The scudetto is the symbol that most represents the Italian-speaking communities in the world. Generally, we tend to believe it is an ancient symbol, and instead it has a recent birth that does not go beyond the 1920s of the twentieth century. It takes up the colors of the flag of Italy in the Republican age. Nevertheless, that was not always the case. When Italy was ruled by a monarchy, the shield carried in its central part the coat of arms of the Piedmontese dynasty, the Savoy, main actor in the process of the national union, completed in 1861. In this study, which is inspired by a recently published volume, we will make the history of the tricolor crest starting from an analysis of the symbolism that preceded its appearance. Also referring to a particular episode, the so-called “d’Annunzio’s shield” which, to a certain extent, anticipated by a quarter of a century the birth of the “republican shield”, which occurred in 1945. Finally, we will give an account of the use of scudetto in marketing. And on the fact that, currently, both the most powerful organizations in the sporting world – the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) – have chosen it as their main logo. As it was recently announced on the web, starting next year the national football team will have a new emblem, again based on the republican shield.
The emblems from the Unification to the mid-1920s: the tricolor flag, the Savoy shield and the blue shirts
Remaining in the context of the development of sport and physical education, the first consideration that can be made is the following: the tricolor of the flag, made up of shades of emerald green, white and cherry red, is not the only element that distinguishes the Italians in athletic competitions. Often, in the period from 1880 to the turn of the belle époque, and even beyond, it was placed as a shoulder strap or ribbon pinned to the chest, to define belonging to the nation or superiority in a specialty; another possibility was to wear the “tricolor jersey”. The kind of sports where the tricolor of the flag was most easily seen were the Renaissance games of the ball with the bracelet and the tambourine, gymnastics with large tools and parade, shooting and fencing, wrestling and weight lifting, the most modern cycling disciplines, both on the road and on the track, running, rowing and swimming, lawn tennis, roller skating and association football. Equally used of the tricolor of the flag was, in fact, the blue color of Savoy. (1)
The blue color made its entry into the competition costumes of gymnasts already in the decade following the capture of Rome (1870), the final event of the country’s unification process. The reason is twofold, there is a heraldic-military tradition and a heraldic-civil tradition to be respected, but the first is of greater importance: the “sea blue” or “Savoy blue” is, at the time of the establishment of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, the enamel more evident in the coat of arms of the ruling dynasty. It distinguishes the crest of the city of Turin and has a historically ascertained ancestry that goes back to an episode of the Crusade of 1366. In that year, leaving for the Holy Land, Duke Amedeo VI of Savoy decided to distinguish the ship flagship of his small fleet with a blue cloth studded with stars with the image of the Holy Virgin, placed next to the red-cross coat of arms of his lineage. From there, the bleu Savoia, which began to distinguish the outfits of gymnasts in competitions in the late nineteenth century and in the first Olympics in which Italy participated with organized expeditions: London 1908 and Stockholm 1912. (2)
It should be emphasized also that the Savoy blue, at its inception, entered the costumes limited to the trousers and the borders of the white shirts, or even for the conspicuous band that encircled the hips of the gymnasts engaged in individual and collective exercises. The first sportsmen ever to wear a solid blue shirt, complete with white shorts, in the desire to express the national color, were the footballers. The debut match of the blue jersey has a precise date and a specific place: January 6, 1911 at the Arena Civica in Milan, when the Italian team played with the team of Hungary. It was in that circumstance that the Squadra Nazionale presented itself to the spectators with a blue woolen shirt that had a cross-red silk shield embroidered on the heart. According to rumors of the time, the prompter for the outfit was the president of the current Italian champion team, US Pro Vercelli. This eminent character, one of the most important officials in the pioneering history of Italian soccer, was called Luigi Bozino, and by profession he was a criminal lawyer. (3)
At the 1912 O. G., only the football players, among all the Italian athletes, competed with the blue Savoia jersey, and they were eliminated in the first round by the team of Finland. The Azzurri, in relation to this study, therefore have their source from the soccer players, and not from the gymnasts, although the former were undoubtedly influenced by the latter. The extension of the blue football shirts to other disciplines took place in Antwerp in 1920, at the first edition of the Olympic Games in which the Italian representative wore a blue parade uniform. (4)
As for the heraldic-civil tradition, Savoy blue was the color of the uniforms of the Knights of the Civil Order of Savoy, an honor established on October 29, 1831 by Carlo Alberto. The decoration was given by a full gold cross enameled in blue and loaded with a round red-cross shield with the founder’s figure on one side and the words Al Merito Civile: white ribbon with a blue list in the middle. The Order was reserved only for Italians, in particular for those who had distinguished themselves as scientists, engineers, architects, artists, writers, administrators, authors and publishers of discoveries, professors of science and literature or directors of education. The uniform consisted of a blue jacket and cape with long white trousers. Even today, the athletes who stood out during the calendar year are invested by the President of the State with the title of Knights of the Republic, with a clear reference to the monarchical era, which the blue jersey forged following the tradition.
