The Onerous Rise of Como 1907 – A Fitting Project for a Deserving Establishment

Following unforgettable scenes of jubilation and unprecedented celebrations that saw Leicester City legend Jamie Vardy in attendance, Italian side Como 1907 sealed a return to Serie A after a 21-year hiatus.


The achievement is one of a collective vision of footballing greats, from shareholder Thierry Henry to former sporting director (now advisor) Dennis Wise and assistant first-team coach Cesc Fàbregas, with the tactician once labelled ‘The most influential man in Welsh football’, Osian Roberts, steering the ship in a caretaker capacity. 


This charming, family-orientated club has stolen the hearts of many Italian football supporters, with word of their accomplishments travelling across the continent. For once, the historic Lake Como and the breathtaking views of the Alps are not the only talking points from this legendary region. 


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But who are Gli Azzurri, and what has driven so many notable names towards a remarkable project that is targetting an assault on Italian football, with a view towards top-tier stability and a fruitful future far from the forgettable days of bankruptcy? 


Origins of Como 1907 


The club was founded 117 years ago as Como Foot-Ball Club in the historic and picturesque backdrop of the comune in Lombardy. The area is famed as the birthplace of several iconic names – such as Caecilius and Pope Innocent XI. While its early days are relatively small – with participation in local and regional competitions, I Biancoblù hold the distinction of playing professional football in 86 out of 93 Italian campaigns since 1929. 


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The ’30s witnessed a modest period of temporary highs and battles against relegation. However, a notable achievement came during the 1930-31 season, with the club’s first piece of silverware accomplished when claiming the honour of Serie C champions. 


Unfortunately, following four years of difficulty in Serie B, the club endured back-to-back relegations to the newly formed tier of Serie D. After two years of restructuring within the halls of Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia, Como Foot-Ball earned promotion back to Serie C, where they would remain competitive for several years before climbing to the second-tier of Italian football in 1946.


Eyes on a Serie A berth


With the foundations of the football club firmly in order and the momentum of that memorable promotion of ’46 in the bank, the side immediately flirted with the prospect of joining the domestic elite with a collection of impressive outings that left many dumbfounded by the progress of the minnows. 


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After three short seasons in the second tier, Como earned their first promotion to Serie A in 1949, displaying a brand of structured football that earned acclaim across the nation. They continued their assault on Italy with a sixth-placed finish in their debut campaign. 


However, despite the greatest of starts, the club struggled to retain their impressive group, with relegation confirmed after a four-year stint. Throughout the next 20 years, their time was mixed between Serie B and C, with the third tier the most frequent setting. 


A long-awaited resurgence saw the club return to the peak of domestic football in 1975. However, despite cultivating several sides that yielded iconic players like Alessandro Scanziani and Pietro Vierchowod, a series of yo-yo campaigns brought forth several relegations to C1 and back to A during an erratic six-year period. 


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The unforgettable era of the 1980s 


For Como, silverware was not a mark of success, and the slightest progression often led to suitors luring star names to more lucrative pastures. However, in 1984, the club returned to Serie A and embarked on the most successful period of their 77-year history – leading to a fruitful five-year stint in one of the most competitive leagues in Europe. 


It is impossible to mention this period and not touch upon the brilliant partnership of Stefano Borgonovo and Dan Corneliusson, who spearheaded their side to a 9th-place finish in 1986. Borgonovo notched 13 goals, and Corneliusson added eight – naturally attracting suitors at home and abroad while narrowly losing a Coppa Italia semi-final to Sampdoria. 


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The club consolidated their league position the following season through a firm defensive structure led by an iconic Italian figure of the 80s, Pasquale Bruno. His departure to domestic giants Juventus in 1987 was a burden Como could not remedy, ultimately enduring relegation in 1989, followed by a steady decline to Serie C1. 


Bloodshed, bans and bankruptcy 


At the turn of the 21st century, the club was building towards another flight towards the fabled peak of their domestic game. Pursuing another promotion to Serie B in 2001, celebrations were short-lived after a disgraceful incident between club captain Massimiliano Ferrigno and Modena’s Francesco Bertolotti.


Following a dispute from a poor challenge, Ferrigno was shown a red card after striking Bertolotti in the scuffle. At the final whistle of a game that Como won by 1-0, the former teammates continued their heated debate in the changing room, with the I Lariani favourite landing a devastating uppercut that left the Modena midfielder unconscious and fighting for his life.


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Ferrigno received a three-year ban, while Bertolotti would eventually recover and never play again. Despite this travesty, Como would return to Serie A in 2002-03, with aspirations of building upon several years of careful planning. However, a barrage of underwhelming performances led to a season spent in the relegation positions, with crowd violence marring many of the side’s home encounters – inevitably leading to a ban on fixtures at the Sinigaglia. 


