A.P.I.A.-Leichhardt Tigers tour diary of Viareggio 2010


The tournament is celebrating its 62nd birthday this year where APIA is pitted in Group B against Italian Giants Inter Milan, Serbian side FK Jednistvo and a representative side comprising of the best talent in Serie D. Joseph Piazza reports with an up close and personal tour diary of the day to day happenings and experiences of the squad.
DAY 1 (23rd of January): As per flight details, the Touring party left their home states at a later than usual departure time bound for Sinapore. On arrival,the squad from Sydney was introduced to their fellow team-mate Pas Schiavello from Melbourne. The squad boarded a connecting 131 hour flight from Singapore bound for Rome, enough time for the players to get acquainted with each-other!
DAY 2 (24th of January): Our arrival in Rome usually consists of a quick breakfast stop before embarking on a rigorous tour of Rome?s most magnificent spectacles.
Due to our late arrival and the loss of a bag, the squad had limited time at each of the five major tourist attractions, those being the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Colosseum, the Vatican and the Stadio Olimpico.
We were treated with a fantastic spectacle on our last stop at the Stadio Olimpico. Lazio, who had been suffering from poor form opened the scoring mid-way through the first half, Gugliemo Stendardo pouncing on a well taken free-kick from Roberto Baronio to blast the ball home from 8 yards. The match see-sawed from one end to the other until Chievo striker Sergio Pellissier scored a 77th-minute equaliser to cancel out Stendardo’s 18th-minute opener.
 We finally boarded the bus late later that night bound for Hotel Losanna in Viareggio, our base for at least the next two weeks.
DAY 3 (25th of January): The players were given a well-deserved sleep in after such a rigorous day in the Capital. A late breakfast was followed by a stroll along the promenade.
An intra-squad match was organised in the afternoon so that the squad was able to release the toxins from their travel weary legs and also an opportunity to get the ball rolling in terms of cohesion between the players. It also provided the boys a chance to experience playing conditions during a European winter from the get-go.
DAY 4 (26th of January): This day was totally focused on our first match against international opposition with coach Rod Williams calling all the players in for a team meeting to discuss the way he wanted the team to operate on the park.
The opposition, Nacional of Paraguay, had the upper hand on us in terms of preparation, arriving in Viareggio two days before us so that they could fully acclimatise to the conditions.
The match was played in a brilliant spirit with both sides showing a glowing potential, unfortunately for us though, Nacional opened the scoring midway through the first half with a goal that was five yards offside. The Paraguayans completed the scoring through a defensive blunder which culminated in an own-goal late in the second stanza.
DAY 5 (27th of January): As with previous years the APIA ANNUAL CALCETTO TOURNAMENT took place. The touring squad was split into four teams with physio Steve Howard and Secretary John Mellino joining in.
The team that took the title and the small pool of prize money was Michael Rutherford?s side who beat six time tournament winner Joe Piazza?s team in an epic penalty shoot out where after 20 penalties the score finished 3-2!
Later in the evening, APIA took on ASD Capezzano in a friendly match in freezing conditions. APIA took the lead as early as the 15th minute when Joel Sanderson netted with a back heel.
Dean Zammit doubled the lead with a well taken free-kick ten minutes later. The home side had a chance to pull one back in the closing stages of the first half with a penalty but goal-keeper Josh Sebben made a fantastic save to keep a clean sheet.
The match was eventually abandoned at half-time due to the conditions.
DAY 6 (28th of January): The busy schedule of friendly matches continued with APIA pitted against Sporting Massese. Sporting Massese was created in 1919 and was previously known as USD Massese Calcio and has spent many years doing the yo-yo between Serie B and the Promozione division. As early as last year the club was in the Serie D but due to financial irregularities was relegated. It is also the former club of Australian goal-keeper and former APIA product Robert Mosca
Sporting Massese has struggled in the league so far this season but after a few changes in personnel, they have lifted their position on the table after five straight wins.
The match finished 2-0 in favour of the home side, with veteran striker Sandro Botticelli being the difference between the two sides with a goal and assist.
DAY 7 (29th of January): The fourth pre-tournament friendly match against Leme Football Club of Brazil was seen as the sternest test so far APIA, the Brazilians escaping with a 1-1 draw the previous day against Serie C1 first team AC Prato.
The plucky Australians stuck to their game plan of not affording too much respect to the South American?s and only an error in judgement from a seemingly harmless situations allowed Leme to take the lead.
The match see-sawed from end to end and the one goal margin stayed for the 90 minutes.
Coach Rod Williams went onto say. ?The boys stuck to the game-plan, giving the Brazilians no room to which to play in. In the end they capitalized on our own mistake and they really had no clear opportunities afforded to them. Let?s just say i was very happy with the performance and we are starting to build momentum.?
DAY 8 (30th of January):
Saturday was celebrated with an action-packed day that saw us visit Pisa to see the historical Leaning Tower. After a few photo opportunities, the boys boarded the Coach to continue the day trip to Florence.
Florence is well known all over the world for the jewellery stores on the Ponte Vecchio (The Old Bridge) and in particular its incredible 18 Carat Gold.The city is also historically rich and features a number of beautiful Basilicas?s and is the home of the Statue of David.The players were given free-rein to explore city with many choosing to visit the famous fashion outlets such as Gucci, Prada, Armani and the various speciality sporting outlets like Puma, Universal Sport and Soccer Centro.
