Football club's Italian inspiration

By Annie DavidsonWITH his Sunday league football team dragging their heels in division three, manager Martin Penalvertook a welcome holiday in Spain.

By Annie Davidson

WITH his Sunday league football team dragging their heels in division three, manager Martin Penalvertook a welcome holiday in Spain.

Little did Mr Penalver know that his choice of reading, The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinnis, would transfer his football team's fortunes forever.

The book tells the true story of the football team from the small town of Castel di Sangro in Italy.


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The team, which came from a town with a population of just 5,000, shot to fame after working their way through the Italian equivalent of England's third, second and first divisions.

Mr Penalver was inspired and returned home determined that the same miracle could happen to his team.

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The overhaul began with changing the team's name from RBLC (Royal British Legion Club) Walton to Castel di Frinton.

Then followed a rise through the Clacton Sunday League divisions to the premier league by the end of this year'sseason.

Castel di Frinton also set a record by winning the Arthur Vincent Memorial Club while they were still in division two - the first division two team to win the cup.

Meanwhile, Mr Penalver and team captain Matthew Bowler travelled to Castel di Sangro in the Abruzzoregion of Italy and formed strong links with the club.

They met club president and team manager and visited Castel di Sangro's stadium and agreed to play a friendly.

Now Castel di Frinton will travel tomorrow to Castel di Sangro to fulfil a promise and play on Sunday the team that inspired their success.

Mr Penalver, 35, who has been with the team for 16 years, said all the players had begun to “believe in the magic” as they became more successful and were looking forward to playing against their heroes.

He added: “The main thing is playing against them, but I am not bothered if we win or lose to be truthful.”

Once Castel di Frinton return home, Mr Penalver said their aim was to win the premier division for the 2004-05 season to ensure a consecutive clean sweep of divison titles.

There are also plans for the Italian side to make a return trip to the UK for a second friendly.

annie.davidson@eadt.co.uk

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