Como are making a splash in Italy with help from football's A-listers

‘It’s not just a place where George Clooney goes’: Como has long been the beauty spot favoured by Hollywood royalty… now the club by the lake are making a splash in Serie B with help from football’s own A-listers – SPECIAL REPORT

  • Como 1907 has turned heads by attracting big names to their cause this summer 
  • Cesc Fabregas joined the playing squad, while Thierry Henry invested in the club
  • The Serie B side are aiming for a spot in Serie A after years of mismanagement 
  • Bought by the Djarum Group in 2019, Dennis Wise has been installed as CEO
  • They are keen on helping the community, launching their Como4Como scheme 
  • Click here for all the latest World Cup 2022 news and updates

As the European holiday destination of choice for Hollywood royalty, including George Clooney and Ben Affleck to name but a few, Lake Como has never had any problems in enticing global stars to its shores.

The same cannot be said for its football team. A modest outfit that has spent most of its existence rotating between stints in Serie B and C, the side occupying the Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia on the banks of the water have historically been anything but glitz and glamour.

Beyond World Cup winners Marco Tardelli and Pietro Vierchowod gracing the club in the seventies, there are few names to stir the memory among Como 1907’s alumni. A best ever finish of sixth in Serie A in 1950 is the height of their achievements. Ambition has been tempered by experience. Two bankruptcies in the space of two decades will do that to a club.

Serie B Como are causing a stir as they look to make their way back into Italy’s top flight 

The project, both on and off the pitch, has attracted top professionals, such as Cesc Fabregas

That is no longer the case. The past summer has seen former Arsenal and Chelsea icon Cesc Fabregas join the club, which was bought in 2019 by the Darjum Group, an Indonesian tobacco conglomerate.

Thierry Henry has invested, too, and is now a figure in the boardroom. Aspiration has arrived in abundance.

‘More often than not people talk about Como because of the town, and how magnificent it is, how great it is – the lake, the houses,’ Henry tells Sportsmail.

‘I know for a fact the likes of Benoit Cauet finished his career here, Tardelli played here. It used to be a good club that used to develop a lot of youngsters.’

The hope is that it can be that again. The development of the club, both on and off the pitch, has been placed in the hands of Dennis Wise. The former Chelsea captain has returned to football after his self-imposed hiatus to take up the post of CEO.

His work has already helped deliver a new training ground, on which the club spent €1million. They are looking to acquire a further two-acre plot in order to house the men’s, women’s and academy set ups all at the same base.

An ambitious project launched by the owners has seen the club purchase a new training base

There is considerable effort being dedicated to improving the stadium, too. Negotiations are ongoing on securing a 99-year lease for their dilapidated home, which currently accommodates fewer than 5,000 fans at each game owing to safety measures.

COMO 1907 FACT FILE 

Founded: 1907 (refounded in both 2005 and 2017)

Owners: Djarum Group

CEO: Dennis Wise 

Head Coach: Moreno Longo

Notable players: Cesc Fabregas, Patrick Cutrone, Luis Binks

Honours

Serie B: 1948-49, 1979-80, 2001-02

Serie C: 1930-31, 1967-68, 1978-79, 2020-21

Serie D: 2007-08, 2018-19

Best Finish: Serie A, 6th (1949-50) 

Securing it would allow for some much-needed renovations, but the owners are eyeing more than a lick of paint. If the preferred plans are approved, there is talk of a host-city bid for Euro 2032, should Italy’s proposal to host the tournament succeed.

‘There’s a lot of opportunities here that can really give a buzz to the community and give jobs to the people,’ says Wise. ‘I think that’s an important part of what we want to try and do. The local companies, we want to try and involve them.’

Nothing illustrates this more than the club’s Como4Como scheme.

While Henry was being unveiled to the press last month, Como took the chance to announce their flagship community initiative. It was a pledge that by 2025, all resources used by the club, from the grass on the pitch to the food sold in the stands, will be locally sourced. If it’s not available, they’ll work with the community to produce it.

The scheme is the latest gesture from the club to a group that has come to distrust those in control of the city’s team.

‘They had two bankruptcies before this group went and bought it. Nobody really trusted people that bought this football club,’ says Wise of a club that counts Michael Essien’s wife among its failed ownerships.

‘Already that has changed so much, in a period of just over three years. That was important to us, to show we are serious people, that we’re going to do what we’re going to do because if we weren’t I wouldn’t be here. It’s really simple.’

New details of the club’s #Como4Como campaign were revealed at Thierry Henry’s press conference (l-r): Djarum Group representative Mirwan Suwarso, Dennis Wise, Henry, Mayor Alessandro Rapinese and Darren Dein

Other programmes are already bearing fruit. The club have pledged profits from shirt sales to regional causes for the next two seasons. So far, pre-sales have sailed past the 4,000 mark.

The strips are sponsored by Djarum’s streaming service subsidiary – Mola TV. As in the UK, there is a ban on advertising and sponsorship for tobacco companies in Italy, but nothing preventing them from owning clubs. 

In any case their business is multi-faceted these days. The majority of its wealth owes to their ownership of Indonesia’s largest private bank – Bank Central Asia.

There were donations to local hospitals during the Covid pandemic totalling €125,000. Another €100,000 has since been provided for other causes. Both the Henry and Fabregas have cited Como’s community focus as a major factor in their own involvement.

The fact that the city’s mayor Alessandro Rapinese was part of the panel introducing the Frenchman shows how closely bonds between club and community are being formed.

Como will committ all profits from shirt sales to helping the community for this year and next

Incredible really then, that the club was purchased almost by accident. Initially, the owners had sought to own a European club capable of blooding the best young players from Indonesia. Their promotion to Serie C as the takeover went through proved problematic, with Italian rules stating non-EU players cannot be bought by clubs in the second and third tier.

That changes in Serie A, and so promotion would provide an added benefit of finally realising one of the ownership group’s visions.

Not that the presence of Fabregas et al guarantees results. The goal of returning to the top flight for the first time since 2003 is far from assured, as their latest board member is at pains to state.

‘Have you seen the teams that just came down?’ Henry says. ‘People don’t know but it’s very tough to go up to Serie A.

‘Do you know how many teams want to go back to Serie A? Some are well-equipped, some aren’t so well equipped. Whatever it is, you never know who is going to be successful.’

As Wise points out, though, there is more than one measure of success for Como.

‘People now know it’s not just a lake and that’s what I wanted to do,’ he says. ‘In time more people will know that this is a football club. And it’s not just a place where George Clooney goes.’

Henry’s arrival has showcased the pulling power of the club’s ambitious community project 




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