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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

21 Comments

  1. Ra

    October 4, 2021 at 10:19 am

    @Bitter I believe it has to do with broadcasting rights. In many countries, all broadcasters are permitted to show some time from any game, even if they don’t have the rights. In Brazil, for instance, any broadcaster can show up to 3% of any game, based on a 1998 article known as ‘Pele Law’. Because of that, any sports show will show all goals/best moments from any match in the world.
    I believe that something similar must be in place in Italy.
    I never looked into it, but I believe that this is not the case in the US. Case in point – when ESPN FC discusses UCL or Serie A, they don’t show any goal or highlight from the matches. They do however show goals from EPL. I believe that they have an agreement with Comcast but not with ViacomCBS.

  2. Bitter

    October 4, 2021 at 9:08 am

    @Ra. I agree that it is more a RAI issue than RAI ITALIA. But they RAI ITALIA can’t broadcast any sports highlights shows here in North America at all besides RAI SPORT? I understand not having pre game or post game shows, but no DRIBBLING, LA DOMENICA SPORTIVA, and 90 Minuto? Unless those got canceled in Italy, why can’t Rai can’t show them here.

  3. Ra

    October 1, 2021 at 9:46 pm

    @George. They don’t have the rights in Italy anymore either. So it is more of a Rai than Rai Italia issue.

  4. George

    October 1, 2021 at 9:41 pm

    Rai Italia will end up like Alitalia! Disgusting how italians are treated!

  5. JP

    September 26, 2021 at 2:40 pm

    @Bitter, yes the beginning of Lazio/Roma was the world feed. They must’ve had technical difficulties.
    Did notice some glitches prior to the announcer change over with freezing video but seemed ok after

  6. Bitter

    September 26, 2021 at 2:31 pm

    @jp So the beginning of the Lazio-Roma was a worldfeed? The announcers had British accents. Then there was a sudden “glitch” right before the 1st goal and the announcers changed. Also there seem to a hiccup during replays. You would that Serie A logo flash then a maybe a still picture or a second of video then Serie A logo again before they show the replay.

  7. JP

    September 26, 2021 at 2:14 pm

    @Bitter, if you love Serie A and want to watch more than one match a week (maybe), then absolutely
    They seem to only use Matteo and Andres for the matches simulcast on CBSSN, worldfeed otherwise.

  8. Bitter

    September 26, 2021 at 1:48 pm

    So Paramount Plus worth getting just for Serie A games? I can watch Champions League games on other channels. I am watching Lazio-Roma game now on CBS SPORTS NETWORK. I don’t understand why the announcers changed during the 1 st half. I didn’t care for the 1st two announcers or BEIN SPORT announcer rejects that appeared later.

  9. franco viola

    September 26, 2021 at 12:52 pm

    I cannot believe that a enterprise like Rai International would let a Canadian T.V. station buy the rights for the Italian Serie A. I am really disappointed, and with that I will cancel my subscription to Rai International.

  10. Bitter

    September 25, 2021 at 9:02 pm

    Just cancel Rai Italia like I did. No more highlight shows even though they showed LDS the 1st two weeks. The RAI SPORT episodes can be hit and miss on the highlights of the previous day games.. FIOS still broadcasts RAI ITALIA channel in SD instead of HD, It wasn’t worth it anymore.

  11. Al Dal Cin

    September 19, 2021 at 11:13 pm

    I agree a shame to leave us Italian immigrants without La giostra dei gol and Dominica Sportiva. Shame,shame for Rai Italia.a

  12. raffaele manicastri

    September 19, 2021 at 10:23 pm

    not even la domenica sportiva, why the Italians abroad are treated like this we are considered second grade citizens. Why I pay for the channel for I can watch news on Rai play. shame on you Rai

  13. antonio cazzano

    August 30, 2021 at 5:36 pm

    yes they buy the rights but they forget to buy commentators…..it is a shame to watch a game with such poor comments…at least last years they had the professionals from espn…. no way to get bilingual sound with an option in italian or spanish at least they know what they talking about

