An Even Longer Day (of Football)

One of the problems of being a football fan is that so much of your heppiness relies on 15 (relatively, even allowing for lower league weirdos xx) handsomely paid men who couldn’t give a flying toss about you or your life deciding whether they can be bothered to do their jobs properly, or whether their boss has any idea how to tell them how to do their jobs, or not getting soundly trounced by a team barely ever in second gear. Especially when you knew that all along that Scolari was a poor choice as manager, and boooooooooooooo it’s all crashing down around our ears.

Anyway, multiplying this feeling by three is a questionable idea, especially when you have days like yesterday: Up at half seven to go on an away trip with Lodigiani to Collona, a little town 45 minutes on the train south from Termini, not far from Ciampino for those of you who have flown into there from the UK, and finishing at half eleven after a rip-roaring Roma-Milan game that also gave me one of the best goals I have ever seen live, courtesy of Brazilian Wonderkid de jour Pato.

The Lodi experience was as ever, amusing and odd, and a bit shambolic. This wasn’t helped by a new and disgusting character who went by the name Borgo. Borgo, for those of you who have seen ID, is a lot like Gumbo, only less simpathetic. He mumbles everything he says, usually spits while doing so, walks in a permanent zig-zag motion while nodding like a smackhead and dresses like he lives in a bin. Which for all I know he does.

Large portions of the whole day were spent shouting at him for:

  • Walking into the path of oncoming cars
  • Falling asleep
  • Spitting on people as he spoke
  • Drinking all the beer
  • Not singing
  • Saying fascisty things
  • Being constantly, incessantly on his fucking phone

He’d make a great sitcom character, only no-one would believe that someone could be so obnoxious, unpleasant and thoroughly useless and still have friends. I assume they keep him around as a sort of group cat, independent enough to buy pizza and drugs and to tell people to fuck off, but not quite well-formed enough a human being to really pay attention to anything anyone says, or care either way. He also stank, and farted like his arse was an exhaust pipe: in short, he was the sort of guy you go out of your way to avoid on away trips, but when there’s seven of you on the train it’s pretty tricky.

Luckily he did his best to avoid doing what he was supposed to be – supporting his team – and slept through most of the game and had his phone glued ot his ear for some reason or another, which seeing as he didn’t say a word to anyone at the other end hard to figure out why. Maybe he was testing to see  if there was enough brain up there to damage with radiation.

For once, the game was actually entertaining too, and although Lodi lost 3-1 and finished the game with nine men, some comical refereeing livening proceedings immeasurably. One of the Lodi guys was sent off for swearing at a player who had just two-footed him from behind, while the assaulter got away with a yellow, Collona had a goal disallowed which looked suspiciously over the line to me and at 3-1 decided that the best punishment for a Lodi player being flattened in the box was an indirect free-kick. On top of this, there was a 20 man brawl which ended in one of our boys being pulled off the pitch by his own keeper in a headlock. Beautiful. There was also a lot of not paying for things, like train travel and match tickets (I can’t believe they charge for this level of football) while waving the Portuguese flag around, and an irate old man who was so incensed at the use of a metal bin as a perch to direct chants from that he tried to kick it out from under him, all of which was pretty funny. And it was a very pretty place as well.

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Not so funny was the fascist guy who turned up on his own with a Palestinian flag (not to express solidarity with the opressed and murdered peoples might I add, but just to show off his fuck-witted anti-semitism), and then sprayed some celtic crosses around the place, doing all of us the world of good. On the train back there was a lot of anger at this, partly because it reflects badly on the group and casts them all as of that political persuasion, which Simone in particular seemed annoyed about, but mostly because they want to keep politics out of the group. Borgo of course thought otherwise, the bell end. 

Simone also told us that he never pays for public transport, taking trains down to Naples and back for a laugh and declaring that ‘Trenitalia is my house’, as well as showing us just how he bunks the metro (the classic move getting of getting in behind someone else who’s put their ticket in – I think it helps he’s almost as a short as the barriers mind you), and then went into one of his classic chats about English football. I zoned out at this point, I was tired and my brain had had enough of trying to decipher the Rome dialect.