Successive relegations followed, with bankruptcy declared in December 2004. Furthermore, with investors failing to gain control of the side, “Calcio Como S.p.A.” was liquidated. Rubbing further salt into the deep wounds, it transpired that former chairman Enrico Preziosi had transferred various assets to his new club, Genoa – invariably causing the irreversible financial failure of Como. 


Thankfully, a new entity called “Calcio Como S.r.l” was admitted to Serie D in 2005-6 on behalf of a FIGC regulation. The newly formed Calcio Como spent a decade battling between the lower tiers of the Italian pyramid – from the Lega Pro Seconda Divisione to the Lega Pro Prima Divisione and a brief season in Serie B. 


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Further economic issues that led to a bright future 


Following unforeseen economic matters, the club was declared out of business and put up for auction during the 2016-17 season. Akosua Puni Essien acquired the assets of the institution during the fourth auction via her company “F.C. Como S.r.l.”. 


Despite rigorous attempts to ratify F.C. Como as Como’s successor in the 2017-18 Serie C platform, the Italian Football Federation rejected the request as the club did not fulfill the necessary criteria in Article 52 of N.O.I.F. Instead, Como 1907 S.r.l was admitted to the 2017-18 Serie D – having excised a sub-clause of article 52. 


Como returned to professional status in 2019 following victory in round B of Serie D – under the new ownership of Indonesian company Djarum. A sense of stability had arrived alongside the manufacturing company, with key individuals like Wise installed as sporting director before moving onto an advisory role to the board. 


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Additionally, minor shareholders were lured by a renewed vision and a sustainable project that would see the state-of-the-art infrastructure brought forward in training ground and player advancements. French legend Henry purchased his stake in 2022, linking up with former teammate Fabregas – who had signed a two-year playing deal several weeks prior – one that included shares of his own.


A sense of change had well and truly arrived in the Lombardy region, with playing staff flabbergasted by the inclusion of the World Cup-winning Frenchman and Spaniard. Much of the positivity must be attributed to the work of Wise, who has engineered his strong footballing principles throughout the club and yielded their own ‘best-in-class’ setup behind the scenes. 


Present day 


On May 10, 21 years since their last involvement, Como 1907 secured promotion to Serie A following a runner-up place in Italy’s second tier. It was a remarkable season that yielded 21 victories and 73 points – bettering the previous campaign’s 13th-place finish. 


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Much of the side’s success has come from the work of Fabregas and caretaker manager Roberts. Following his retirement from the playing field, the Spanish superstar took control of Como B and Under 19 sides while he worked towards his UEFA A coaching licence. 


After Moreno Longo was relieved of his duties on November 13, 2023, the former Arsenal star assumed control as interim coach. He received a special dispensation to fill the position for one month as he still needed to complete his UEFA Pro coaching licence. Despite limited time, he oversaw five fixtures, winning three, drawing one and losing only once. 


The club confirmed the appointment of Roberts as caretaker manager on December 20, until the end of the campaign – with Fabregas to remain as an assistant to the first team coaching staff.  The Welshman is a vastly experienced footballing mind, having served as technical director for the Football Association of Wales, overseeing several underage men’s and women’s teams and guiding the Welsh ‘B’ outfit for a period. 


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He was promoted to assistant manager of the Welsh senior team under Chris Coleman and then Ryan Giggs before moving to Morocco in 2021 to take up a technical director role. He returned to England to assist Patrick Vieira at Crystal Palace as his assistant before his release in 2023 with the sacking of the former Arsenal chief. 


Following his arrival in Italy, the man recognised as a footballing genius in his native land immediately galvanised the group alongside Fabregas. He managed 21 fixtures – winning 12, drawing six and losing three en route to claiming a famous return to the pinnacle of Italian football. 


Despite a troubled history laden with yo-yo performances and financial irregularities that unearthed a barrage of relegations and uncertainty, the future – at last – looks bright for this majestic little club.  While the immediate use of the iconic Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia is unknown due to the requirements of Serie A, the hierarchy has been actively scouting ideas to improve the matchday experience for an ever-growing audience. 


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From state-of-the-art training facilities and the presence of legendary figures, it has never been easier for Como to attract a new generation of footballers to one of the most picturesque regions on the planet. What’s more, the allure of competing against the finest opposition in the country is now a reality. 


However, despite the changing face of this 117-year-old institution, the backdrop of family and community remains front and centre, as I Lariani can, at long last, aspire towards the greatness their principles deserve.


By: Shaun Connolly / @shaunconnolly85

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Jonathan Moscrop / Getty

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