Simultaneously with the Savoy blue, as mentioned above, the use of the tricolor flag, sometimes completed with the Savoy crest, characterized the Italian athletes in the years around the turn of the twentieth century. In the summer of 1912, at the fifth Olympic Games held in Stockholm, it appeared on the gymnasts’ shirts in the form of a guidon placed on the chest together with the five-rayed star, another symbol that had its own special Masonic and anti-clerical value. The classic-style flag, the marathon runner Dorando Pietri sewed on his sternum in the post-Olympic tour carried out in the United States in 1909-1910. Not in London in July 1908, however, where he had competed in a white jersey and vermilion shorts, to recall the enamels of his hometown: Carpi. Pietri adopted the Italian flag in America to conform to his opponents, also with the national symbol sewn on their torsos. The motivation was patriotic and venal at the same time: they were no longer amateur runners but professionals, paid very well for their performances, and the immigrants wanted to see their champion colors triumph over competing flags. (5)
The monarchical banner was exhibited with particular emphasis at the Inter-Allied Military Games held 1n 1919 in Joinville Le-Pont, in the suburbs of Paris. It remained occasionally in use, paired with white jerseys and almost always positioned on the solar plexus, both in the 1920s and at the beginning of the fascist era. (6) Throughout the period from 1911 to 1927, the element most present on the blue or white shirts of the Italian athletes was, however, the Savoy shield with the white St. George’s cross on a red field in its simplest form, i.e. without the crown to surmount; a kind of pattern that, in technical terminology, is defined as “modern French shield” or “Samnite shield”. ( 7)
We will shortly tell you how the scudetto, the current tricolor badge, was born in 1924 in Genoa; and yet, history records a preview. The “stylist” creator of the first republican shield is a famous name: Gabriele d’Annunzio. We told the very special episode, which took place in 1920 in Fiume (the current Rijeka in Croatia), in May 1995, when we were working as a freelance under contract for the national newspaper Corriere dello Sport-Stadio. Then, two years later, we presented it in essay form at an international military-sports congress at the Foro Italico facilities in Rome. (8) Today in 2022, after further studies that led to the discovery of unpublished documents, the story of the “d’Annunzio’s shield” appears in its ultimate form.
The story begins in the late summer of 1919, when the “Vate”, one of the greatest Italian heroes of World War II, militarily occupied the city of Fiume, poised to become a Yugoslav dominion. D’Annunzio gave prominence to sport and, in order to cement the brotherhood between the citizenry and its men, set up a football match between an indigenous representative and a team composed of his “Azzurri” legionary troops. Azzurri because they wore a blue shirt, the color of the nationalists, those guys who, a few years later, merged in good numbers in the fascist movement. Some of the most famous mottos of Italian fascism, for example the Eia eia alalà! greeting and the Me ne frego ! (I do not care!) intimation, have a D’Annunzio matrix. In reality, with regard to the d’Annunzio’s shield birth, we have to consider two separate sporting events. The first game, which actually baptized the symbol, took place at Campo di Cantrida Borgomarina, a sports ground collocated in the area south-west of Fiume, on Sunday 8 February 1920. The Commander made it known that he would intervene as a spectator, and suggested that the Military Squad – which symbolized Italy or the yearning to reunite with the Motherland – should had been playing armed with a white-red-green shield, in the form that that is defined in heraldic terminology as Swiss-shape. The “Swiss shield” was the type of emblem, often accompanied by a monogram, which in the postwar period was fashionable among Italian sports clubs.
The tricolor shield in 1920 was an absolute novelty in the panorama of Italian sport. The Savoy badge, red with its white cross, gave an account of the nationality of the athletes: alone or placed in the center of the flag, where it was surrounded by a blue frame. The republican tricolor crest, in the occupied Fiume of 1920, could appear to be a provocation aimed at the ruling dynasty, which persisted in not recognizing the undertaking. The tricolor shield thus entered, in an overbearing way, into the football match due to its quality as an anti-Savoyard symbol; it can be said that, from an ethical point of view, it was the trophy up for grabs.
There is no documentary evidence that it was Gabriele d’Annunzio himself who had the idea of the fabric shield without the monarchical mark inside. However, it is known that the poet was a tireless craftsman of brands and mottos, and enjoyed making clothes for his pleasure. She knew how to sew and work with knitting needles. Not that he personally embroidered the eleven badges, which were well made and proportionate, but the graphite or charcoal drawing of the model certainly made it. (9)
The match was won by the citizens with the score 1-0. Two and a half months later, on May 9 in a multi-sports venue, the revenge was held, again in the early afternoon, ending with the score 2-1. The players from Fiume counted in their ranks good elements such as captain Rico Goacci, Giovanni Spadavecchia and Luigi Ossoinack. That was the last meeting of the “Teste di Ferro” (Iron Heads) that d’Annunzio attended. In fact, the diplomatic stalemate was broken in the following November by the Treaty of Rapallo, which took up the idea of the American President Woodrow Wilson and established Fiume as an independent state. On December 31, 1920 the occupation forces, blocked by the Carabinieri troops of the Giolitti Ministry, capitulated. After the “Bloody Christmas”, d’Annunzio retired to the villa of Cargnacco sul Garda, known as Vittoriale, full of war souvenirs, and here he wrote the speech, delivered in Milan, For the Italy of the Italians. In 1922, following a popular referendum launched by La Gazzetta dello Sport, he was voted ‘athlete of the year’. In January 1924, thanks to an agreement signed by Benito Mussolini with the Yugoslav government, Fiume was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.
In 1928-29, the Unione Sportiva Fiumana was invited by the Italian football federation to the National Division championship, which the following year would become the Serie A, having in its ranks some of the elements of d’Annunzio’s matches. In this way, ideally, the circle was closed. The story, picaresque and arcane, of the secret epiphany of the Italian tricolor shield.
The scudetto of soccer and the “binary shield” of the fascist era
If you click for a moment on Wikipedia and type “who invented the scudetto?”, the answer that comes out is the following: “Sources generally agree that the inventor of the scudetto was the Italian poet and playwright Gabriele d’Annunzio”. This is because FIGC on May 16, 2014 endorsed this with an official press release. But, in serious historiographical research, a distinction must be made. The first crest which is related to the winners of the major soccer Italian league was invented by the oldest Italian soccer association in life: the Genoa Football Club.