So, a brief bit about Chelsea then. I’ve managed to watch a decent amount of our stuff through various channels and I think I have a vague idea of what we’re about, and it’s not looking good. It not  just that United turned us over good and proper without playing all that great, that can happen at Old Trafford, it’s more that we seem to be spluttering and hacking in every position, and that I can’t help but see cracks forming that may never be repaired. Now having known Ray Wilkins when I was a kid, I know that he is in fact a smashing guy, but I’m not convinced he’s a good enough coach, nor do I think that Scolari’s other coaches know how to keep a team fit over the course of a long season. We looked shot to bits after an hour of Sunday’s game and we are still conceding stupid goals from set-pieces, something we hardly ever did under you-know-who. Even worse is that we can’t blame injuries for that; we had Terry and Carvalho in the middle of the back four, and Cole and Boswinga on either side. Add Mikel in front and Cech behind and we should be pretty much inpenetrable, but we’re not, with individual errors and poor organisation making previously frightening defenders look like Gareth Hall. The most damning statistic is that we’ve only won seven out of our last 18 games, which form that won’t win us any trophies, and while that doesn’t bother me a huge amount – a healthy, stable club in the long-term is far more important to me – it’s a shame to see such a talented and commited group of players underperforming so badly. I just hope those who repeatedly slagged off Avram Grant while we took the title race to the last day of the season and the final of the Champions League are happy with what our new media-friendly,  exspansive style is bringing us.

Anyway, after saying pretty much the same thing to my newly-arrived in Rome mate who’d come round to watch the match, we set of for the Olimpico batting a poor zero for two, as I believe the yanks say. You haven’t been following football if you didn’t know that David Beckham was making his debut for Milan on Sunday evening, an event so momentus even the Guardian decided to do a (rubbish) match report with barely a word said about the giallorossi. So here goes nothing. Totti was out, so they decided to not persue with the three-man triangle up front, and instead reverted back to the five man midfield that caused them so many problems at the start of the season, with Vucinic up front on his own, and Baptista providing support of sorts from an attacking midfield position. Presumbaly this was to keep the pressure up on an ancient Milan midfield, but instead it kept their even older back four relatively free of trouble, and consequently the pinged back and forth between the sides, although Milan looked marginally more dangerous. Pato in particular looks like a real player, and in the second half he proved it by scoring two goals, the second of which was just insanely good and sent their huge travelling support absolutely mental (highlights below – just before the minute mark).

That put them 2-1 up within the space of 15 minutes in the second half after going in at the break behind to a Vucinic goal, and after that it looked like they might run away with it, Pato and Kaka were causing all sorts of problems down the left, and Roma were struggling to keep hold of the ball. Then Vucinic scored, completely out of the blue, and for the last 20 minutes it was pretty much all Roma; Mirko himself could have had a hat-trick if a flashed cross hadn’t hit his heel while he wasn’t looking. All in all it was a damn exciting game of football, and perked me up no end. It was also good to see a big crowd at the Olimpico; when it gets going it’s a pretty special place.

So, three games, two losses (both spankings) and one draw. As Scolari always says in his press conferences; this is football.

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Away Day (Yes I’m aware it’s been a while)

So, I have (possibly stupidly) agreed to do a little away day excursion with Lodigiani this Sunday. Turns out they want me to go with them as I bring good luck. Which seeing as I’ve only seen them win once is a bit of a stupid thing to say, but there you go.

So the schedule is this: meet at Termini for 8am. Eight fucking a fucking m. Still, they seem excited about it as it’s their first proper away trip on the trains since they came back into existence, and our man Simone seems, after a chat on messenger, to actually think I’m all right. Which is nice.

Can’t say I’m looking forward to the six hours spent struggling to understand a word they say mind you. Into the deep end I go…

Oh, and happy new year to those of you who are still bothering to read, I will try to keep updating this more regularly from now on.

