Originally published on August 7, 2011 & updated with recent information
If you look at JuventiKnows’ MATCH CENTER (right sidebar), you will notice the team’s next fixture is against Juventus B at “Villar Perosa”. If you’ve been following the Bianconeri for a certain time, no doubt this name is very familiar to you. But if you haven’t, you may have some fairly legitimate questions: just what on Earth is “Juventus B” and what’s this whole “Villar Perosa” deal all about?
★ ★ ★
Villar Perosa is a small village that forms part of the mountain community of Pinerolo and would be just one of countless other faceless hamlets, were it not for the decision in 1930 of Edoardo Agnelli to build the town of Sestriere, a home for his family and, perhaps most pertinently, a football stadium there. They still maintain the ‘Castello‘ (castle), gardens and private church where all family members are baptised, married and buried.
He moved Juventus there for a brief period and the club continued to use it as a base for training until as recently as 1980. Even during the two subsequent decades the Bianconeri would use the family field and stay at a local Agnelli-owned hotel for its summer training camps. The demands of modern football – from physical, professional and financial standpoints – meant that the club outgrew the town, moving on to US tours, prestige friendlies and purpose-built training facilities that allowed both more thorough preparation and more fans to attend the club’s pre-season fixtures.
Yet, in-keeping with the image and traditions of Italy’s grandest club, Juventus return every summer for a friendly match between the A and B squads (usually first team regulars against a few reserves and the best of the club’s Youth Sector). In Italy this is known as Juve’s Partita in famiglia, i.e. ‘The Family Match’.
As well as referring to the hosting of the game by the Agnelli clan, the name invokes the spirit in which the match is held: players’ families are almost always in attendance and the encounter is never marred by Ultrà demonstrations, instead being synonymous with an enthusiastic crowd keen to embrace the Bianconeri players, some of who have been known to play a half for each side, almost as a rite of passage.
International friendlies usually seem to rob the teams of players, as was the case last year when Buffon, Bonucci, Chiellini, Pirlo, Marchisio, Marrone, Krasic, Lichtsteiner, Ziegler and Sørensen were all made unavailable (the Italians particularly due to their encounter with World and European Champions Spain). This year however, with the Bianconeri having just returned from Beijing’s Supercoppa, national team coach Cesare Prandelli elected to leave Juventus and Napoli players at home and not call them up for Italy’s Wednesday friendly against England. This is good new for the Old Lady because it means Buffon & Co. will all be at Conte/Carrera’s disposal for Thursday’s VP match.
★ ★ ★
The Villar Perosa friendly is always well attended – despite the perception it traditionally rains on the day of the match – and the team is often presented with its squad numbers as part of the day’s events. Even those perceived as outsiders get swept along by the tradition, as former coach Gigi Del Neri explained to Juventus Channel last year:
I always heard of this game, this knowledge that comes with the prestigious family we have the honor of having as presidents. I have great curiosity and excitement. We go in history, because all of us for the first time are about to experience an event we never have felt. I saw it has a lot of importance, the understanding between the family of the club and the new players arriving.
However, the feelings of the Mister almost paled in significance compared to the desire to be a part of proceedings by the club’s then-newest signing two years ago.
Just fresh of penning the contract tying him to the Bianconeri, Milos Krasic had flown from Moscow to the Italian embassy in Belgrade to get the necessary papers in order to enter the country. However the embassy was closed for renovations, and by the time the bureaucratic nightmare had been resolved, Krasic had missed his flight. The next available commercial flight landed at 6pm, by which time his new teammates would have already left Villar Perosa!
So, rather than sitting on his suitcase in Belgrade, the Serbian winger spent €10,000 of his own money to charter a private jet to Turin, then drove the 40km to ensure he was present at the game, instantly endearing himself to the fans and management. Such dedication prompted John Elkann to call him “another blonde angel”, as supporters altered the words to Pavel Nedved’s old chant in honour of their newest idol.
★ ★ ★
When Juventus come to town in Villa Perosa, it always creates a huge buzz. Street vendors selling all types of Bianconeri merchandise crop up, and it creates a unique and great atmosphere. Particularly with the small intimate pitch, which has many echoes to the scenes replayed across the country during the club’s season in Serie B. Watching men like Andrea Agnelli take up touchline seats like a proud parent at a local park is rare and highly enjoyable.
Villar Perosa gives small-town fun to a big-time team.