  14. Michelangelo

    August 27, 2021 at 3:32 pm

    I wish Paramount can have their own Giostra Del Goal similar to how Rai has done it in the past. I love the inclusion of Italian announcers on Paramount Plus and that’s excellent. However, Paramount Plus should create a channel dedicated to Italians only as well. Just like how ESPN is English and the Deportes is Spanish, or bein sports and bein sports n espanol. Why not create a channel dedicated to the Italian audience since it’s an Italian league.

  15. Ivan

    August 26, 2021 at 9:02 pm

    That’s an awesome write up. I was lucky to grow up in the glory days of Serie A, Napoli with Maradona and Careca, then Milan of the flying Dutchmen, etc. Juve of Zidane and Del Piero next…Baggio, he played for both Juve and Milan if I recall …

    And, yes, the variety shows of “scantily clad women”, lol. I seem to remember one called Beato Tra Le Donne…oh, my…the talent on air…

  16. Lee Gaucher

    August 26, 2021 at 4:46 pm

    Serie A was the first international league I was able to follow closely, thanks to RAI. Back in the 1980s, they used to lease airtime on one of the PBS channels (25/31 in NYC) every Sunday to show full matches. That was followed by the “90º Minuto” league highlights; then came the variety shows (could have been the other way around). Great memories!

  17. Ra

    August 26, 2021 at 1:14 pm

    @Nick Same here. The Sun afternoon games of my childhood were also followed by a “variety shows with scantily-clad women dancing in front of a live studio audience”. Maybe ESPN should revamp the concept and have a post match show presented by girls in bikini… LoL

  18. Basta Poco

    August 26, 2021 at 12:09 pm

    Not all changes are terrible. We had RAI through Dish Network for years, but the game selection wasn’t comprehensive (before that we got an occasional game though UHF broadcast). Now with Paramount+ (and before that ESPN+), I can watch all/any games and get my kids into it. I’m glad the reach of the league is expanding, but perhaps a provision for RAI to have a game of the week could’ve been considered for those who prefer full immersion in Italian language programming.

  19. Luigi

    August 26, 2021 at 10:46 am

    Great article. Seeing the mention of the Maroons Soccer Club gave me chills. I used to go there and watch soccer with my grandfather all the time. RAI was also on the television almost 24/7 at my grandparents house. It’s a shame to see them lose Serie A, but I’m interested in seeing what Paramount+ does with their coverage.

  20. Nick

    August 26, 2021 at 10:18 am

    My grandparents used to turn on RAI every Sunday afternoon when we had our afternoon get-togethers. By then, the matches had ended and it was an endless stream of variety shows with scantily-clad women dancing in front of a live studio audience. What a magical time.

  21. Michelangelo

    August 26, 2021 at 8:48 am

    This is disappointing and memories that will never be forgotten. I remember watching Genoa-Napoli the last game of the Serie B season and those two teams tied to go to the Serie A. The first year that Napoli went into the Serie A only their away games were shown or their Goals during La Giostra Del Goal show. Napoli didn’t get televised until their second year in Serie A when they defeated Fiorentina goals by Hamsik and Maggio. My eyes were glued to the TV like I just won the lottery. Watching Napoli in the U.S on the big screen what a day. Excellent coverage and my main concern is why couldn’t this coverage be transferred to Paramount Plus? You have Italian announcers so why not have a channel on Paramount Plus similar for an Italian audience to give us a more in-depth coverage. Marco and Matteo are doing an amazing job but they can interview some players and bring on some of those announcers they use for the Italian SAP option as well. Paramount Plus needs to capitalize on this and not just 2-3 matches with the Italian SAP option. The app and all devices need to have this option for all the matches. Rai Italian and La Giostra Del Goal will be missed. FORZA NAPOLI

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