The Longest Day (of Football) – Part Two

As Sunday mornings go, I can think of better starts than a trudge along a muddy suburban lay-by, being glowered at by a group of sloping foreheaded locals, and being given directions by a man who could barely be bothered to pull his trousers up from around his ankles. Or asking for a cup of tea in a cafe and seeing the woman behind the counter put cold water in the teapot. It also transpires that people over here also like to play really shit music at ear drum-perforating volumes through their mobile phones while they’re sat on buses, and that the outer suburbs of Rome are pretty grim – or at least Borghesiana, where Lodigiani play, is. I didn’t notice last time because last time I was too busy paying €30 to get a cab there from the bottom of the metro line at Anagnina, and the cabbie regaled me with stories of feeling his arsehole twitch in the away end at Galatasary. It’s an odd area where the tentacles of Rome reach out into the Lazio hinterlands; part countryside, with its big houses, gardens and small olive fields, and part desolate suburban rat hole, with stained grey tower blocks, a residential workers’ suppository where natives and immigrants live side-by-side in less than perfect harmony. This is where the ‘Baby Gangs’ – the local equivalent of what the British press hatefully call ‘Hoodies’ – demand payment from immigrants for rights of passage down certain streets, or simply kick the shit out of them for a laugh. It’s the part of the city that tourists will never see unless they happen to be passing through on a bus; scruffy and bizarre during the day, it would be downright unsettling walking around there during when it’s dark.

It’s strange then, that such a run-down suburb be host to the swanky sporting complex of La Borghesiana that Lodigiani play at, a place so posh that the national team have trained there, as well as various big European club sides like my own source of frustration, Chelsea. God only knows what they must have thought of the surrounding neighbourhood. This time I brought Spangles along, seeing as she was curious to see what it was actually like hanging with some proper ultras, and as we trudged up through the main driveway for the hotel, which had been flooded by the enormous storm that kept me up half the previous night I couldn’t help but think what a romantic boyfriend I was. But if I wanted an ego boost – and let’s be honest here, who doesn’t? – I got one. As I strolled down towards the ‘terrace’ I was spotted by the ultras and got a whopping great cheer as though I was a returning hero, fresh from shitting in Cisco president’s mouth. Chants of my name rang out, as well as the classic ‘Come on [insert my first name here]’ in the swaying style of a 1970s home end. It was fucking ace. Arriving fashionably late was never so well rewarded.

Luckily for me though, despite turning up over half an hour late I hadn’t missed any action, and let’s be honest, I’m not here for the actual football. Which is just as well, as it’s not that good. Lodi do a good job of beating a team above them in the league 2-0, and there was much bouncing and singing, lighting of flares, exploding of bangers and waving of scarves. Once again it’s all good fun, and well worth the pain in the arse travel. Although at half-time it’s quite obvious that they find me amusing, asking me whether I’m in the National Front and being mocked for my lack of Italian. None of which bothers me all that much, but I’d like to be able to talk to these people past rudimentary greetings and rehearsed questions.

One of the weird characteristics that they have as a group though, that despite being a good laugh and able to take the piss out of themselves (‘This is the cutting edge of tifo!!’ cried Stefano as they ballsed up another chant), there are moments when they take themselves paradoxically seriously. About half way through the second half the ball was cleared over the fence and our heads, and the Lodi coach asked the guys if one of them could get the ball back for them. ‘We’re not ball boys’ was shouted back, ‘we’re busy supporting you guys.’ As though the act of supporting in itself is the most important thing they could do, and getting the ball back would ruin it completely. It’s the odd mixture of devotion, dedication and giving yourself for the team that is mixed with an elevate sense of self that runs right through the ultras movement.

‘Look guys, we let you onto the pitch so you can put up your banners, why can’t you co-operate with us?’

‘What do you mean let us on? We’d just climb the fence anyway. Employ some ball boys if you want them collected.’

