Parma, 30 June 2020 Parma Calcio’s league match at the Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi in Verona, against the city’s best team, Hellas Verona, brings back brilliant memories of the final matchday of the 1996/97 Serie A season for all Crociati fans.

This match was one of only three victories we’ve achieved at this ground, where we’ll be returning tomorrow evening for matchday 29 of Serie A TIM 2019/20, but it was most certainly the most important of those three. Thanks to that 2-1 win, we gained access to the Champions League, Europe’s biggest competition, for the first time in the Club’s history. However, it wasn’t an easy game that rainy Sunday afternoon on 1 June 1997, and we had to fight hard to beat the hosts, who had already been mathematically relegated alongside Reggiana.

The Veronese Gialloblù gave us a hard time as they went 1-0 up in the sixth minute thanks to Pierluigi Orlandini’s strike, a promising player who we then signed the following season. The midfielder tapped home after Gianluigi Buffon had saved a shot from Filippo Maniero, who, like his teammate, was destined to join Parma shortly after.

However, we didn’t take long to equalise, with Enrico Chiesa demonstrating his speed and class in the 17th minute (1-1). Our attacker controlled a long ball on the edge of the area, skipped past Sebastiano Siviglia and lobbed the bouncing ball over Marco Landucci into Hellas’ goal.

The glorious winning goal was scored by Hernan Crespo, the goal being etched into Crociati history as it crossed the line. In minute 63, our Argentine striker somehow, like all great strikers can, found a yard inside the box, controlled a low cross from the right and swept it home without hesitation.

All this happened in front of a stand packed with Parma fans, who then celebrated by peacefully rushing onto the pitch when referee Emilio Pellegrino blew the final whistle. They hugged the players and, above all, Coach Carlo Ancelotti, who was wearing the unmistakable Boys Parma 1977’s twentieth anniversary cap.

Carletto, who twenty years earlier had been climbing his way up through the Parma youth teams to establish himself as a professional footballer, was in his first season in charge at the Club at the time. It got off to a troublesome start, but things soon turned around and Ancelotti would go on to lead the Club on a historic run.

Parma finished up in second place in the table on 63 points, just two points off Juventus who were crowned champions of Italy that year. This remains our best ever finish in the Italian top flight, also bringing the Club the chance to take part in the Champions League for the first time in our history.

The most prestigious of tournaments for any club in Europe, and one which changed its format the following season in 1997/98, opening up from not just the champions of each respective league, but also the second-placed teams from the eight best countries in the continental footballing ranking.

Main image: Crespo and Chiesa celebrating in front of the away end at the Stadio Bentegodi after Hernan’s winner. Other images: the Crociati fans (that day being the last time the fans of Parma and Hellas Verona met as twinned fan groups).