Tis Returns to Italy! Day 42: Football Is Life!!!
If you have ever seen the delightful comedy, Ted Lasso, then you cannot possibly forget the spirited Dani Rojas, who runs out on the practice pitch, chanting happily “Football is LIIIIIIIIIIIIFE!!!!!!!! Let’s just set the scene for Day 42 by saying I was channeling my inner Dani Rojas today.
One of the things I most wanted to experience while in Italy was to go to some football (aka soccer) matches. Of particular interest to me was the UEFA Nations League semi-final between Italy and Spain, to be held on October 6 in Milan.
I watched for weeks until tickets went on sale. Finally, when they were available, I splurged a bit and purchased a good seat. You only live once, right? Next, I made an appointment at the local pharmacy to get the required Covid test and came back the next day. Negative. I got the required digital certification. I was on my way!
After a 5 ½ hour train journey from my apartment in Tuscany, I arrived in Milan. The game started at 8:45 pm so I quickly dropped my bag at my hotel and headed out to San Siro stadium to check out the neighborhood and the pre-game atmosphere.
When I arrived around 6 pm, the vendors were already lined up selling their game day souvenirs. I bought an “Italia” scarf to show where my allegiance was in the evening’s battle. I was surprised to see the area around the stadium was full of residential buildings. Where was the line of pubs catering to game day fans looking for pre-game drinks?
Confused, I googled and found a little pub down the street. I had a beer there and then headed back toward the stadium, assuming I’d just go to my seat early.
I should have turned the corner earlier after buying my scarf. What a party! The area around the stadium was packed with a “state fair” atmosphere. Food trucks were selling all kinds of street food staffed by workers happily serving the long lines of people. I decided to join the party and bought a beer and a “hot dog”, which was a delicious sausage in a bun. The fast-food is just much better quality in Italy.
As I wanted to see some of the pre-game, I headed in around 8 pm. The atmosphere was electric! San Siro Stadium has a capacity of over 80,000 and even with Covids limits and a crowd of 45,933, the crowd was noisy and fun. I settled in and watched the Italian and Spanish flags being rolled out on the field, kicking off the opening ceremonies for the first of two semi-final games.
Let the Game Begin!
Finally, the players were headed to the field. I watched as the Italian team emerged from the tunnel and lined up shoulder to shoulder, opposite the Spaniards. The team was full of talent, having recently won the Euro championship. It was simply exciting to have a chance to watch these title-holders do what they do best.
It’s been said many times that watching the Italian team sing their national anthem is one of the most inspiring moments you’ll see in sports. They stand, tall and proud, singing together passionately at the top of their lungs. I joined in from my seat close above. It was an amazing moment.
Finally, the game began. Italy were all over Spain at first, making several attempts on goal right from the beginning. I was thinking it was just a matter of time before they scored. However, they simply could not convert and began to lose the quality of play. They ended up losing 2-1.
A loss did not diminish the thrill of being at a game like this for me. As I exited the stadium, the crowds were lining up once again for beers and more street food. I joined them for one more drink, trying to savor the atmosphere of such an amazing night for just a little bit longer…
Ciao for now!