The idea also came from Luigi Bozino who, in the autumn of 1923, while he was president of the Federation, set up a special commission to change the regulations of the championships. That happened because calcio was in chaos. The game experienced a massive growth in popularity. This expansion sparked calls for structural reform from the biggest clubs that wanted a smaller elite championship and greater voting rights in the Federation. On 29 June 1924, in Bologna, and precisely in Palazzo Paleotti in the central via Zamboni, the FIGC Northern League approved the novelty of the “tricolor badge”. By a strange case of fate, today the building houses has become a section of the Alma Mater Studiorum, the Department of Classical and Italian Philology. The scudetto of calcio was therefore born in the oldest secular university in Europe. (10)
After official approval, the Federation included in its Organic Regulations of the Championships the rule that allowed the Italian champion team to sew the special badge on the shirts. In September 1924, Genoa inaugurated the jersey with the new badge on, after beating the champion team of the Southern League in a final play-off; that is to say the team of Savoia Torre Annunziata, sponsored by the Voiello pasta company.
Genoa, the “red and blue griffins”, was an excellent team coached by the first recognized manager of Italian football, the English William Garbutt. Since the federal articles did not give any indications on the shape of the badge, the Genoans took as a model what they had on their cardigans, that is the Swiss-shape shield with the red cross on a white field that echoed the city’s coat of arms. Therefore, we do not see any link between d’Annunzio’s republican shield of 1920 and the debut of the Genoa’s tricolor badge in 1924. Two distinct events in time and space, and which only by chance combination gave rise to similar crests. (11)
If we carefully observe the two symbols, the main difference lies in the presence of the Savoy crest in the center of the shield, repeating the national flag. Genoa Football Club was the most pro-English of the Italian soccer associations and had nothing to blame against the ruling dynasty; none of the leaders of the club thought not to put the Savoy crest inside the badge that ratified the title won. The quality of the Genoa’s shield can be clearly seen in a dozen-minute video shot by the Stefano Pittaluga Anonymous Company, relating to a test match with Uruguay played in the ground of Marassi on April 5, 1925. A version that was taught sine studio and without paying attention to the laws of heraldry, which would have wanted the three blades transposed into the band. This is to say that the first scudetto of calcio was not born strictly subject to heraldry, but as a symbol of metonymy. A reason inserted in a horizon constituted by the complex system of needs, expectations, tastes, behavior models of Italian football in the mid-1920s. (12)
Between 1924 and 1931, the original tricolor badge was transformed, in the use of written and spoken language, thanks to the contribution of the fans and that of a journalist and cartoonist, the Piedmontese Carlin Bergoglio, in the highly coveted “scudetto “. The words titolo and scudetto became equivalent but, in the popular imagination, the second word won hands down. This happened because, in the sphere of synonymy, each new lemma has real stylistic importance for the tone, not for the difference in meaning it introduces. Title was something ataractic and bureaucratic. Scudetto recalled the beautiful and lively world of cavalry. Therefore, the elevation of the emblem to an allegorical figure did not come from the federal institutions, but it came from the use of the image on paper. The tricolor badge acquired its own significance of diffusion, and assumed the role of a family meme, when it began to be seen frequently drawn in newspapers, bar calendars, stickers and almanacs. (13)
Having clarified this aspect, let is go on with the history of the transformations of the scudetto that took place in the Fascist era: those of the Championship, first of all. The team of Bologna in 1925, and Juventus champion of Italy in 1926, did not change the shape of the badge. In September 1928, Torino FC decided to propose the emblem with a fasces on the left, in the position that in heraldry is defined as “lieutenant”. In 1929-1930, the powerful Bologna’s squad, protected by the fascist hierarch Leandro Arpinati, who since 1927 was also the president of the football federation, placed two showy fasces next to the tricolor shield, basically two caryatids, and immediately went on tour in Brazil to show to immigrants. In 1931-1932, Juventus FC unilaterally decided to change the scudetto’s shape. The Club ruled by the Agnelli family proposed the same one that, from the first months of 1927 by order of the National Fascist Party, featured on the shirts of the Azzurri in general: a Gothic Savoy shield, smaller and more slender than the previous red-cross shield, with the crown on top and a big fasces next to it: the “binary shield”. (14)
We sincerely hope you are not getting a headache beginning. Caused by the evidence that the scudetto must be considered an authentic “shape-shifter” of the twentieth century. However, after Juventus’s five years of victories in 1931-1935, the clubs that won the major league championship from 1936 to 1943, namely Bologna Associazione Giuoco Calcio (4 times), Ambrosiana-Inter (2), AS Rome (1942) and AC Turin (1943), did not alter the appearance of the badge; except in the detail that the fasces was moved to the exact same height, calculated to the millimeter, of the royal crown. That was done to impede the fasces to look bigger than the Royal crest. After this necessary rearrangement of heraldic priorities, there were no more adjustments to the binary shield.
The process was consistent with the fact that the regime, having reached its mature age, had standardized sports symbologies, bringing them to quite high levels of complexity. Thus, the scudetto crest on the shirts of the Italian champion teams in every kind of sports, and the emblem of the national football team world champions in 1934 and in 1938, remained identical. But the newspapers referred to the term “scudetto” only to the national champion team. It was an emblem that we called “binary” as it reflected the political agreement between the monarchy and the regime: between the tiny king Vittorio Emanuele III and the muscular “duce” Benito Mussolini. An agreement that was only apparently stable, because behind the scenes the two men looked at each other with awe and radical upheavals were plotted.
