Lecce’s Sunday evening high-profile friendly against Spanish giants Valencia at the Via del Mare ended in a 2-0 defeat, but the Salentini tifosi were generally in great spirits following the news that Ernesto Javier Chevantón has returned to the Club after his contract at Sevilla was terminated.
The Uruguyan striker is a cult hero following his previous three-year spell between 2001 and 2004 when he notched up 45 goals, and now he is back at what is seen as his spiritual home. Club President Pierandrea Semerano paraded Chevantón before kick-off on Sunday in front of 15,000 spectators, though the player was unable to take part due to the deal at the time awaiting official completion.
Chevantón’s signing, which is now sealed, has given i Giallorossi a huge boost ahead of Sunday’s opening Serie A game against Milan at the Giuseppe Meazza. The only question remaining for Coach Luigi De Canio is whether to give his new acquisition a place in the starting 11 but it’s a welcome dilemma.
Despite the excitement over the Uruguyan’s return, however, there was an element of controversy on Sunday as Lecce’s hardcore tifosi stood in silence prior to the match to protest against “Tessera del Tifoso”, the new supporters’ identity card system that has been introduced to all levels of Italian football this season. Under the scheme, anyone wanting to purchase a season ticket must obtain a card which gives the bearer exclusive access to away match tickets in an attempt to curb violence at high-profile fixtures.
The launch of the new scheme has been a major talking point across the country but President Semeraro was not pleased with the pre-match protest, commenting: “I was very disappointed with the silence at the start of this evening’s game. I feel fans that express their feelings like this in front of the players do nothing but damage to our Club. Whilst I understand their feelings towards the new scheme, I do not want the Via del Mare to be quiet like this. We must all get behind our team for the good of Lecce.”
Semeraro was also extremely vocal about the fans’ treatment of the unsettled Raffaele Schiavi. The defender has been making noises about his desire to leave the Via del Mare and was greeted by whistles and jeers as he was presented to the supporters. “I was most upset to hear the whistles directed towards Raffaele. Even though he has expressed a desire to leave the Club, that was no way to treat a player who at this time still plays for our Club,” he continued.
Sunday evening was unfortunately also tinged with sadness following the tragic news that Carlo Pranzo Zaccaria, the Club’s medical officer, had passed away just a few hours before kick-off. Zaccaria had been with Lecce for over 25 years and was described by President Semeraro as “unforgettable.” He will be greatly missed by everyone associated with the Club.
Things did settle down after kick-off, however, and Coach De Canio was quietly satisfied with his team’s efforts after the final whistle. Speaking on the Club’s Official Website, De Canio commented: “I was very happy with what I saw tonight. Even though it was a friendly, we approached the match with the correct attitude against an opponent of immense quality. There were still things that we needed to work on ahead of the match against Milan so I took the opportunity to play different formations to give me a clearer idea of the level that we are at before the opening Serie A fixture. We are still looking to add one or two more players before the transfer deadline but overall I am satisfied.”
He then provided his own thoughts on the signing of Chevantón, saying: “Ernesto is a great player and we hope he can replicate the form he showed at this Club several years ago. We are aware that this has not been a great period for him but we hope that returning to Lecce will bring out the best in a player who has fantastic ability.”
De Canio goes into his final week of preparation with no major injury worries, and there is a sense of anticipation building in this football-mad city. A decent result in Milan on Sunday and people may just start to believe that Lecce are here for the long haul.