The exchange gave you a complete idea of what each party perceives Lodi to be. On the one hand you’ve got the coach, who sees this for what it is; a new club, with amateur players and not a huge amount of resources, and you have the ultras, who see their club as what they remember from when they were professional, who should be dealing with these things themselves. It also seems to be a way of keeping their distance from the club as a whole, which is nigh-on impossible when your they’re this small.

This row has since found its way online, with the guys complaining about being treated as ball boys (‘there are only a few of us, and if we have to collect balls then we are one voice less’ – again with the self-aggrandising) and asking why they didn’t come over to clap them after the game. The president then replied, explaining why he thought that they should have helped them out, and a player told them that they were waiting for them to come into the dressing room after the game to celebrate as usual (which I suppose is a nice touch, if a little weird and contradictory). Meanwhile Simone pops up to tell them that ‘frankly we were only 1-0 up, and they were attacking. I thought it would be a good way to time waste.’

Anyway, straight after the game Simone gave us a lift to Subausgusta on the metro and travelled with us to the Olimpico, where Roma were playing Fiorentina. On the way I noticed something, something very odd indeed about our man Simone. Knowing that we were both English, he spent most of his time asking questions about English football, as he’s ‘sick for it’, apparently. But the inquisitiveness isn’t the odd thing, it’s the way he starts nearly every sentence by saying the name of a football team, usually a lower league one. So there would be a small silence, punctuated by him saying ‘Plymouth Argyle’ (pronounced phonetically), or ‘effe chee oo-nye-ted’ (work that one out if you can) and a chat about those clubs. I don’t know whether he wants a biscuit every time he gets one right but he’s certainly very earnest about it, and frankly it’s nice to be in a situation where someone else is the linguistic clown for once.

In any case, it turns out that I’ve become a bit of a personality down Lodi way; as I was perusing their fanzine at half-time with Roma still at 0-0, I noticed that not only had they taken the piss out of my propensity to say ‘si si’ an awful lot, but they’d put me in their hot or not column. And ladies and gents, I can tell you that I am most definitely hot, which is nice. I’m a bit flattered and perplexed, really, although it’s fairly obvious they think I’m a bit weird, and I imagine think I’m absolutely hilarious with my shite conversation. I’m just trying to imagine if some Italian reporter showed up at a Sunday League team I played for and started speaking in Macaroni English at everyone. Actually there’d be people there who could speak Italian, so that wouldn’t work. But you get my point.

Right yes, Roma. Well they played out yet another extremely tense match, with both sides creating some wonderful chances. In the end the bionic fatty… sorry Totti scored the only goal of the game, after a flowing move swept from one end of the pitch to the other, although the keeper should definitely have saved it, as you can see hear:

In fits and starts Roma played some really fantastic football, but the nervousness form the bad start is still there, both on the pitch and in the stands. There’s very much a sense that at any moment they could throw the game away at any moment, and winning 1-0 is simply not enough to ease the nerves. In fact if it hadn’t been for a wonderful save from Doni in injury time from a Gilardino header (with the Roma defence backing off so far they were practically in the Sud) then the fans’ fears would have been justified. But, three wins on the bounce is good, and Julio Baptiste is starting to look like a real player.

We bumped into Simone on the tram after the game, and he pointed out the various Lodigiani graffiti all over the walls near the Olimpico. ‘That’s all my work’, he said. ‘Do you like it?’

I answered the only way I know how. ‘Si si.’

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More Lodigiani News

I forgot to mention in my last post that the Lodi ultras gave me a copy of number 73 of their fanzine Voce in Capitolo. I have been going through it (slowly but surely), and I’m pretty impressed with what I’ve read so far. The front cover has a picture of the Gabriele Sandri mural that is at the front of the Curva Nord for Lazio home games, and the headline ‘Remember, don’t forget!’ Above him is a quote from Napoleone; ‘Ten people that speak make more noise than 10000 who are silent’, which is pretty appropriate as a motto, seeing as there are only ten of them.

