Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ankaragucu fan Battle Damaged Damon at the Derby della Madonnina

Probably because my love affair with football really began with my first Ankaragucu match, which probably cost 2 Euro, I never felt the need to be embarrassed about the amount of money I spent on a ticket. This is no longer the case.

The normal ticket price for the 1 arancio section of San Siro where I would be sitting was already 100 Euro (at least four times higher than the most I have ever paid to see a Gucu match). On top of that, however, I wound up paying 80 Euros more in commission. On the up side, however, I didn't have to lift a finger to find the ticket. I merely mentioned that I was looking for one to the helpful staff of Una Maison Milano where we were staying, and--voila! Next thing I knew, they had found it for me.

It is at moments like this that I realize how lucky I am. I couldn't help but think of the dedicated Gucu fans who go to away matches on the free buses only to find that the tickets have been priced out of their reach. They then wind up hanging out outside the stadium bumming cigarettes off passersby like Eski Kanka Jim.

The next step: getting to the stadium proved to be nearly as easy as getting the ticket had been. I merely stepped outside the hotel, crossed the street to the tram stop and caught the 16 which I had been told would drop me off right in front of San Siro. This was not exactly the case, but when the tram came to the end of the line, and all the Inter fans grabbed their little blue and black striped seat cushions and ran to a nearby bus, I had the good sense to follow them. That bus did, in fact, drop us off directly in front of the stadium.

After asking directions from a few people, I found the correct gate and got in line. It had been raining a lot, and the ground was covered in puddles and slick with pieces of wet paper that were lying nearly every where. As we proceded to move towards the row of turnstiles there was a fair bit of pushing. I craned my neck to see what the procedure was. It turned out that the turnstiles were unmanned. When I got there, I merely had to slide my ticket into a scanner, and through I went. This process seemed to work more efficiently than going through the manned single turnstile gates at 19 Mayis Stadium.

My ticket was then checked by security before I headed up to the section where I would be sitting. There was a winding staircase littered with debris similar to the ones in housing projects in big cities. When I emerged, I saw more or less what you see in this photo. In retrospect, I realize that also unlike Ankara, at no point was I frisked. Fine by me.

I looked down and saw that they had a special section for fans in wheelchairs. A section that either doesn't exist in Ankara, or, if it does, is a lot less obvious.

Two of my favorite features of San Siro were the sound system which was both loud and extremely clear and the two enormous screens. I guess I can only dream of audio and video of that quality in Turkey.

The way things are going for Benitez nowadays, I am sure he too is dreaming--of better days.

This score did not stay up for long. I think it was in the 4th minute that Ibrahimovic apparently got fouled shortly after entering the penalty box with a defender on either side. I say apparently because players were slipping all over the place, so I have no idea whether he was really fouled or whether he too merely slipped. Of course, one of the two players was Materazzi, so he probably was fouled. In any case, the ref gave him a penalty shot. The score became 0-1 and it remained that way for the rest of the match.

The section I was seated in was a strange one. It appeared to be for visitors. Not for the visiting team, but for visitors of all types, locals and otherwise. Most of those sitting around me wore the Inter colors, but there were plenty of Milan supporters as well, including a group of young Arab men who knew the words to every Milan song and chant. From my vantage point, everyone behaved in a perfectly civilized way.

Also of note were the cigarettes. I would have assumed that there would have been no smoking in the stadium, but people lit up openly. And speaking of lighting up, there were the flares like nothing I've ever seen in Turkey or anywhere else for that matter.

I couldn't really see what was happening with the Inter ultras because, well, we were under them, but my guess from the little we could see is that they were no less impassioned.

I couldn't hear what they were yelling, but I imagine they were exhorting Sneijder, Eto, and the rest of the squad to stop being so skittish. Sneijder in particular was playing well, but would nearly always put on the brakes upon approaching the box losing all momentum.

Coutinho was also very good. The 18-year-old dazzled with his dribbling, but none of the Inter players could find the solution to the problem of the Milan defense--even after Milan went a man down about a hundred minutes into the match. Me thinks that Benitez has his work cut out for him.

Milan, on the other hand, are in the ascendant. With Ibrahimovic and Robinho up front and a strong mid-field and defense behind them, who can stand in their way?

Actually, I don't really care who comes out on top--so long as it is not Lazio.

I'll leave you all with photos of our mass exodus from San Siro as we head to cars, mopeds, buses, and in the case of many of us the metro. Thanks to the city of Milan for letting me live their passion for football along with them. Great experience.

And upon emerging from the metro the first thing I saw was the Duomo, the madonnina of which is the source of the derby's nickname. Fitting, is it not?


  1. Fantastic eye-witness report Damon, and the photos were brill too.

    I suppose the Milan derby is similar to the Rangers v Celtic derby without the religious chants and the violence ??!!

    Yes, a great experience for Battle Damaged Damon, but it didn't have the emotion and tears welling in the eyes of the 2007 Scottish League Cup Final .... Hibs 5 Kilmarnock 1. Comments on that sure to come !!!

  2. Sounds like a great evening out. Great report Battle Damaged!

  3. Anonymous8:23 pm

    great report damon, looks great glad you had a good time and are still in one piece lol