Where the ball no longer rolls Public courts in decay

From the beaten ground on the anti-scene on Via del Mare ai seats of neighborhoods and city parks: sports facilities a Lecce suffocates decay. And while Giallorossi is preparing for the big leap in Serie A, most of the public facilities in the city do not appear to be hosting an afternoon match between children.
Yet there used to be in the fields at Settelaquare or the one where the market area today is in zone 167 / A, where generations of children and young people who dreamed of the big Serie A scene have grown up. And someone like Antonio Conte or Francesco Moriero also got there, starting right from the suburban squares.

Fields left to their fate

Skinny knees, bruised shins and mothers’ reproaches, desperate for the pants that are eternally full of tears and patches of grass. Dust and sun in summer, bitter cold in winter, mud, fog and autumn slips. There are those who were there every afternoon, among the boys from the neighborhood in the 70s, 80s and 90s. They were the free football fields. Where you could go every afternoon, without paying a dime. Where friendships were born that were broken due to a mistake, where a slap flew and the team was strengthened in an embrace. Where the goal that seemed impossible was scored. These irregular fields, with imaginative measures, but with just enough to make them perfect: two doors, the perimeter sometimes surrounded by a high fence and the beaten ground that with a little imagination was grazed on Via del Mare. It is the story of an era that no longer exists. Perhaps also because of municipal administrations that over the years have overshadowed the importance of these places and their social power.

Now Lecce is in Serie A and for forty years it has been an established reality in Italian football, but the ball in the city can no longer roll except in private sports centers, where to play a match you have to pay a fee of at least 6 euros pr. main. Yet a few yards from where Giallorossi will play the top flight, the anti-stakes fields still resist. One of these – the largest – is completely left to itself, devoid of lighting, virtually useless for several years. The first field, that which arises right next to Curva Nord, is still in clay, as it was used until the 90s, before the advent of artificial turf that changed football. Except in Lecce, with all due respect to the amateur clubs that still train and play on the ground. Nevertheless, as early as 2020, the municipal administration of Palazzo Carafa had announced for the antiscene a significant restyling intervention that was able to make the antiscene as useful as possible. Now, two years later, with the B Championship now over and the top match starting as early as August, the business card for teams and fans from all over Italy arriving on Via del Mare is still the rectangle of beaten soil and decay.

Same playground also in Frigole where the track today is in an abandoned state. And the only way to understand the situation is to rely on satellite images from Google maps. Returning to the inhabited center, you will then encounter the football pitch, Piazzetta Madonna Di Medjugorje. Here, in addition to a state of total decay and abandonment of the synthetic mantle in recent days, the perimeter fences have been toppled by the wind. And the risk of injury is more than high for anyone who chooses to go out in a football match on this pitch. Likewise, it is now almost impossible to play, even on the pitch in Balsamo Park: the synthetic grass has made room for asphalt. And left are only small stains of synthetic material, reminiscent of a past consisting of challenges to the ultimate goal. Finally, the sports center of Viale della Repubblica is closed and almost impenetrable: the two courts have been invaded by vegetation that grows lushly around the fences. And for little Conte or tomorrow’s young Moriero, the dream of a future in Serie A is more than a utopia.

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