It’s only eight pages of A4 printed out on a home printer and helf together by a staple, but it has a clear idea of what it’s about and has some diverting articles from the ultras scene around. There’s an interesting story about racist Treviso ultras, who back in 1999 barracked a new signing, a Brazilian called Pelado, with racist chanting and even refused to show up for games. The local paper ran stories slagging off the ultras the club came out and publicly denounced them,  which culminated in all the Treviso players all coming out for the last game of the season with blacked up faces, as a show of solidarity. Seriously. There’s also the tale of Red Boys Ternana, who in 1992 split with the Curva Nord lot after they went all fascisty, then attacked the local MSI (cunty neo-fascist organisation) building for infiltrating their curva. As well as that there’s a hot or not column, in which they rather cheekily place themselves, while slagging off both Real Madrid’s support and Carla Bruni, for reasons I don’t quite understand, a diatribe against the police and how football fans are treated in this country by Simone that centres on Sandri’s death and a rather apposite piece on local public transport concerns. If anyone who isn’t in their group is reading this stuff I don’t know, but at least it’s pretty entertaining.

I am also mightily relieved to discover that they’re not a bunch of fascists. It’s a shame that the thought even crossed my mind, but with Italian ultras you never know, unfortunately. Right now I’m reading a piece that is lauding the Americans for voting for Barack Obama (going a little bit over the top in the process – American Dream my arse), and wondering when a similar change will happen in Italy. It’s also quite a good piece, so I’ve painstakingly translated as much as I can for you to read.

The Wind of Change and the Calm Italian

So Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States, and their first black president. The United States have always been great innovators, and in moments of recession and crisis make their democracy really work. Seeing the images of winner Obama appearing before his people made me feel profound emotions, and I felt like I belonged to that historic and unrepeatable moment. It was a victory against the history of America and against it’s historic prejudice.

But this is the American Dream. This is America, a land where nothing is impossible, and where everyone has a chance of their own. Where those who want to change, can do it. This change came from the grass roots, because before he could run for the Presidency he had to convince the people of his own party (after a very long campaign of democratic nominations against Hilary Clinton), and then not to just the voters of colour, but also the young and the poorest. There is excitement for what has happened in America. Maybe Obama will do well, maybe not, but America has sent out a message. And a strong one at that.

Today however, despite the joy of Obama’s election, I want to kick anyone who crosses my path and scream so loud that everyone can hear me. Today I feel, alongside my joy for the American fable, a profound sense of defeat, and rage. When will the true grass roots revolution happen here, like in America? When will we young finally be able to have a political figure close to us, who represents us, whose principle priority is to guarantee everyone a standard of life worthy of the name and not to protect their own arses from prosecution or to maintain the status quo of Rai and Mediaset? When will we be capable of kicking the arses of the political class that has destroyed us, removed all hope and made the country go gangrenous? The world has changed! America has Obama, Germany has a woman chancellor and Spain and Great Britain choose young Prime Ministers, while we are still here to watch the television regime that gives you only the information that it wants to, like the embalmed Andreotti they croak on live TV and with the delirious statements quoted from a tarred Prime Minister and his stooges that, sincerely, I don’t know how they have achieved this level of power… and meanwhile I ask myself where is my generation, who should have fought for these times and instead never has? Where is that student mass that looked like it wanted to do who knows what a few days ago?

How many times have we criticised the Americans because they are lobbyists and warmongers, people without values? But they come out of their skin when they need to and they don’t have even need grand demonstrations in squares for change. We make false claims of democracy, but in reality were are hand in hand with people that trample on our constitution and liberty, while the few young people that are still passionate about politics join the war between fascism and communism, categories from which the rest of the world have seperated themselves. We are always so far behind, and maybe we will never move. contemporary history teaches us that the great historical, economic and social movements come from America, before arriving in Europe. And then, after a long time, maybe, they arrive in Italy.