As proof of what has just been said, we want to bring to your attention the novelty of the badge given to the winners of the FIGC Cup: Coppa Italia. It arrived in the 1936-1937 season, and always with Genoa as main protagonist, when the Federcalcio chose to launch the tournament according to a formula similar to the way in force in England. With the difference, however, that now, with the Fascist empire established, the tricolor shield had a thin fasces on the central blade, and no longer the Savoy crest. It was, a few years in advance, the same emblem of the so-called Repubblica di Salò, the nazy-fascist governing body in the very tragic time of the civil war.
AC Turin players, in July 1943 placed the double symbol of the Championship and the Italian Cup on their grenade shirts for one day, just long enough to take some photos at Campo Filadelfia, in the presence of the federal general secretary Ottorino Barassi. Therefore, they chose not to wear either of the two emblems to compete in the 1944 “Alta Italia” – Northern Italy – Championships. (15)
The republican scudetto or “Grande Torino”
So far, we have described the progress of various types of major league soccer scudettos and sports national crests, but not yet the current one. Which arrives at the turn of the summer of 1945, in a manner attributable to both chance and will.
First of all, we need to contextualize the sudden appearance of the post-war tricolor shield. In August 1945, Italy was virtually split in two by the different political ideas of the “northerners” and the “southerners”. The first ones for the republic, communism and socialism, the second ones very favorable to the confirmation of the monarchy. In accordance with the Italian statute, the Savoy dynasty ruled, although there was talk of making a “constituent” and calling a “referendum” in order to change the state of things. The regular football championships, stopped in the summer of 1943, restarted by obeying to a North/South formula similar to that in force in 1920s, since logistical difficulties did not allow for anything else. It was immediately known, however, that in the spring of 1946 a playoff round would be played with the best qualified teams of the two northern and southern groups. The confusion within the FIGC was high, the governing bodies of Italian sports almost did not exist. In Rome, Giulio Onesti, the man charged by the first post-war coalition government to deal with the issue of eliminating CONI, accused of being a fascist relic, was veering towards the intention of maintaining the structure of national sport, by including top executives already involved in collaboration with Mussolini’s regime. Among them, Giovanni Mauro – the Machiavellian secretary who had bribed the referees in 1934 to favor the Azzurri‘s victory – and Ottorino Barassi, to be considered both architects of the recovery of Italian football system after World War II. However, it was not up to them to coin the new republican crest. The blacksmiths were, in decision-making autonomy, the players and managers of Associazione Calcio Torino.
The story is actually very complex, but here we will try to summarize it in a few words. On September 6, 1945, the Italian soccer champions gathered at their home pitch, Filadelfia Stadium, to resume training for the upcoming competitive season. The Championship, in fact, started in October. A request came to the head office to play a friendly match in Lausanne. It was a good, and truly unexpected, opportunity to re-establish relations with other countries, at a time when the British and French were determining the reorganization of the European sporting horizon and, absolutely, did not want to hear about Italian opponents on a football pitch. A match in nearby Switzerland was an international face-to-face between the team leaders of the two countries. The event went beyond football, as it gave the opportunity to break the wall of disdain that surrounded Italian sport. Vittorio Pozzo himself, the coach who had led the Azzurri to the two world victories and to the triumph at the 1936 Olympic tournament, a well-known character and on excellent terms with Swiss football, took charge of setting up the match. At that point, the problem arose of trotting on the pitch of the Stade Olympique de la Pontaise with a new crest of national soccer champions. The jerseys available had the FIAT emblem, sponsor of the “war tournaments” held in 1944-1945. That fabric shield was immediately unstitched and, in its place, exactly in the dark red spot that emerged on the faded shirts, the Turinists superimposed their “scudetto repubblicano“. The alternative would have been to withdraw the obscene binary shield out of the trunks, deprived of the fasces. (16)
Now, there are two questions to ask: why did the athletes, managers and executives of Torino AC opt for a republican symbol when, strictly speaking, they should have inserted a symbol respectful of the monarchy in charge? And why was it granted to them by FIGC and CONI? We have the answers: most of the players were communists and anti-monarchists, which is why their decision had a purely political origin. The “cooperative” management model of FIAT Company, in vogue in the years of the nazi-fascist ruling, led players Valentino Mazzola and Guglielmo Gabetto, frequenters of the sports editorial staff of the newspaper l’Unità, and the other “senators” of the group, to make a similar choice. The Federation did not intervene in the matter, as it could have done. CONI, which had its survival problems to solve, did not move a step also. The chief-engineer Barassi and the lawyer Mauro accepted the fait accompli, due to the significant difficulties that the two officials were going through in their attempt to reorganize the national soccer movement. Everything slipped into silence, naturally and with no bureaucracy in the way, according to anarchist modalities. In the absence of a reformulation of the regulations of the championships that described any eventual change in the badge of the champions on charge.
The republican shield, the current symbol of the overall Italian sports policy, was thus forged by the people. At a time when there was a desperate need for something capable of tying the reborn nation into a communal identity. Something useful to the process of psychological process of renewal and regeneration. The past regime had institutionalized football as a Fascist game in its attempt to develop a sense of national identity, and internationally as a diplomatic tool to improve the standing of the regime in the global arena. Now, having disintegrated the dream of the Fascist empire, football could once again help in that direction to regain respect from the other nations.
