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Dublin: 4 °C Tuesday 25 February, 2020

The Italian football supporter who has become a diehard Dundalk fan from afar

Giordano Pantosti has followed the Lilywhites since 2014 despite living in Rome and the 20-year-old is excited to meet the players and staff next week.

Dundalk's Italian supporter Giordano Pantosti (right) with club chairman Mike Treacy in Rome last year.
Dundalk's Italian supporter Giordano Pantosti (right) with club chairman Mike Treacy in Rome last year.
Image: Twitter/Giordani Pantosti

LEAGUE OF IRELAND clubs tend only to draw a following from their own geographical region, and bar a few natives who live away, that’s the depth of their support pool.

But there are exceptions, and Dundalk’s rise to prominence in recent years has resulted in them growing something of a European fanbase, especially in Italy, and particularly in the case of 20-year-old Giordano Pantosti, who hit the headlines earlier this week.

Due to attend next Friday night’s league fixture against Bohemians at Oriel Park, with friends who share a mutual interest in the Lilywhites’ fortunes, Pantosti was left feeling “terrible” upon hearing news of the match’s postponement due to the upcoming underage internationals.

Having planned the trip months in advance and set to fly in on Thursday, it looked like being another wasted journey. After all, he has been to Dundalk before, on a “study vacation” to Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) in 2016, without being able to witness the team he has followed “actively” since the first of their title-winning campaigns under former manager Stephen Kenny, in 2014.

Stephen Kenny Dundalk's match with Bohemians has been postponed due to Stephen Kenny's Ireland U21 team being in action. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Though, when his predicament became public knowledge, the club stepped in, with captain Brian Gartland directly messaging and head coach Vinny Perth joining him in a live interview on LMFM radio to offer the chance of watching the team train and an afternoon in their company.

A prospect even more attractive than attending a game, he admits.

“I’m excited, I can’t wait to do it because it’s far beyond what I imagined,” Pantosti tells The42.

“To have the chance to watch training and have lunch with them, it’s something that I can’t believe is possible.

Dundalk FC, its players and supporters that I’ve met on Twitter, it all plays a huge part in my life. I follow them actively, so it’s like when you meet your idols. While you mightn’t know them, you know everything about them and having the chance to meet them is amazing.”

His previous stay coincided with the Champions League qualifier against FH of Iceland three years ago. He had hoped to meet some of the Dundalk players, but, instead, ended up staying in the same hotel as the visitors.

Stephen Kenny and Vinny Perth celebrate with The Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth with Stephen Kenny after last year's FAI Cup final success. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It’s a source of amusement now, but, as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and he has found himself deeply attracted to the club for a number of reasons; community being one of the main factors.

He is a Roma fan, but ranks Dundalk ahead of Claudio Ranieri’s men on the list of priorities.

“The fact that it’s [Roma] a big club makes it impossible to feel a sense of community that a town like Dundalk has, where everyone loves Dundalk. I can only imagine what that feels like.

“In Italy, we always have a negative attitude. We just don’t support our own team, before supporting our own team we have to criticise and hate another team, like Roma and Lazio, Inter and Milan.

In Ireland, I’ve seen a lot of rivalries, but I don’t think they’re as negative as the ones in Italy.”

He rates Michael Duffy as his favourite player, but holds Chris Shields in high regard on the basis of fans’ weekly rave reviews of the midfielder — his poor-quality, live streams making it difficult to fully assess the number five’s impact.

Michael Duffy celebrates his goal Dundalk's Michael Duffy was voted last year's PFAI Player of the Year. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The loss of Kenny as manager was tough for him to accept. After all, Dundalk, with the Dubliner at the helm, is all Giordano knows, but he feels comforted by the promotion of Perth and appointment of John Gill to the coaching staff.

“I didn’t only like Dundalk for the community feeling and positive attitude, but also because of its football. Stephen Kenny brought a very positive way, an attacking way of football where players can really express themselves, and, so, when he went away I was a bit scared.

“But it’s good to have Vinny and John Gill, they can bring continuity and assure the same style of football.”

Peak6’s ownership is another plus-point for him, having met club chairman Mike Treacy in Rome last year. Taking notice of his interest in Dundalk, Treacy got in contact and, while the American was in Italy, they met for a coffee. It’s something which, he feels, underlines the club’s sense of community spirit.

So, eight years on from playing Fifa with Drogheda United and becoming curious as to how Romanian-Italian ’keeper Gabriel Sava was at the United Park side, to following his career path from there to Dundalk, Pantosti has, from afar, become a League of Ireland diehard.

Forza Dundalk!

Bernard Jackman joins Murray Kinsella and Ryan Bailey on The42 Rugby Weekly as Ireland bid to spoil Wales’ Grand Slam party in Cardiff, and the U20s target their own piece of history.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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