We know that to only vent about it doesn’t truly serve anything in itself, but I hope that Obama’s political tsunami invests in Italy, sooner or later. I hope that when it comes to voting we abandon the old logic of clientelism. I hope that we will not vote for more of the squallid functionaries of parties and their errand boys, but people that can represent our us. Maybe sooner or later a Dream Italy will exist. But right now I can’t imagine it.

Now, as I said before, it goes over the top in it’s arse licking of the American process, but it’s a refreshing change to see football fans engaging with politics in a way that isn’t coloured by class or racial bigotry, let me tell you. It also gives me a chance to post this for you to whistle along to….

The Longest Day (of Football)

For over thirty years, there was a football club in Rome that plugged away in the lower divisions of the Italian league, in the shadows of the two Serie A giants. AS Lodigiani played at the Flaminio, a stadium not five minutes away from the Olimpico, now used to hosting international Rugby matches, and while they were clearly destined to go nowhere, they had a small but committed group of fans who followed them around the country. Within that group there were Ultras Lodigiani, the colour and noise of the fan base. When Lodigiani merged with another lower league club – Cisco Calcio Roma – in 2004, it was apparently ok with both sets of fans, and they started the 2004/05 season as AS Cisco Lodigiani. However, as often happens, one side turned out to be more equal than the other. Eventually they dropped Lodigiani from their name (despite keeping the rights to it) and reverted to AS Cisco Calcio Roma, taking Lodi’s founding date of 1972 and putting on their crest.

As you can imagine the fans of Lodigiani weren’t exactly happy about all this, especially the Ultras. Without a senior club for four years, they turned up at Lodi’s youth team games to sing and chant for their team. That all changed this year though, as their club reformed it’s first team and started playing in the seventh tier of Italian football, which is entirely amatuer. I’d been in touch with them via their website, basically because I thougt that there was a feature in it, and they were more than happy to have me along to watch a game with them.

I was supposed to go last week to an away game within easy reach of my flat, but I showed up at the ground at half two, only to be greeted by a bunch of fifteen year olds playing on the pitch and a woman at the bar telling me the game kicked off at midday. Not my smartest move. But it meant that I got to watch them at home instead this week, with home for Lodigiani a pitch in a very swanky hotel called La Borghesiana right on the outskirts of Rome, surrounded by pretty rough looking suburbs. Around the place were other pitches with kids having their weekly session of parents shouting at them, but the faint sound of singing and drumming drew me over the horizon. As I approach the ground I saw the guys, stood on a small metal temporary terrace, with huge banners in front of them that almost cover the fencing in front. It’s a classic ultra style, but more than a little incongruous when your ground is three steps high.

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As you can imagine, approaching a close-knit group of friends with whom I’d only spoken to via email, and who belong to a society who traditionally don’t like the press, was a bit daunting. But they turned out to be a good bunch of fellas, who enjoyed my comparison of them to AFC Wimbledon (‘Ah, si si, AFC Weemblidon!’) and were keen to explain the club’s current state to me and their feelings on Cisco, which added up to ‘we don’t even think about Cisco.’ As casual dismissals go, it sounded like the fake disinterest of a spurned lover who wasn’t quite over the heartache. ‘We’re third in the league,’ said Stefano, the main who I’d been in most contact with, at half-time. ‘but this is a terrible game of football. The seventh level of football isn’t very good usually.’ Unfortunately he was right.

Nevertheless, they wanted me to get me involved in the experience. They did this by handing me a flare and saying ‘Come on, get involved’ (or words to that affect), which I have to say, was pretty fucking ace. As was waving a scarf, bouncing up and down and generally acting the twat at what is essentially a park league match. It was great fun, and a close up look at what an ultras group is really about; a group of mates who care about their team putting effort into supporting them however they can, whether that be by singing, drumming, or plastering humungous pieces of card with slogans demanding justice for the dead Lazio ultra Gabriele Sandri. There also doesn’t seem to be any self conciousness about considering themselves the equals (or even betters) of the Fedayn in the Curva Sud, or Lazio’s Irriducibile, despite the fact only those on the substitutes bench can see what their pronouncements are. It doesn’t matter to them, if they were looking for attention there are far better places to be than a remote hotel in the Lazio countryside. What’s important is the believing in the message, and delivering it in the traditional ultra way, via home made banners and screaming it out at the top of your voice.

