The passion that grips football fans is universal. Men, women, young and old, there is something magical about following your team. In Foggia, Italy there is one fan who is so addicted to the atmosphere, that at the tender age of 93, he continues to follow his club, no matter where they play.
Nonno Ciccio is something of a cult hero. He is the embodiment of old style football, against the plastic nature of the modern game. He attended his first match in 1937, when a friend convinced him to steal his uncle’s bicycle to pedal 57 kilometers into town to watch his local club. Since that day he has been transfixed. Today, in the Puglia’s industrial city of Foggia, Nonno Ciccio is a point of reference, teaching several generations of supporters, what it truly means to love your club.
During the War, he conscripted to the Italian black shirts and sent to fight in North Africa. After a month of heavy fighting, he was captured by the British military, saving himself by waving a British flag as he knew they would “inevitably be over run”. From there he was sent to Scotland where he where he served as a prisoner of war. “They treated me better there than the italian government does with my pension checks today”.
After returning from conflict, Nonno Ciccio spent several years working as a post man for Nato, only to return to his beloved Foggia in 1952. In 1955 he finally returned to the stadium to watch his club play a cup match against Pescara. But the war left a mark on him, “It taught me what it means to have and respect life, these kids today don’t understand that”.
His adventures have taken him everywhere, and to him, are what defines his identity as an ultra’, “I am willing to do anything for my team. Whatever it takes, I never give up and always find a way to cheer them on”. He has been to nearly every major stadium in Italy, and on the way he stops in historic cities and towns, “Football is the way I see my country! If it wasn’t for this passion, I would never have experienced so many incredible places”.
Where ever he goes, he carries a banner with him with the phrase “Peace between Ultras”. For Nonno Ciccio, loving your club is about respecting your opponent. “I don’t celebrate when I am away, I admire the other fans, and support my Foggia by waving my flag, and letting the boys know I am there for them, that is my philosophy!”
In a world where violence has become synonymous with fan culture, Nonno Ciccio is a beacon of hope. His story serves as an example to all supporters that loving your club does not have to mean hating your opponent. This perspective and insight, garnered largely from his traumatic war time experience is particularly pertinent today. For Nonno Ciccio football is a metaphore, “War is a terrible thing! With football, if you can learn to respect your adversary in the stadium, you can learn to do the same in life”.
So long live Nonno Ciccio! He reminds us all that although the modern game has much to learn from the past, and supporting your club is not a crime, but rather an opportunity to learn important lessons of life.