This was the situation on the same day the team of Turin, with its captain Mazzola preceding his teammates, on Monday 17 September entered the pitch of the Sport Club Lausanne stadium (which no longer exists, replaced in 1954 by a more imposing ground), with the tricolor shield roughly sewn on their chests; not a tailoring job, and perhaps the masseur Ottavio Cortina himself took care of the thing. During the regular season, the champions from Turin displayed in every city, even in Rome, their swashbuckling republican crest that disavowed the still existing monarchy. Nobody had anything to object. The political world was not interested in this: politicians did not want to make a topic of debate about the “demonarchized” emblem of the national game. Social tension was high, on the verge of civil war, and at least on the football fields they wanted peace to reign, without heated discussions for or against King Umberto II.
At the eve of June 2, 1946, the day of the constitutional referendum, eight Torino players signed a campaign of the reborn Communist Party, inciting the Turinese citizens to vote for the PCI and for the Republic. Then, a few days later, they won the championship, overcoming their direct rivals Juventus and Inter Milan. As soon as the result of the national referendum was confirmed on a juridical-legal basis, Barassi and Mauro, in a meeting of the newly elected federal board held at the National Stadium in Rome, approved the republican shield as the emblem given to the Serie A winner team.
But… there is a but: there was no simultaneous entry of the scudetto on the shirts of the National Team, as logic would have imposed. The Azzurri, coached by Pozzo, played a first game with Switzerland in Zurich on 11 November 1945, exhibiting the pre-1927 Savoy crest. Then, confronting Austrians in Milan on 1 December 1946, they trod the ground of San Siro without a tricolor badge on their chest, despite the fact that the Italian republican flag had been launched for several months. Finally, on 27 April 1947 in the retour-match with the Swiss team at the Stadio Comunale in Florence, they sewed the Republican fabric crest on their shirts for the first time, accompanied by the first performance in a football match of the Mameli anthem Canto degli Italiani. On that special occasion, it was the “reddish” Valentino Mazzola who scored the opening goal, in the twelfth minute with a half-height shot in the scrum. Jumping for joy in the sun with his “brand new jersey” – wrote the Florentine chronicler Giordano Goggioli – the Turin captain thus set his seal on the adventure of the scudetto. (17)
In the period 1946-1949, the fame of the Invincibili increased dramatically, the grenade players able to win the 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949 championships with relative ease. Torino AC also constituted the backbone of the national team, even ten eleventh in occasion of a match with Hungary. Football fans got used to seeing the same black and white photos in the newspapers with the same three-band tricolor shield. The scudetto crest invented by Turin football team, the shield which symbolized the Republic. Then came the Superga tragedy, on May 4, 1949: the airplane rented by the Club, returning from an exhibition match in Lisbon, crashed on the hill overlooking the city. There were no survivors. The whole nation squeezed in grief, in homage to the heroes that had been able to reunite all hearts in one, after the disaster of the lost war.
According to our thesis, the sudden disappearance of the “Grande Torino” team – almost an ascent of the gods in the Elysian Fields – spread in the collective imagination the concept that the crest created by the “grenade-and-blues” champions was surrounded by a golden halo, to the point that it could no longer be replaced by anything like it. And in fact, it is still on the shirts of the Serie A winners: everything has changed, with an incessant turnover of materials, logos, brands and sponsors, but not the football championship trophy, which is the same crest model that used the Associazione Calcio Torino in 1949.
The scudetto is, to a certain extent, the Holy Grail of republican Italy. He was born with the Republic, loved by all Italian citizens regardless of political or religious divisions. It will be there as long as the republican statute remains in existence. While contributing to the cultural history of post-WWII Italy, it has given a reborn identity and hope to the nation. (18)
The Italian and CONI scudettos
In addition to the republican shield, there were two other very important crests created in the post-war era: the “Italia” and “CONI” shields. Both were born at the turn of 1947-48, at the height of the winter and summer Olympic Games held in Saint Moritz and in London. The architects were Giulio Onesti, president of CONI since 1946, and Count Alberto Bonacossa, senior member of the International Olympic Committee, belonging to the family that already owned La Gazzetta dello Sport. The year 1948 was the epiphanic year of birth of the “CONI shield”, also in conjunction with the opening of the Totocalcio pools, which established the autonomy of the “Ente Azzurro” from politics. Central in this regard was the agreement between Mr. Onesti and the undersecretary of State with responsibility for sports policy, Mr. Giulio Andreotti. (19)
In fact, Onesti did nothing but adopt the republican shield, adding the words “Italy” in capital letters on a blue background and, positioned at the head, the five Olympic circles and a silver star: the star of the Republic. Already on the Swiss Olympic snowy tracks, it happened that some of the athletes imprinted on their helmets, or sewed on the competition uniforms, the CONI crest without the star and the circles. Spontaneously, the “scudetto Italia” was born. A new kind of emblem which, on the occasion of the Azzurri‘s trip to the 1950 football World Cup in Brazil, appeared for the first time on ceremonial uniforms. But the real debut of this crest on the national soccer team jerseys was recorded in Florence, for the big match Italy vs England on May 18, 1952. The firing defy resulted in a draw 1-1, in front of ninety thousand enthusiasts spectators. (20)
And here, with the “Italia shield”, we are introducing the longest-lived emblem of Italian football. The Gothic-shape shield placed on a pole with the gold cord (preferably) and the writing “Italy”, yellow or gold, on a blue field on the head of the arms. A model that in the 1950s, with the terminus at the 1962 World Cup in Chile, was produced in fabric or made of felt, sometimes with internal stripes to outline the three blades. Artifact destined not to change the materials until 1972, when the first jerseys provided with plasticized shield were seen, always sewn and not yet heat-sealed. While, for its retirement, we even reach 1981, when, under the presidency of Federico Sordillo, the acronym FIGC was added vertically on the white blade.