DAY 9 (31st of January):
A pre-tournament training session was set-out on the beach by Coach Rod Williams before the players were called into a team meeting to discuss the team?s tactics and structure for the match against Serie D Representative.
Directly after lunch the team made its way to Mazzini Square where they joined the parading floats at the Carnevale. The Carnevale runs for four Sundays during the tournament and attracts roughly 200,000 people from all over the world. The Carnevale is the second biggest Carnival in the world, second behind the Carnival in Rio (Brazil) in terms of spectators and size.
DAY 10 (1st of February):
The tournaments opening day was finally upon us, the squad getting together after a late sleep in. Breakfast was followed by a light stretching session. An early lunch was required because of the 100km road trip to Lavagna, north of Viareggio and just before the magical city of Genoa.
The match started off in inconceivable fashion with the Serie D representative side taking an early lead in the 1st minute. Moments later we were reduced to 10 men when the referee inexplicably sent off David Dascal for a professional foul, Dascal adjudged to have been tugging on the jersey of the Italian striker when he was the last man. Serie D then scored with a penalty with minutes remaining till half-time with captain and goal-keeper Michael Rutherford adjudged to have brought down the striker, though most in the ground feeling that Rutherford had made a legitimate save and the opposition had taken a dive.
Little came of the second stanza until late in the match when Rutherford this time made a late tackle at the feet of the striker to give away what was this time a legitimate foul. The striker scored from the spot for a second time to finish the match at 3-0.
DAY 11 (2nd of February):
This morning was used as a chance for a light training session to ease out the aches and pains of yesterday?s game under the watchful eye of Manchester United youth coach Mark Senior. Senior later commented that he was quite impressed with the attitude and application of the Aussie boys as well as their ability to comprehend a drill or skill that was new to them.
The afternoon was used as a chance to play against the Pisa Calcio under 18?s side. The match was played on an atrocious field which was covered in mud. The result finished 3-0 to the home side.
DAY 12 (3rd of February):
APIA Leichhardt Tigers went into the history books on Wednesday afternoon with one of the most courageous fight-back?s ever witnessed in Viareggio Cup history.
Down 2-0 and in a seemingly impossible position, APIA roared home in the last 25 minutes to send gun Serbian side FK Jedinstvo crashing out of the Tournament and propelling the Aussie side into contention for the round of 16.
The Serbians opened the scoring through an un-lucky own goal midway into the first stanza before doubling their lead through another APIA mistake.
Credit to APIA though, with 25 minutes remaining substitute Mehmet Osgen picked out Joel Sanderson on the far post who raced clear to clip the ball over the advancing Goal-keeper.
APIA then put the European giants under sustained pressure with numerous attacks, Sanderson drilling a volley over the cross-bar from a tight angle.
The equaliser came late in the second period when a cross from the left was well cushioned by captain Liam McConaghy who smashed a ferocious left foot volley into the back of the net.
The comeback was completed with a well taken goal to full-back Andrew Vitucci who chipped the goal-keeper to send the Aussies into raptures with only injury time remaining.
DAY 13 (4th of February):
A bonding/training session was held with American representatives New York stars with both sides mixing in a combined light session before what could be their last games in Viareggio pending results.
APIA coach Rod Williams also used the session so he could go through tactics and how he wanted to approach the Inter Milan match. Great emphasis was put on the fact that our Aussie boys needed to defend and attack with numbers if they were any chance of defeating the Italian giants.
DAY 14 (5th of February):
D-day had finally arrived and the APIA contingent knew that 3 points wasn?t enough, they needed FK Jedinstvo to steal a point from the Serie D Select. It was a big ask, all going to plan and APIA would be only the second Australian side to ever progress to the round of 16.
The match against Inter started on a positive note, APIA keeping the Italians at bay for the opening 15 minutes, a feat that they hadn?t matched in the previous two games of the tournament, falling behind early in the match had become a habit.
Inter were industrious though and it only took one slack moment in defence with an Italian striker left un-marked to nod home from six yards out. Man of the match Alan Stefanovic then doubled the lead minutes later after he was brought down inside the penalty area. Inter Milan?s 3 million euro signing made no mistake from the spot to give Inter a 2-0 lead going into half-time.
The Italians completed the rout early in the second half to effectively relegate APIA to third position in the group 2 standings, thus ending their hopes of progressing to the next round.
DAY 15 (6th of February):
After Thursday?s informal get-together with New York Stars, a match was organised for early Saturday morning between the two sides in what looks the start of a budding affiliation.
The contest ended 5-3 to APIA in match that was played in high spirits.
Later in the evening the annual APIA post Tournament awards were held with Nathan Millgate taking home the man-of-the-match trophy in games one and three as well as the Player of the Tournament award. Andrew Vitucci took out the man-of-the-match trophy in game two.
DAY 16 (7th of February):
An early rise as the team bus arrived at the hotel at 4am for the long and arduous journey back to Rome. Last minute Duty Free shopping was the main agenda before hoping on the long haul 13 hour flight to Singapore.
Four hours in Singapore gave the touring party another chance to pick any last little knick-knacks before boarding for the shorter seven hour leg back to Sydney.  
-By Joseph Piazza (Reporting in Italy)