Winners of four major UEFA trophies during the 1990s, Parma FC celebrated their 100th anniversary on Monday with a series of events culminating with a gala at which the club's all-time XI was unveiled.
The concert, attended by high-profile guests including Italy coach Cesare Prandelli and Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Giancarlo Abete, was held at the famous Teatro Regio. It was a fitting venue for a club founded as Parma Foot Ball Club on 16 December 1913 and drawing players from Verdi Foot Ball Club, itself created a few months earlier to mark the centenary of the birth of opera composer Giuseppe Verdi.
Promoted to Serie A for the first time in 1990 under Nevio Scala, Parma made their UEFA competition debut in 1991, raising the curtain on a decade of remarkable success at home and abroad. After the first of three Coppa Italia triumphs in 1991/92, the Crociati collected the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup the following season, beating Belgian side R. Antwerp FC 3-1 in the final at Wembley.
Parma added the UEFA Super Cup later in 1993, overcoming AC Milan 2-1 on aggregate. Scala's final success with Parma came in the 1994/95 UEFA Cup when Dino Baggio scored twice in another 2-1 final victory over two legs against Italian opposition, this time Juventus. In 1998/99, now under Alberto Malesani, Parma won the UEFA Cup again, this time beating Olympique de Marseille 3-0 at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
"My Parma side was the best team I have played in alongside Fabio Capello's Juventus," said Gianluigi Buffon, who joined the club aged 13 in 1991 and remained there for a decade. He was named goalkeeper in the all-time XI as voted for by Parma fans. Antonio Benarrivo, Luigi Apolloni, Lorenzo Minotti and Alberto Di Chiara were at the back and Dino Baggio, Marco Osio and Stefano Morrone in midfield.
Alessandro Melli, Hernán Crespo and Enrico Chiesa formed a three-man attacking line and Nevio Scala was named coach, awarded the title by current Parma boss Roberto Donadoni. "This is like winning a UEFA Champions League for me," said Scala. The ceremony also brought special recognition for former Parma defender Ivo Copponi, 84, to mark his club record of 308 appearances.
Earlier on Monday, Parma CEO Pietro Leonardi visited hospitals in the northern town to give a Parma shirt to babies born on the day of the centenary. Current captain Alessandro Lucarelli, meanwhile, visited an old people's home. "I've booked a room," joked the 36-year-old. "In two or three years I will quit football and join you here." He handed a centenary scarf to a visibly touched resident, Enrico Colonna, a former Parma academy coach.
Melli and Di Chiara, key members of the successful Parma side of the 90s, visited Livio Galli and Erminio Sani, both born in 1913, to give them a Ducali shirt. Goalkeeper Antonio Mirante found himself in more youthful company, joining primary school children at the centenary exhibition in Piazza Ghiaia. "Football is a bit like school," he told his classmates for the day. "Every match is like a small exam and you have to be fully prepared for it."
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