The end of an era watching Serie A in America via RAI Italia

It was just before 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning in April 1987.

I entered  the ‘Maroons Soccer Club,’ officially known as the ‘Italo-American Soccer Club – Maroons,’ through the back door. A handful of older men sipping on their morning cappuccinos greeted me. Some looked inquisitively at this stranger while most nodded a polite good morning.

I took a seat at one of the empty tables and stared at the giant projector screen in front of me in amazement.

The screen showed a panoramic view of Naples’ Stadio San Paolo. Full to the brim and moments away from kickoff between Napoli and AC Milan.

My only thought was: “Oh my god, I’m really about to watch this match.”

READ MORE: Where to watch Serie A on U.S. TV

I came back to the United States as a teenager in 1979 after living in Europe for 6 years (in Yugoslavia then, Croatia now). In the early 80’s, I discovered shortwave radio as a means to follow my favorite passion, Serie A.

Back then, Serie A aired almost exclusively at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon. I would make sure to wake up no later than 7:45 a.m. CT to scan the frequencies I knew Italian state radio broadcasted on.

Most mornings, the signal was so weak and distorted that I could only hear when the announcers yelled “Rete!” Still, I was there, Sunday after Sunday, listening to my favorite league and sport in the world.

The local bookstore in downtown Chicago carried Guerin’ Sportivo magazine from Italy. Every August, I purchased the issue that had the giant pullout schedule for the whole Serie A season. The posters were tacked onto the back of my bedroom door. Each weekend, I scribbled in the results from each game.

Discovery of RAI Italia

Well, one day in 1986, I drove by a building in Elmwood Park, a village just outside Chicago, and I spotted a giant satellite dish on their roof. Understandably, it is hard to miss a 12-foot-round dish.

A little research led to the information that with a satellite dish, you can pull in ‘RAI International’ This meant I could watch a Serie A match every Sunday morning. At noon, they also showed the highlight show of all the goals from earlier in the day.

For a Serie A fan like myself, I found heaven.

In the summer of 1987, as you may have guessed by now, I bought a giant mesh dish. I officially went from listening to Serie A to watching Serie A.

Over the next 20 years, I went from 1 giant dish (C-band) to several 3-foot dishes (Ku-Band), followed by the small dishes of DISHnetwork & DirecTV. But one thing that was a constant was Giostra dei Gol and RAI International (later renamed RAI Italia).

End of an Era

And today, with Paramount+ buying the rights to Serie A, not only in English & Spanish but also in Italian, we have the end of an era. No more football on RAI Italia.

The channel itself found it’s way in the 1990’s and 2000’s onto some cable systems. Frankly, I don’t even know if the satellite signal is still up there. To be perfectly honest, the video quality left a lot to be desired compared to today’s FHD quality signals.

Yet, for me and undoubtedly thousands of Italian immigrants in North America, it was Serie A’s home. I am eternally grateful to RAI for providing this service.

RAI showed me Diego Maradona bringing Napoli it’s first scudetto. I fell in love with AC Milan’s Dutch trio of Rijkaard, Gullit & Van Basten who shined in the late 80’s. Mancicni, Vialli and Lombardo featured for an incredible Sampdoria team. I witnessed a young ‘fenomeno’ named Roberto Baggio come over to Juventus from Fiorentina. Then, in 1993, a young Allesandro Del Piero donned a Juventus jersey for the first time. Countless football memories from watching RAI International.

Times change. Quite frankly, for the better. Now, we have 100 percent coverage of the league. But ‘hats-off’ to RAI Italia, the only way to watch Serie A in North America for decades. That, in itself, deserves our gratitude.

Just wanted to say “thanks for the memories.”

Editor’s note: Ed Perovic writes for our sister website, Soccer TV Blog.

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21 Comments

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