With the Italia shield on their hearts, the National Team – la Nazionale – played for thirty years in a row, winning the title of world champion in 1982. Following that feat, the three golden stars glided over the National Team crest and federal logos, symbolizing the world titles conquered. And then, many other changes. Variations in form and imaginative combinations, in homage to the tyranny of marketing and sponsors.
It should be underlined that the advent of the Italia shield aroused some perplexity at the time. In the mailing column that the legendary radio commentator Nicolò Carosio kept in the weekly Il Calcio e il Ciclismo Illustrato, a Palermo reader, Rosario Inzerollo, asked the following question: I really don’t understand why the tricolor shield is not surmounted by the republican emblem on the blue shirts. Carosio, also Sicilian with a hint of English blood in his veins, replied laconically: Ask the secretary Dr. Valentini.
Here too, we can determine a lot of freedom, on the part of the federal leadership, in the interpretation of the juridical status of the country. The Italia shield was ubiquitous on the racing outfits of cyclists and basketball players, on the tops of the jerseys of track and field athletes and weightlifters, on the charming dresses of rolling skaters and ice skaters, on the suits of skiers and even on the t-shirts of motorboats pilots and virtuosi of the game of bowls. So why deviate from the habits of the village?
The scudetto in the marketing carousel
As romantic as we are, we would like to close the “scudetto march” to this cippus, but they would remain out for the last forty years at least. Out of respect for the chronology, let is start again from the period immediately following the disappearance of the Grande Torino team. And with a linguistic note, since the term scudetto finally slipped into the vocabularies: fascism, in fact, had ignored it!
The word came under a process that appears to us as the exact opposite of Orwell’s newspeak. In 1953, the first Dictionary of Sport ever produced in Italy – edited by linguists B. Pretti, Ricciotti Lazzero and T. Poggio with the help of various experts including Vittorio Pozzo – gave its definition, which would no longer substantially change in the years: «The tricolor shield in cloth that is sewn on the shirts of the athletes who have won or who are part of the team that won the title of champion of Italy. By definition, in the game of football, the fight for the Scudetto is the fight for first place in the final standings of the Serie “A” championship which gives the right to claim the title of champion of Italy. ” The powerful Encyclopedia Treccani introduced the voice in its 1948-1960 update: «In sports language, a small tricolor shield that is sewn on the shirts of the Italian champion athletes; by extension, the tricolor scudetto awarded annually to the winning soccer team of the Serie A national championship: winning the s., the fight for the s.». Other dictionaries continued to ignore the new meaning of a word laden with centuries; which was then the only possible meaning, the others not having withstood the wear and tear of time. At the turn of the 1960s, it acquired its completeness, as we can see from the 1970 Nicola Zanichelli dictionary.
At that time, the terms scudetto and titolo had become two interchangeable words in the sports field. The scudetto was a project, a goal and a dream for entire slices of the population who were passionate about sports. Cleared by the scholars, the title of vocabularies was identified, therefore, in the republican shield or “Grande Torino”; a symbol that in the 1950s remained unsurpassable due to the increasingly invasive use that was made of it.
This model, born free and by the will of the people, was not possible to enclose it in copyright. This happened instead for the CONI shield, since the first warning of the national sports governing body in this regard dates back to the summer of 1956. In practice, there were cases of misappropriation of the brand for commercial purposes. This fact prompted Giulio Onesti to evaluate a clear stance, which was expressed in a statement issued to the media. It is, therefore from the pre-Olympic four years of Rome ’60 that CONI has made the scudetto shield its own. On the other hand, the FIGC, at least until the 1970s, did not bother to protect the symbol from external assaults. It did so in the 1980s, at the time of the new economic boom.
The issue is very complex, concerning the advent of sponsors in Europe on the uniforms of club and national soccer teams. In summary, let is say that the input came from the American professional sports world, and in any case English-speaking: the Italy of calcio adapted to a trend. The Serie A and Serie B clubs were the first to do it, already in the mid-1970s. The National team shortly after, when the victory at the 1982 World Cup (21) prompted the FIGC to launch its own brand, which replaced the glorious tricolor scudetto. The classic “Grande Torino” shield which, in 1983, had taken on the Swiss shape to allow the entry of the three stars. The ascertainable moment for this historical transition is the spring of 1984.
After the contract with the Le Coq Sportif company, which in 1983 had produced the first “3-star shield” that had unhinged the traditional Gothic shape, in April 1984 FIGC signed an agreement with Ennerre, an Italian company pioneer in sector of technical sponsors. Ennerre began by packaging the 3-star scudetto in a five-circle version for the Los Angeles Olympics. (22) Then, it produced, obeying a design by the client, a fabric crest that broke the pattern of the Gothic-shape or Swiss-shape shield: a blue rounded stamp edged with gold containing the three golden stars, this time large, the inscription Italy and, under it, a tricolor flag inclined towards the right of the observer, with the acronym FIGC impressed small horizontally instead of large vertically.
