terms of Adelaide's football future, this link, like a Barossa red, seems set to flourish with age.