Italy's players, clubs and coaches have been at the forefront of European football down the years.
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The Italian Football Association (Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio – FIGC) was founded on 16 March 1898 in Turin. Its first official event was a tournament featuring four northern teams and held over one day in 1898, with Genoa CFC victorious.
In 1929/30 the Italian championship ran, for the first time, to a proper league format with a single top flight, rather than having teams split into groups and play-offs deciding the winner. This positive step, along with the payment of players' expenses, heralded the professional era. The Coppa Italia, first contested in 1922, only resumed between 1935 and 1943, before being revived – definitively – in 1958. Juventus remain the most-titled side in these competitions, with 32 Serie A crowns and eleven Coppa Italia wins.
Italy's national team made their debut on 15 May 1910 at the Arena di Milano, beating France 6-2. Although the First World War brought a halt to football activities, the post-war period, coinciding with Giorgio Vaccaro's successful FIGC presidency, witnessed Italy's best moment on the international stage. The Azzurri lifted the FIFA World Cup in 1934 and 1938 under coach Vittorio Pozzo. Players such as Giuseppe Meazza and Eraldo Monzeglio shone in 1934, and Amedeo Biavati, Alfredo Foni and Silvio Piola in 1938. They also struck gold at the 1936 Olympics.
However, it was not until Artemio Franchi became FIGC president in the second half of the 1960s that the Azzurri regained their winning touch. Italy triumphed in the 1968 UEFA European Championship with stars like Gianni Rivera, Sandro Mazzola, Gigi Riva, Dino Zoff and Giacinto Facchetti, and were also runners-up at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Franchi was then elected president of UEFA.
A third World Cup was landed in 1982 by the talents of Paolo Rossi, Zoff, Claudio Gentile, Antonio Cabrini, Bruno Conti, Gaetano Scirea and Marco Tardelli. Eight years later, as hosts, the Azzurri were derailed by Argentina in a semi-final shoot-out, though Azeglio Vicini's men took third place. Penalties were again Italy's nemesis in the final of USA '94, when Roberto Baggio and Franco Baresi's misses proved fatal against Brazil, and next in a quarter-final with the French hosts four years later.
A golden goal for France in the UEFA EURO 2000 final was another cruel ending. Yet after early exits from the 2002 World Cup and UEFA EURO 2004, the nation celebrated a fourth World Cup coronation courtesy of Marcello Lippi's charges in Germany in 2006. A richly skilled squad was underpinned by Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero and Andrea Pirlo, and Buffon and Pirlo were still influential six years later as Italy got to the UEFA EURO 2012 final under coach Cesare Prandelli.
At youth level, Italian sides won the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in 1992, 1994, 1996, 2000 and 2004; the U19s were European champions in 2003; the U16s (now U17s) prevailed in 1982 and 1987; and the UEFA International Youth Tournament of 1958 also features on the roll of honour. Italy have also achieved fine results in futsal, taking the European title on home soil in 2004, and again ten years later on Belgium. The country's clubs, meanwhile, have collected 44 trophies in UEFA competitions*: AC Milan lead with 17, followed by Juventus (ten), FC Internazionale Milano (eight), Parma FC (four), SS Lazio (two), and SSC Napoli, UC Sampdoria and ACF Fiorentina (one).
Italy has often been at Europe's footballing vanguard, with its players, clubs and coaches – Pozzo, Fulvio Bernardini, Ferruccio Valcareggi, Enzo Bearzot, Vicini, Arrigo Sacchi, Cesare Maldini, Zoff, Giovanni Trapattoni, Roberto Donadoni, Lippi and Antonio Conte among others – having a profound impact on the game.
*UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League, UEFA Super Cup, European/South American Cup, European Cup Winners' Cup
Date of birth: 5 October 1953
Association president since: 2018
Gabriele Gravina became president of the Italian Football Association (FIGC) in October 2018.
Gravina has considerable experience in football and, notably, was president of Castel di Sangro between 1984 and 1996. The team from a village of around 5,000 inhabitants famously earned five promotions in ten years to reach Serie B.
In 2005, he was elected as President of Lega Pro, the third Italian tier, a role he remained in until October 2018. “I want football for young people, which isn’t gender-sensitive, with rules in place, played in functional set-ups, which take technology into account,” the lawyer and university professor said upon his appointment as FIGC president.
Date of birth: 2 September 1963
Association CEO since: 2019
Marco Brunelli began his duties as CEO of the Italian Football Association (FIGC) on 18 February 2019. After completing his studies in economics, and working for Nomisma, an independent company that carries out economic research and consulting for businesses, associations and public administrations, he fulfilled several roles at Lega Serie A: research department director (1998-2004); licensing system manager (2003); secretary (2004-10); general director (2010-19) and CEO (2018-19).
Brunelli has considerable international experience, having worked with the European Professional Football Leagues and the World Leagues Forum, as well as serving in various UEFA and FIFA committees during his career. He is also the director of the International Master in strategy and planning of events and sports facilities at the Universities of Parma and San Marino.
“This is a challenge at professional level, and a stimulating and fascinating one,” said Brunelli on his appointment. “Helping the FIGC is a huge privilege for somebody like me, who has been working in the world of football for so many years.”