The change of course partly stemmed from the feeling that the shield with the three stars in its head did not bring luck, given the sudden elimination at the European Championships. But, above all, it was a question of sponsors. The Federation had in fact entrusted the development to Riccardo Mario Corato, owner of the Educational Multimedia network agency. As he had done with the expedition of the Azzurra sailing boat to Newport in the summer of 1983 for the America’s Cup trophy, the agent promoting events and musical shows linked the national team to a pool of companies that the new badge now represented: Assitalia, Coca Cola, Kodak, Pavesini, Pop 84 Jeans, Grana Padano, Gruppo Finanziario Tessile (Giorgio Armani, which thus began to supply official uniforms, jackets and sweaters) and the Spumante Azzurra Cinzano. The return for the FIGC was around six billion lire; with the clarification that all branded products could be marketed only under license, and that a share of the proceeds would go to support youth football. As you can see, certain “mechanisms” began to run precisely with that fateful contract. The national soccer emblem created by d’Annunzio and then by people gave way to the rights of the sponsor: the end of romantic football. (23)
The appointments in Mexico ’86 and Italy ’90 World Cups showed that the 3-star rounded stamp – eight centimeters in diameter and reminiscent of that of the Italian Automobile Club on the windshields of cars – was not exactly a lucky charm. The supply of gadgets and objects available to fans was now around one hundred billion lire, yet La Nazionale continued not to win the main trophies. The oil giant company Italiana Petroli entered the field. In 1991, the FIGC president, Antonio Matarrese, signed a two-year renewal contract that guaranteed 5 billion lire from the “sole sponsor” IP, plus another 19 for the exclusive sold in television rights and 2.5 billion in Diadora technical supplies. The rulers of the IP company rightly demanded a new brand, which would replace the rounded stamp that had already charged too many taxes.
Why do we dwell on the details of these multi-year agreements entered into with public companies such as Coca Cola or Italiana Petroli? For the reason you guessed: they began to determine the logos that were sticked on the technical materials, and therefore on the jerseys, bags, jackets and tracksuits of the players and of the staff members of the various blue national soccer teams: the seniors, the men’s unders, the women’s one, and so on. Logos and trademarks that became the new scudettos, even if scudettos in the classic sense of the term were no longer. Not surprisingly, the word scudetto, related to the crests of the national football team that changed with the turnover of sponsors, disappeared from the contemporary news reports. It remained in the meaning referable to the Italian champion club team in every discipline.
The “IP logo” appeared at the time of its release, and continues to give this impression even today, as a blatant re-enactment of the sponsor’s brand. It is a vertical rectangle inclined towards the right of the observer, bordered in gold and tripartite. On the upper part are the three very large golden stars on the blue background; in the middle part the logotype FIGC dominates, blue on a white field and in Sans-Serif characters, with the word “Italiana” occupying the area that in heraldry is defined as the heart of the shield, in the lower part closes the tricolor. At the top left, touching the vertex of the rectangle, that is the right end, is a blue circle with a yellow stripe: the colors of the IP mark. A logo built with subtle narrative malice, as the dot-ball resolves into a synecdoche that refers to the “i”, while the parallelogram performs the same function by connecting to Petroli’s “p”. And if we want to discuss the value of the enamels within such a coat of arms, the basic tones are no longer white-red-green but golden yellow and Royal blue. Always the colors of the Italiana Petroli join stock company (24)
The IP logo did not abandon the blue shirts until 1999, when the new FIGC president, Luciano Nizzola, chose to return to the Italia shield, due to a loss by the same sponsor, but with the inscription on a black background: a “Black Italia” shield. This emblem lasted about ten matches. Then, on March 31, 2004, for a test match in Portugal, the National Team led by coach Giovanni Trapattoni lined up on the ground of the Estadio Municipal in Braga with a new shirt that had the shield surmounted by three gold stars and provided with a thicker frame. Among other things, placed in the center of the chest, a few centimeters below the collar: this is also an absolute premiere in the history of the “maglie azzurre”. This new model, with the stars arranged in an arch and embroidered directly on the shirt (only the colored shield was thermo-applicable), and the iconic puma of the technical sponsor alongside, accompanied the unhappy adventure of the European Championships in Portugal. (25)
In the fall of 2005, president Franco Carraro presented a badge with a completely redesigned look. Almost in contrast to the roundness expressed by the shield with the three stars on its head, which then had not brought so much luck, a shield still shaped Grande Torino, but with more angular features and inscribed in a dilated border of an intense blue, in order to create the brand effect. Let is describe it in detail.
On the three flag poles, which however have taken the form of arrows pointing downwards, the four golden stars stand out in a military insignia pose. The star of the central pole is coupled to a green, red, white and blue vortex containing the golden FIGC inscription, positioned in the exact point that in heraldic terminology is defined as navel; the blade itself is wider than the others to allow for artifice. In the upper area of the shield, the inscription Italy survives, capitalized in gold letters on a blue background. The trademark is geometric and graphically updated, as it is a vector type that can be easily extracted and dimensioned in its various components. It is based on an idea of turbine movement, with the engine being the FIGC. He made his debut on the shirts of Marcello Lippi’s men in a friendly match in Amsterdam on November 12, 2005. The “vortex 3-star” shield, with its double acceleration/tradition isotopy, then accompanied the victory of the World Cup in Germany in 2006, which is why that jersey is still today the most sought after on the web by fans.
