(Reuters) – It was a case of all their nightmares coming true at once for hapless Italian side Pro Piacenza as not only were they forced to play with seven players on Sunday but they were also thrashed 20-0 by Serie C rivals Cuneo.
The club’s first team squad and coaching staff refused to travel for the game due to unpaid wages, leaving the financially troubled team to start the match with six teenagers and a 39-year-old physio — the minimum number required for a game to go ahead.
Pro Piacenza were forced to play the game as they have already forfeited three league games this season and a fourth would have resulted in expulsion from the third tier.
They were 16-0 down by halftime — with Cuneo’s Hicham Kanis scoring six times and Edoardo Defendi netting five, before conceding a further four goals after the interval.
The Piacenza players who did take to the field included 19-year-old captain Nicola Cirigliano, who was also registered as the team’s coach for the day.
The physio, who had his number taped to his back, was forced into action to ensure that at least seven players were on the field from Piacenza as one of the original seven teenagers selected to play had forgotten his identity papers.
Piacenza’s numbers on the pitch were briefly bolstered to eight as the missing documentation was sent to the venue but it was not long before they were again down to seven players as the physio limped off injured.
Cuneo captain Fabiano Santacroce, who used to play for Napoli and Parma, was not amused with the events that took place on Sunday.
“Today was a mockery of a match. There were kids, staff members… maybe a physio. This is the result,” the defender told RMC Sport.
“As captain, before the match, I spoke with the guys and said to them not to mock the opposition. But they made us play in a game in these conditions and we played it, simply doing what we had to.
“To be honest after half an hour I didn’t feel like taking part any more, it was a massacre.”
Pro Piacenza were sold for a nominal one euro fee last year and are struggling with severe financial difficulties. They have picked up just eight points all season and sit rooted to the bottom of Serie C/A having started the campaign with an eight-point deduction.
Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie, editing by Pritha Sarkar