Palermo Calcio Popolare: the Sicilian club against modern football

By Anthony Barbagallo

Palermo Calcio Popolare currently flying high in Sicily’s lower-tier football football system. PHOTO: Palermo Calcio Popolare

Key points:

  • Palermo Calcio Popolare is one of the first Italian clubs in taking a stance against the modern operations of football.
  • This unique side started from the bottom tier of Italian football, working their way up to the seventh division in just the space of a few years.
  • The fans of Palermo Calcio Popolare play an integral part in the operations of the club.

Palermo, Sicily. For many Palermitani that are born and bred in the Sicilian capital, they only bleed two colours when it comes to football – pink and black. These two colours are called Rosanero in Italian, a name strongly affiliated with football side Palermo FC. 

But there is another club that is deeply embedded in this passionate football city. This club is a newly-formed side that stands against modern football. A team who also don the Rosanero colours, but with a splash of green. Palermo Calcio Popolare, founded in 2016 by several friends and teammates, runs purely for the love of football. Popolare means people in the Italian language. This young Palermo club is all about playing football for the people of their historical Sicilian city.

Palermo Calcio Popolare players and fans celebrating together after a historic promotion to the Prima Categoria back in 2018. PHOTO: Palermo Calcio Popolare

Without a club president, this unique organisation operate with team members and fans who make internal decisions. This club has “Tutti I Sostenitori” enlisted on the staff section of its profile, meaning all supporters are in control of Palermo Calcio Popolare. This Sicilian side has similar comparisons to the way Spanish La Liga side SD Eibar operate. This top-flight Spanish side is a fan-owned club, having around 8000 shareholders in multiple countries. 

Palermo Calcio Popolare’s rise and popularity over the last four years since their creation has struck a chord with many avid football fans in the city of Palermo. By starting their journey from the very bottom in the Italian football pyramid (ninth division), Palermo Calcio Popolare has managed to climb through the regional ranks of Sicily’s divisions. With a strong core of players and fan-based management, this minnow side has taken Sicilian football by storm. The club now plays in the Prima Categoria – the seventh tier of Italian football. 

Palermo Calcio Popolare timeline. GRAPHIC: Sicilian Football

In Italy, most clubs in any of the regional amateur leagues still offer small wages to their footballers. However, this hasn’t been the case for Palermo Calcio Popolare. The footballers and coach on this Palermo side don’t get paid for their services. Playing or coaching on this team is done for the passion of world game. It is incredibly rare to find any football club in Italy’s lower leagues not to be paying the players and coaching staff. 

Palermo Calcio Popolare also runs their youth academy for free, ensuring no child in the Palermo area is economically disadvantaged. This club believes football, or Calcio as it is known in the Italian language, should be free to everyone who wants to play.  

“We want to continue to make football accessible to all, constantly promoting our message about being against modern football. Palermo Calcio Popolare is far from promoting modern football. We like nostalgic football – consisting of passion that can carry down to future generations in Palermo.”

Palermo Calcio Popolare’s mission statement on its website. 

This unique amateur side in Palermo is one of the very few football clubs in the world that operates like a traditional team from the early 1900s before the introduction of professionalism. Palermo Calcio Popolare, with fans at the heart of the project, are proving they can still win trophies and navigate their way up through the tiers of Italian football.