As it had happened in 1982, the triumph in the World Cup 2006 introduced another star in the badge. Since it was now a commercial brand, the need to add the star led to further changes: the four stars decreased in size and left room for a larger FIGC vortex (the company’s enlarged ego?), positioned in the area called place of honor of the shield. The emblem, or rather the “4-star vortex” shield, made its debut on 2 September 2006 to greet the first match of the 2008 European qualifying round. A draw with Lithuania at the San Paolo stadium in Naples which, in some way, foreshadowed the bad star of Italy entrusted to the inexperienced coach Roberto Donadoni, then in vain returned to Marcello Lippi’s management at the eve of 2010 World Cup in South Africa. (26)
Between fluctuating results, under the presidencies of Giancarlo Abete and Carlo Tavecchio, the 4-star vortex badge continued to shine on the shirts of the many versions of the national football teams. In 2017, Tavecchio, in introducing a new tricolor crest on the evening of October 1st – the shape of the shield returned to its Swiss style, the four stars resting on its head and the FIGC vortex resized compared to the golden Italia written on a blue field – hinted at the values of “Italianness” of the brand name. The four stars freed from the context meant, according to him, “the pride of the country” and “the hope” of bringing them to five under his presidency. It goes without saying that the flop in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia led to the defenestration of the false prophet. (27)
With the advent of Gabriele Gravina on 22 October, 2018 the competitive brand has not changed. However, it has been decided that, starting 2023, it shall be replaced by a new National Team badge. (28) Which is going to combine with the institutional badge presented on 4 October 2021 in the spaces of the Milanese creative workshop Garage Italia. Surprisingly, this last logo is as round as the first one that appeared on the documents in the period before the Great War. The current Federation, in fact, even if officially established in 1898 in Turin, on 8 August 1909 in Milan changed its name from FIF to FIGC. At that time, on the letterheads the logotype was FNIGC: Federazione Nazionale Italiana del Giuoco del Calcio. Before this change occurred, therefore, we can find no badges, trademarks or emblems for the governing body of the small handful of Italian clubs attracted by the English game of association football. The most part of officials and players spoke English or German, and they were all amateurs. (29)
CAPTIONS OF THE ILLUSTRATIONS
- Francesco Verri, Italian track champion, photographed in 1906 wearing the tricolor sweater.
- At the 1912 OG, the gymnastics team won two gold medals. The illustrated weekly of Corriere della Sera dedicated to the event one of the tables by its illustrator Achille Beltrame.
- The Azzurri engaged in the match with Hungary on 6 January 1911, as they appeared in the Turin weekly La Stampa Sportiva. The man who, in all probability, suggested the use of the blue shirts to the Technical Commission: the president of Pro Vercelli, Luigi Bozino.
- The Italian representative parades in the opening ceremony of the Antwerp 1920 Olympic Games. That is to say the debut of the blue uniforms in a public sports event.
- Dorando Pietri at the 1908 marathon in London and in the post-Olympic tour in the USA. In his case, the entry of the flag marked the transition from amateurism to professionalism.
- The Italian team at the 1919 inter-allied military games hosted in Joinville Le-Pont, in the suburbs of Paris.
- The football team that participated in the 1912 Olympic tournament, wearing the blue outfit and the Savoy coat of arms.
- Gabriele d’Annunzio, creator of the first tricolor shield.
- A photograph which has remained unpublished until today: the two captains with the referee before the match between soldiers and citizens hosted on February 8, 1920 at Campo Cantrida, in the surroundings of Fiume. The veritable debut of the scudetto.
- A graphic reconstruction of the 1924 birth of FIGC’s tricolor badge.
- A 1926 cartoon by Carlin, which appeared in the weekly Il Guerin Sportivo.
- The Championship shield compared with the National team emblem in the mid-20s of the last century. The players are Angiolino Schiavio and Renzo de Vecchi.
- A player from Ambrosiana-Inter in the season 1929-1930. The tricolor badge is now in combination with fasces.
14. The “binary shield”, or fascism shield, on the occasion of Italy vs Spain of 29 May 1927. The same emblem sewed on a cardigan used by the national Olympic team at Amsterdam 1928 and on the Juventus Football Club jerseys in 1931.
- The goalkeeper and captain of Torino team, Alfredo Bodoira, shows proudly its two scudettos, coming from the victories in the National League and in the Italian Cup.
- Valentino Mazzola precedes his team-mates from AC Torino in the match with Lausanne Sport Club on 17 September 1945, the day of the debut of the “republican shield”.
- The team of Italy on April 27, 1947 on the field in Florence opposed to the Swiss team. That day there was a double debut: the republican shield and the execution for a football event of the national hymn “Canto degli Italiani”.
- The disappearance of the “Grande Torino” team in 1949 determined the posthumous sacredness of the scudetto. FIGC Museum in Coverciano, next to Florence.
- The “CONI shield” created by Giulio Onesti and Count Alberto Bonacossa, in its double version: with and without the star.
- The legendary “scudetto Italia” on the shirts of the Azzurri national team from 1952 to 1983. It brought a European Championship in 1968 and a World Cup in 1982.
- The team of Italy coached by Enzo Bearzot, world champion in Spain ‘82.
- The “3 star Swiss shield” 1983-1984.
- The “three-star round stamp”, the first mark to appear on the Azzurri’ jerseys in 1984. It experienced the defeats of Mexico ’86 and Italy ’90 world championships.
- The “IP logo”, which remained the national football team crest for almost all of the 90s.
- The “Black Italia shield” in 1999 recovered the tradition of the “Grande Torino” style. Here he is Francesco Totti soon after the “spoon penalty-kick” in the semifinal Nederland-Italy at the 2000 European Championship.
- The “Vortex shield” used in 2006 World Cup and in the failure expeditions South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014.
- The current “4-star Swiss shield” in a two-tone version, that for the shirts and the other on the ceremonial uniforms.
- The National team logo that will dominate the Azzurri’s shirts in 2023. It is still inspired to the “Grande Torino” model. The news anticipated in June 2022 by Footy Headlines, which showed a completely wrong timeline.
- The “Institutional logo” launched in 2021 by president Gabriele Gravina, round like the first FNIGC emblem of the years preceding the First World War.
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