Classic Calcio Kits: Salernitana Home 1998/1999

Manufacturer: Ascis
Shirt Sponsor: EXIGO Jeans and Casual
Years: 1998/1999
Worn by: Marco Di Vaio, Gennaro Gattuso, Davide Di Michele and Rigobert Song

The Granata shirt has always been closely associated with Torino and in particular the Grande Torino side of the 1940s. Its rarity has perhaps made it all the more attractive. Sure other clubs lower down the pyramid wear the colour and others like Livorno wear something very similar, but Granata just seems to sit right on the backs of those Torino men.

For the 1998-1999 Serie A season though, the club representing this famous colour was not Torino, but rather Salernitana Calcio 1919 (now U.S. Salernitana). Like Torino, the club have a long and proud history, just considerably less trophy laden.

The city of Salerno lies just an hour’s drive from Napoli and at the cities heart is its football club. A football club that despite its relative lack of success remains one of the best supported throughout the peninsula.

In a now 97-year history, the 1998-1999 season was only the club’s second in Serie A and it was to be one that would live long in the memory for both good and bad reasons.

Despite averaging nearly 32,000 at their home matches throughout the year and bringing 10,000 fans to Rome on the opening day of the season, things did not get off to a great start for the Granata. After being knocked out of the Coppa Italia by the famous Castel Di Sangro, their dismal early form continued in the league, picking up just one point in their opening six matches.

Marquee singing Rigobert Song, who had just represented Cameroon at the World Cup in France proved a total flop and was out the door by January with only four appearances under his belt. However, as the season wore on, form would gradually improve.

Aided by some exciting young talent such as the goal machine, Marco Di Vaio, and a post-Rangers and soon to be Milan legend, Gennaro Gattuso, the Granata picked up some memorable scalps. These included home wins over Juventus, Inter and both Roman clubs.

Performances elsewhere remained poor though and coupled with their sluggish start to the season, the club remained in a relegation dogfight. Heading into the final day of the season, the Granata faced a make or break encounter against Piacenza. Win and they would stay up, lose and it was an immediate return to Serie B.

Sadly, despite a packed house at the Stadio Arechi, Salernitana were unable to get the job done, drawing 1-1. The result left them fourth bottom and one point from safety. Serie B beckoned once more.

Tragically, relegation was the least of peoples worries that day. On the way home from the match, a carriage in a train carrying over 1000 Salernitana fans caught fire in a tunnel just outside the town of Nocera Inferiore.

In a desperate attempt to save themselves from the flames, fans flung themselves from the train. For some however, escape proved impossible and four fans lost their lives. It remains a poignant day in the history of Salernitana Calcio.

A season that had started with so many hopes and dreams had ended in the worst way possible. Salernitana have yet to return to the top flight and have been through some tough years since. The fans though have never abandoned their team, and now as then, the famous Granata shirt has been an ever present.

Words by Kevin Nolan – Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinNolan11