Soccer-Atalanta's Gasperini glad to end Italy's 25-year Europa League drought


Soccer Football - Europa League - Final - Atalanta v Bayer Leverkusen - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland - May 22, 2024 Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini celebrates with the trophy after winning the Europa League REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

(Reuters) - Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini is proud of bringing the Europa League trophy to Italy after 25 "cursed" years, the coach said after his side's emphatic 3-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the final.

Ademola Lookman's stunning hat-trick helped Atalanta secure a second major trophy in their 117-year history in the final in Dublin on Wednesday.

They became the first Italian club to win the competition since Parma in 1999, when it was known as the UEFA Cup.

"Hugely proud for all of Italy, because it was a cursed trophy, even if it was only Inter and Roma who made the final over the last 25 years and lost," Gasperini told reporters.

"Having won it with Atalanta is perhaps one of those footballing fairytales that very rarely happen and it does show there's still room for meritocracy in football.

"There's still room for ideas, and it doesn't only come down to numbers and the super league (clubs)."

The club, founded in 1907, has a long and rich history intertwined with the northern Italian city of Bergamo. In 2020, Bergamo became an epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The severity of the outbreak reported a death rate five times higher than in previous years and wreaked havoc on its economy.

Asked what it means to the people of Bergamo after the challenges of the pandemic, he said: "It's hard to erase certain scares even if a number of years have since passed by. They were very painful moments.

"The people of Bergamo were always ready to react even when it got tough. Of course, we won't be able to do away with all of that pain, but I think we have managed to put a smile on the faces of the people of Bergamo."

(Reporting by Shifa Jahan in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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