Atalanta B.C, a club at the heart of the Bergamo region of Italy, has taken Italian and European football by storm in recent years.
Only in 2011 were they promoted from Serie B, but in more recent times, Il Bocia and the rest of the fans have had three consecutive top three finishes to enjoy. Along with having reached the Quarter-Finals of the 2019/20 Champions League under coach Gian Piero Gasperini.
But while the success on the pitch exposed Atalanta to a wider audience and earned plaudits from across the footballing world, off the pitch, in the stands, Atalanta have been highly-regarded for years.
Their supporters travel in swathes to away matches and create one of the most intense atmosphere’s in the country at their Stadio di Bergamo (or Gewiss Stadium).
Atalanta Ultras are crucial to this.
They are intrinsic to the club itself. In the 1990s, there were many separate ultra groups, but that changed when one man brought them together, uniting the various forms of Atalanta followers like a Bergamasco Messiah.
He is Claudio Galimberti, better known as ‘Il Bocia’ (‘the Kid’).
In 1998, Bocia formed Curva Nord 1907, which situated itself in Atalanta’s North stand and became famous for its passionate displays and choreographies, as well as its violence and hostility with almost every other club in Italy.
Il Bocia isn’t just Atalanta’s most infamous ultra, but perhaps the most infamous ultra in Italian football. His leadership and embodiment of the spirit of the Bergamo region means he is as iconic as famous players. Even his face has replaced that of Jesus in a depiction of the crucifixion scene in a Bergamo church.
Yes, we’re serious. Click on that link above this sentence if you don’t believe us!
That almost religious reverence for Il Bocia isn’t anything flimsy. His ultras continuously set up fundraisers and events to celebrate and raise money for the club, its supporter groups and for charitable causes in the local community. Bocia wanted his movement to be solely about Atalanta – not political, money or hooligan-orientated.
And since Atalanta is so entrenched and deeply rooted in Bergamo identity, a club that delivers newborn babies little Atalanta shirts to keep the black-and-blue bloodline flowing through the generations, the people and supporters recognised Bocia’s commitment and contribution to the area and its people as well as the club.
Though if you were to watch Atalanta during this Gasperini-led golden era, Il Bocia would be nowhere to be seen.
In recent years, Bocia has been under surveillance with a DASPO, an order that bans individuals from attending sporting events in Italy. Il Bocia has tried to circumnavigate the DASPO a couple of times, with the last instance being in March of this year as Bocia attended a Ternana Calcio match.
Ternana has historically been one of Atalanta’s few allies in Italy, so Bocia helped greet the team bus and light flares of their green and red colours outside the stadium before kickoff. Il Bocia was arrested later that day and was eventually given a six-month prison sentence and a €6,000 (six-thousand Euro) fine.
But whilst you won’t see Il Bocia himself leading the Curva Nord ultras on matchday, you will see many signs, chants and banners saying: ‘Claudio Libero’, or ‘Free Claudio’.
Being such a redefining and notorious face in the ultras scene as a whole, Bocia’s significance wasn’t limited to Atalanta fans. Supporters from all across Italy joined the ‘Free Claudio’ movement, asking for his bans to be lifted and allow him to return to the stands.
Bocia has even previously received public support from the ultras of Brescia Calcio, Atalanta’s biggest and fiercest rivals. In 2005, they released a statement reading: “Bocia, our loyal enemy, don’t give up!” after he was hit with one of many stadium bans, showcasing just how admired and respected he is throughout ultra culture and Italy.
However, in the past weeks, news came to light that the Curva Nord would be dissolving after twenty-three years.
Bocia’s baby is, currently, no more.
The fall is likely down to Bocia’s repeated DASPO issues and ‘tessera del tifoso’, the implementation of strict ID cards at football games that has largely prevented ultra groups across Italy from following their teams.
In their final statement, the Curva Nord thanked Bocia for breathing them into life and allowing their factions of ultras to unite and flourish. They also look to the future of Atalanta support, saying they are “Convinced to close a story that could give birth to another, even more important, even more beautiful”.