5WF Crest of the Week: Sampdoria and the smoking sailor of Genoa

Welcome to a new weekly feature on 5WFootball, where we will look at some of the best crests in football. When you think of past teams, the first thought may well be the players, but secondary, the thought turns to the identity: the kit, the crest, the stadium, the fans. The emblem, like many elements in football, is rather cliché like – yes, some look nice, but nobody really knows what they mean. They are the symbol for the passion shared between fans and teams. This weekly feature celebrates the best, from all over the world. Welcome to week 1: Sampdoria. 

Sampdoria are not one of Italy’s most decorated clubs, but they have cult status to some level. Founded as Unione Calcio Sampdoria in 1946 after the merger of Sampierdarenese and Andrea Doria, the original logo featured a St-George’s cross. The red on the white field has become quite iconic as the symbol of the club’s home city of Genoa.

Whenever fans of I Blucherchiati purchase a replica shirt, they instantly become wearers of one of football’s most iconic kits – for further reading, see Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough with the Adidas Originals, Borussia Dortmund in the 1990’s, and Arsenal in the height of the Ferguson-Wenger rivalry. They also sport one of the most historic and classic crests in history, instantly recognisable on the same level as the likes of Paris Saint Germain’s Eiffel Towel or Liverpool with the liver bird.

Yet, unlike those two emblems defined by their city’s main landmark, Sampdoria’s takes a little more explaining.

In 1980, Sampdoria adopted their current crest, featuring a rather strangely shaped figure, that on closer inspection is a pipe-smoking sailor called Baciccia, which is the dialect name for Giovanni Battista (John the Baptist), the patron saint of the city of Genoa. Why a sailor? Well, Genoa is the greatest port in Italy, home of many luxury cruise liners.

The pipe went through a bit of uncertainty when an anti-smoking group in Italy complained that it encouraged smoking, a bad example for young people. Yes, this actually happened – the English football equivalent is environmental groups accusing Nottingham Forest’s crest as encouraging the act of cutting down trees. Despite the scare, the pipe remained on the hearts of La Samp players and fans.

The pipe-smoking sailor is the forefront, but still, the St George’s red on white remains. The reason behind this is a nod to Genoa’s English heritage in football: England adopted Genova’s flag some 700 years prior to Londoner James Richardson Spensley arriving in the Ligurian port ahead of him forming a footballing arm of the Genoa Cricket and Athletic Club in 1897.

Two years after the crest change, Sampdoria went through a golden age under oil magnate owner Paolo Mantovani. The club won the Italian Cup four times and won the Serie A title in 1991, while also getting to the 1992 European Cup final against Barcelona.

In the 1992 European Cup final, as well as the 1989 and 1990 Cup Winners Cup finals, UEFA ruled that Samp were not prohibited to feature their Baciccia pipe-smoker, hence going back to the classic design of the San Giorgio.

There have been many minor changes, with acknowledgements of previous trophy wins features on the other breast – such as a nod to Samp’s Scudetto win or their Italian Cup wins – but one thing remains. The pipe, and the passion that goes with the fans of Samp. Ale’ Doria. 


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