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Ooh La La ….Italia

L’amore fa passare il tempo, il tempo fa passare l’amore.

— Anonimo (scheda)


Monday 18th February 2013 Evo-Stik Southern League k.o.:- 7.45pm
Premier Division

Hitchin Town                           0                          Leamington                        1

                                                                                           Ricky Johnson 90+1

referee:- J. Richardson                                                attendance:- 350


It’s Monday, it must be Hitchin Town! As Phil said, “I must have shares in Hitchin Town”! This was my eighth visit on a Monday night this season, four cup replays and four league outings. Tonight league leaders, Leamington were the visitors and The Canaries, despite their lowly position matched them magnificently for ninety minutes, but then conceded a goal in added time that condemned them to yet another defeat. This time it was certainly undeserved!

Tuesday 19 February 2013 npower Championship k.o.:- 7.45pm

Derby County                      1                      Bolton Wanderers                  1

Jamie Ward 81                                                Craig Dawson      45+1

referee:- Gavin Ward                                     attendance:- 22,145

My partner’s daughter, Francesca, who lives and works in Derby, invited me to this match as we both have some affinity  for The Trotters! I should have allowed more time because both the M1 and the A52 were clogged with traffic and having arranged to meet up in The Merlin, hard by the stadium, for a meal at 6.00pm, I didn’t actually arrive until 7.00pm!

Francesca, before the game.

Francesca, before the game, with The Mona Lisa smile.

I’ve never (in four attempts) seen a Bolton victory at Pride Park, but at least this time, they didn’t lose, as they had done on the previous three occasions! However, as a spectacle, this was a dismal, woeful affair. It was littered with mistakes, devoid of creativity and a war of attrition. I really would have to be a masochist to watch such inept rubbish week in week out! It was a cool evening that got markedly colder as the match reached half-time, yet one Bolton fan chose to show his voluminous paunch off in public throughout the entire match!

A hardy Wanderers fanatic!

A hardy Wanderers fanatic!

A draw was probably a fair result, but it did feel like a giant fraud. Over 22,000 fans were fleeced of more than twenty pounds each – or, in my case, an old man gonna die soon, £15.50 – to watch a match that was no better and certainly less exciting than last night’s offering at Hitchin Town.

Pride Park

Pride Park

Wednesday 20th February 2013  Chromasports & Trophies United Counties League k.o.:- 7.45pm

Premier Division

Huntingdon Town                         3                  Desborough Town                   0

Stuart Eason 24

Jamie Graham 27,83

referee:- Kevin Seckington                                  attendance:-  47


It was a bitterly cold night with a sharp wind. It always seems to be cold at Huntingdon Town even in mild weather. They have substantially improved the ground, but sadly not too much for the benefit of spectators! The tiny stand that has been erected housed a mere three spectators and felt as accommodating as a freezer with an icy blast blowing through it!


Sadly, Ar Tarn lacked their most creative player, Tom Mills, who had cried off at lunchtime. Huntingdon were in no mood to take prisoners and their direct approach lead to two goals midway through the first half and a final goal seven minutes from time finally killed off their opponents. Adam Randall, playing for Desborough was the subject of some home catcalls – “where’s Hopkirk?” to which came the inevitable response from one who had lived through the TV series ….”Deceased!”

Saturday 23rd February 2013   Campionato Berretti  k.o.:- 2.30pm

Girone A

Como                                         1                              Tritium                            3

Niesi 58                                                                       Scaldoferro 55,  Motta 63

                                                                                       Brumana 71 (og)

referee:- Sig. Faccincani Alessio (Legnano)                 attendance;- 105


This wasn’t the start I wanted! I had planned to go to the Serie B match between Pro Vercelli (seven scudetto between 1892 and 1910) and Bari, but a little local difficulty meant that this fixture was played behind closed doors. Apparently, the referee had been too severely accosted during a previous match and several players and the club had been fined, but as a further punishment, they had to play one match behind closed doors. They appealed this judgement, but the appeal was turned down late on Friday evening and the match went ahead behind closed doors with Pro Vercelli coming from behind to win 2-1.


Amazingly, there is not a lot of football played in Italy on a Saturday and what little there was seemed to be taking place a long way from Lombardy! Eventually, I took the train from Milan Cadorna to Como Lago and then a taxi for the eighteen kilometre drive up into the mountains to Bizzarone, to the Centro Sportivo Communale “Diego Bruga”. It was here that Como of Serie C played their Campionato Nazionale Dante Berretti Girone A fixtures.These are fixtures for under-18 teams from Serie A and Serie B, but for under-19 teams from Serie C and Serie D. There were no programmes and entrance was five euros.


A few of the sparse crowd which turned out for this match!

The match was played on a plastic pitch, not one of your modern G3 pitches, but more like Luton Town or QPR in the early eighties. It was a surprisingly good match. Como held out well for the first half, but after half-time, Scaldeferro, the Tritium number 9 began to inflict an increasing influence on the game. He scored the first and had a hand in both the other goals his team scored and his power, pace and vision made him the outstanding player on the pitch.


On a hill behind the opposite side of the ground a church was perched right at the crest!

That evening, my sister Margaret and her partner Luigi and I went out for a meal in Milan. We went to a small select restaurant that Luigi had located, a Sardinian fish restaurant called “Osteria, La Cala”. To start with we had ravioli, the cases of which had been dyed black using cuttlefish ink and were filled with a loose fish paste. Then we had a boiled fillet of a white fish called “Little St Peter”. This was particularly tasty and was accompanied by boiled potatoes and artichokes. The whole was washed down with a bottle of fine red Sardinian wine. Then, to finish the meal off we had a strong Sardinian goats cheese and coffee and brandies. It was one of the best Italian meals I’ve had over the years!

