Monday, September 24, 2007

History of ACF Fiorentina

The club was founded on August 26, 1926 by the merger of Libertas and Club Sportivo Firenze. The club won its first trophy in 1939-40 with the Coppa Italia and its first scudetto (Italian championship) in 1955-56, the club were runners-up in the four following seasons. In the 1960-61 season the club won the Coppa Italia again and was also successful in Europe, winning the first Cup Winners' Cup against Rangers.

In the 1960s the club won the Coppa Italia and the Mitropa Cup in 1966 and were league champions again in the 1968-69 season. In 1974 the Viola won the Anglo-Italian League Cup. Success in the Coppa Italia was repeated in 1975, but from then until the late 1990s the club found itself in the doldrums, culminating in a season in Serie B (second division) in 1993-1994. Upon return to Serie A the club again proved able in the cup competitions, winning the Coppa Italia again in 1996 and 2000 and the Italian SuperCoppa.

2001 heralded major changes for Fiorentina, as the terrible state of the club's finances was revealed; they were unable to pay wages and had debts of around USD 50 million. The club owner, Vittorio Cecchi Gori, was able to raise some more money, but even this soon proved to be insufficient resources to sustain the club. Then, Fiorentina were relegated at the end of the 2001-02 season and went into judicially controlled administration in June 2002. This form of bankruptcy (sports companies cannot exactly fail in this way in Italy, but they can suffer a similar procedure) meant that the club was refused a place in Serie B for the 2002-03 season, and as a result, effectively ceased to exist.

The club was promptly re-established in August 2002 as Florentia Viola with a new owner, Diego Della Valle, and was admitted into Serie C2, the fourth tier of Italian football. The only player to remain at the club as they began their new life was Angelo Di Livio, whose commitment to the cause of resurrecting the club further endeared him to the fans. Helped by Di Livio, the club won its regional section in Serie C2 with considerable ease at the end of the 2002-03 season, which would normally have led to a promotion to Serie C1. However, due to the bizarre Caso Catania (Catania Case) the club skipped Serie C1 and was admitted into Serie B. This was only possible because the Italian Football Federation chose to resolve the Catania situation by increasing the number of teams in Serie B from 20 to 24. In the 2003 off-season, the club also bought back the right to use the Fiorentina name and the famous shirt design, and re-incorporated itself as ACF Fiorentina. Matches were still being played at the Artemio Franchi stadium.

The club's unusual double promotion was not without controversy, with some suggesting that Fiorentina did not deserve it; however, the club remained in Serie B and managed to finish the 2003-04 season in sixth place. This achievement placed the Viola in a two-legged playoff against Perugia (the 15th-place finisher in Serie A) for a position in Serie A. Fiorentina completed their remarkable comeback by winning the match 2-1 on aggregate, with both goals scored by Enrico Fantini, to gain promotion back to Serie A. In their first season back in Italian football's top flight, the club struggled to avoid relegation, securing survival only on the last day of the season, and avoiding a relegation playoff only on head-to-head record against Bologna and Parma.

In 2005-06, their form greatly improved, and they had qualified for the 3rd Qualifying round of the Champions League by earning the 4th place in the Serie A with 74 points. The combination of defence by captain Dario Dainelli and Czech international regular Tomáš Ujfaluši, midfield by Cristian Brocchi, wing by Martin Jorgensen, playmaking by Stefano Fiore and key marksman Luca Toni with Sebastian Frey as goalkeeper proved to be an outstanding force in Serie A. Fiorentina officially regained their status as an Italian elite, especially with Toni himself having scored an amazing 31 goals in just 34 appearances, the first player to pass the 30 goal mark since Antonio Valentin Angelillo in the 1958-59 season - which has seen him claim the European Golden Boot.

However, on July 14, 2006 Fiorentina were relegated to Serie B due to their involvement in the 2006 Serie A match fixing scandal and given a 12 point penalty. However, on appeal, the team was reinstated to the Serie A, albeit with a 19 point penalty for the 2006-07 season. The team also lost their UEFA Champions League 2006-07 place.[1] After the start of the season, upon appealing to the Italian courts, Fiorentina's penalization was reduced to 15 points from 19, which was still far heavier than club officials had hoped for. Despite starting the 2006-2007 season with the 15 point penalty, Fiorentina managed to secure a place in the 2007-2008 edition of the UEFA Cup.

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