This week marks the 30th anniversary of Channel 4 bringing Italian football to British and Irish television screens – with Serie A gaining prominence.
Every Saturday morning it was all about the highlights of Gazzetta Football Italia, while Football Italia featured live events from the biggest names in world football every Sunday and a chance to see Paul Gascoigne.
Jonathan Grade was a producer when Gazzetta Football Italia took over our televisions.
In his new book Golazzo: The Football Italia Years, he talks about Gazza, the Snakes, and the best soccer players of the 1990s.
In those days the Italian league was in a category of its own.
Fans had to pay a subscription to watch football in the Premier League, but on Channel 4 the best league in the world had a new home, and you did not have to pay a penny.
While Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Roberto Baggio, Gabriel Batistuta and co-stars thrilled viewers every week, it was Jordi’s arrival that took center stage, with Gazza finally signing Lazio.
The three years he spent in the Eternal City were a rollercoaster.
There were some memorable times – most notably a last-minute equalizer in the Roma derby – but there were also lows, as he suffered frequent setbacks due to injury.
Gazza’s weekly appearance on Gazzetta Football Italia was legendary, as he and presenter James Richardson got his start from the start.
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James will ask him to do all kinds of things – one week he’s making connections with a giant chocolate Easter egg over his head and the next week with a snake around his neck!
In the stadium, spectators were treated to the best football in Europe.
An exciting six-goal match between Sampdoria and Lazio was the perfect way to start an exciting and exciting first season.
Any idea that Serie A was boring was good and really made.
Football Italia was the first live football program without in-field commentators.
Instead, Peter Brackley will work in a voiceover booth – usually alongside Ray Wilkins. The viewer wouldn’t be wiser.
Brackers was always telling us that when he came home after a live match no one could believe he came back so fast!
While the show was a huge success, it wasn’t always a simple behind-the-scenes sailing.
There were times when we lost the recap of the match – once in a match between Parma and Juventus.
Luckily, we got started shooting just in time for Filippo Inzaghi’s goal, so viewers didn’t miss a thing!
The images coming from our host broadcaster in Italy may not be in excellent quality, but the football was from another planet.
Before long C4 will expand coverage. Both of Italy’s crucial 1998 World Cup qualifying matches with Russia were shown live, and attracted a large audience.
The channel’s commitment to Football Italia just got stronger. One week of watching Saturday night’s climax was the Milan derby, where we were able to go on to show off the biggest matches.
Unfortunately, at the turn of the millennium, problems with fans and racism surfaced in Serie A and in 2002 Channel 4 decided not to renew its contract with Football Italia.
But memories remain of one of the greatest eras in Italian football history – and viewers here had the opportunity to see it all.
l Golazzo: The Football Italia Years by Jonathan Grade is available on Amazon for €13.57 and the Kindle Store for €10.31.