Sunday 24th February 2013                  Serie    A                            k.o.:- 3.00pm

Juventus                          3                                  AS Siena                                   0

Lichtsteiner 30, Giovinci 64

Pogba 89

referee:- Celi di Bari                                                               attendance:- 38,461



The slow train to Torino Porta Susa took an hour and fifty minutes. A couple of stops down from this gleaming new edifice, the driverless metro decanted us at Bernini and from there we boarded a tram for the twenty minute ride to Juventus Stadium. It was a truly magnificent stadium built on a grand scale and this was only the second season it had been used. The local tifosi were friendly, but the hassle getting into the ground would cause riots in England! First of all we had to show passports with our tickets. Once through that gate, we were searched and any bottles (even plastic ones) and cigarette lighters were confiscated and binned. After that, we had to queue yet again for the privilege of inserting our tickets into the automatic turnstiles. Once inside the ground the impression is of wide open space. The seats had high backs – as high as your head – but the row in front was so much lower down, there was no need to strain to see over the  heads in front. The view was magnificent.


The football, however, was decidedly ordinary. Siena, with six points deducted for an infringement and struggling in the relegation zone, were just no challenge for the league leaders and even at a canter, Juventus popped in three goals and really ought to have had a lot more. The Drughi Ultras behind the goal at one end are reputed to be the most feared in Italy (they take their name from a gang in the film:  “The Clockwork Orange”). Today, however, I doubt if there were fifty Siena fans in the stadium.


My sister, Margaret and her partner Luigi at the match!

It is amazing how much information can be gleaned from these matches which is purely statistical. The attendance, for instance was divided up into 11,019 “paganti’ (casual purchasers of tickets) and 27,442 “abbonati” (season ticket holders). The paganti paid in total 384,320 euros and the abbonati 873,175 euros, making the total income for the game purely from ticket sales of 1,257,495 euros. This was a sum to be dwarfed by the next match!


You can just make out the “Drughi” banner

high up on the rail behind the goal! 

The train back from Porta Susa was an entirely different kettle of fish from the morning’s journey. This was one of the super fast 300kph trains which took only fifty minutes to get to Milan Centrale on its way to Rome. From there, I was on my own on the Metro. I had elected to go straight to the second match and I was glad that I did, because even an hour before kick-off the Metro was crowded!

Sunday 24th February 2013           Serie A                k.o.:- 8.45pm

Inter Milan                             1                                  AC Milan                        1

Schelotto 71                                                                  El Shaarawy 21

referee:- Mazzoleni di Bergamo                             attendance:- 79,341 (2,715,315 euros!)



The stadium approach looks like the space ship from “ET”!

Getting into the ground was a complete free for all. They did have officials looking at identity cards, but I was able to sneak past fairly easily, so big was the crush to get past the first barrier. They did have officials frisking and body searching, but again, I managed to evade them and reached the automatic turnstile to insert my ticket and at last gain entry to the ground. Just before I got to the turnstile, there was a thunderous “bang” which nearly lifted me off my feet. I had forgotten the fireworks and flares that are always a part of The San Siro. There had been none at Juventus Stadium. The fans were massed behind each goal, blue and black at the far end and red and black at the near end. However, apart from that, fans of both clubs sat side by side in other parts of the ground. I had two Milan fans to my immediate left and two Inter fans to my immediate right!



“You make my heart tremble …you make me stop breathing!”

The match was a tense affair. Milan were the better side and held off their rivals with such consummate ease that it was a surprise when Inter actually equalised. It almost felt as if it had been choreographed to end in a draw. Mid-way through the second half, the smoke from the flares was so bad that we couldn’t make out the opposite goal! Mario Balotelli was a revaluation. He has good movement off the ball and was twice desperately unlucky not to score. He seemed to play with much more freedom than he had at Manchester City.


High up in the upper tier, cheer leaders standing outside the front barrier during the match!


You can just make out, high above the players heads,

the floating camera that zoomed around like a puppet on strings

filming the match from above!

At the end, there was a mass scrummage to the exits. The long walk down to Lotto Metro was plagued by mounds of refuse – plastic bottles and cans, which littered the slush and the droves of motorcyclists haring past at breakneck speed! The Metro was a peaceful haven and on the twenty minute journey back to San Babila, I was even able to chat to some of the fans. I was back in the hotel by 11.30pm!


I love Italy, Italian football and especially, The San Siro. However, I was truly impressed with The Juventus Stadium. It made some of our recent build stadia look decidedly cheap and shabby. No expense had been spared and there seemed to be acres of space everywhere inside so that there was never a crush or a sprawl. Even the toilets had to be seen to be believed! This was only my fourth visit to see Italian football, but it was by far, the most enjoyable!

I felt sad, early on Monday morning as I boarded The Malpensa Express at Cadorna to catch my flight home, that I wasn’t staying for the ‘lunedi” (Monday) match between Udinese and Napoli. Later in the day, back in England, I noticed that it had ended 0-0!

Arrividerchi Milan (and Turin and Bizzarone!)


PS.:- Inter were fined 40,000 euros after the match by The Italian FA for fans who were chanting racist comments at Mario Balotelli. With the cacophony of sound in the stadium, I am surprised they could pick out any individual chants!



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