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The game? Oh that. They lost an absolutely dire contest (even for that level) 1-0, and provided exactly one moment of excitement. While chasing an equaliser with the tried and tested method of humping it forward into the mixer, the ball broke to an unnamed Lodi player six yards out, who somehow managed to hit the goalie in the face. The ball span off the post and up in the air, only for another unnamed Lodi player to bicycle kick it back against the same post from the same distance. There was barely time for a brief burst of ‘Que sara sara’ (I really must learn the words to that song) before the ref called time and the boys could put all their flags and banners away.

After the game I managed to sponge a lift back to the metro off the guy with the drum. His name is Simone and he’s from Cinecitta, an area in the south east of Rome that was once home to the Italian film industry, but is now an almost forgotten tourist attraction hemmed in by the expansion of the city in the 1960s. It’s most famous for being where Ben Hur and Cleaopatra were made, as well as Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns, but it still makes a few bob from American film and TV programme makers who want a spot of ‘authetic’ artistry. Simone is a short, quite stocky guy who’s also very pleasant and quite inquisitive, and we have a semi-stilted but quite interesting chat on the way back, mainly about football. Like most Italian football fans, he’s fairly knowledgable about the English game, although explaining that people from Liverpool were called scousers was a bit of a tricky one. ‘So everyone in England hates Liverpool as well?’ was possibly by favourite repsonse of the half hour journey. We started talking about the derby, which was that evening, and I asked him what he thought of the city’s two big clubs. ‘Oh, I’m a Roma fan, in the Curva Sud, although I never pay to get in.’ From what I could gather he’s not a fan of either the Roma ultras groups or the regulations that prohibit things like smoke bombs and flares, although I’m not sure what his specific beef is with the guys in the Sud.

Inbetween picking up his girlfriend, predicting the score for the derby and dropping me off at Subaugusta we exchange emails and talk about meeting up for the game next week. ‘We’re playing in a little village not far from, so come along if you want.’ I think I will as it happens, if not for the football then the chance to hang about with some different people and ruthlessly exploit them for an article or something. Cynical hack, that’s me.

The derby then. Well anyone who was already interested will know the score and the circumstances surrounding it. The game finished 1-0 to Roma of course, and the second half was one of the most fraught, ytense encounters I’ve ever been to. The atmosphere was garnished with a full plate of nerves, and as such the Sud never got going collectively; there was just too much riding on this game for Roma to get singing, espeically with Lazio were almost constantly on the attack. Even when down to ten men they were the better team going forward, and there were three proper heart in mouth moments, the worst of which was just after Baptista glanced home a superb header from a wonderful Totti cross. God knows who it was that missed from eight yards though, I could hardly see the other end of the pitch through the weed smoke. In any case, it was a collosal win for Roma, which was carried out almost in the shadow of the anniversary of Sandri’s death, commemorated by both sets of fans with a five minute absence of singing or flag waving. A sign of solidarity between fans, for good and bad reasons; the Boys group in the Sud put up a questionable banner, which read ‘Two curva, different colours, same values, same honour’. The fascists twats.

There was a one-legged guy who was sat in front of me, who when Roma scored, hopped backwards out of his seat to pile into a bunch of strangers, before hopping back into his seat with his arms in the air and his eyes shut, shouting ‘FORZA ROMA!’ It was the single most amazing thing I think I’ve ever seen at a football match, and at the end of the game he was almost in tears, while everyone else hugged, roared and headbutted the wall at the back of the Sud. I kind of stood there, clapping alone, feeling like a tiny bit of a dick.