Having been in Italy living in Bologna as an Erasmus student for nearly three months, it’s criminal on my part that I’ve taken so long to go see a Serie A fixture, but it finally happened. I woke up on Thursday morning wondering what excuses I could make for avoiding marketing revision, and instead had a message from my aunt and uncle on my grandmas ‘new family whatsapp group chat’ inviting to me see Inter vs Genoa on Sunday night. (Grandma got an iPhone, we’re all very excited).
I was obviously delighted to be invited, and the day after made my way to the beautiful city of Milan.
On the Saturday afternoon, my uncle and I set off to the official Inter Milan bar, dedicated to the club and a place where fans can create fan-cards and memberships. We arrived under the strict instruction that in order for me to use our friends season ticket, I would have to create a ‘fans membership card’ to use it. All very boring – but typical of Italian bureaucracy and everything I’d learnt of it in my three months here! I wasn’t surprised. To say the man who ran the bar was uninterested in helping us is an understatement. He claimed that as it was Saturday there was little he could do (whatever that means), and when he attempted to create the membership using very legitimate passport details of mine, he found many reasons why it wouldn’t work. It was an outstandingly poor effort from the man, but despite failure we took the route of just simply buying a ticket on our own accord.
Now, with the news that my uncles ‘fan membership’ had expired, we were warned once again to arrive very early to the game – no need – we walked up to the gate, showed our ID’s and walked straight in. Easy – except we were 55 minutes early for the game and it was freezing cold. No matter! I had the opportunity to appreciate and take in the amazing and historic stadium – a place where some of the best players to ever walk the planet had played – a stadium which only last summer hosted the Champions League final. You could see why.
On to the football now! The game was soon to kick off, and Inter Milan were lining up as a 3-4-3 similar to that of Antonio Conte. Inter, who sat mid-table at this point, needed a win to build some optimism around the place, as the club were being led under their third manager in just a few months after the departures of Mancini and De Boer.
The game began, and it was clear it was a tense atmosphere in a not-so-full San Siro. It was a shame to see, though it is an 80,000 seater stadium and filling it up every game would be hard. Nevertheless, the Inter fans created a great atmosphere, and were never afraid to make their feelings heard. Their target was a left wing-back named Yuto Nagatomo. I knew the name, he’d been around for a while. When turning to my uncle to ask how long he’s been there he replied, “Too long”.
I almost felt sorry for the guy, he was being torn to shreds with every mistake. It was almost so bad I even began to seriously root for him to do something extraordinary. But then, I thought the moment had come. A through-ball, one on one with the keeper, Yuto had to score. He didn’t. He flapped at the ball, straight at the keeper. If that didn’t get the fans riled up enough, the eventual realisation that he was offside throughout that whole fiasco only made it worse. In all-fairness, Nagatomo had been sh**e.
However, it showed what the owners had done to this club. There was no consistency in managers, players or results meaning the fans felt clearly disconnected to what was going on on the pitch.
Away from that now though. Inter grabbed two goals either side of half time through brilliant strikes by Brozovic – one of Inter’s many talented players that make you question why they’re not up at the top of the table. An improved second half from Inter was centred around the introduction of Felipe Melo, who brought a balance to the midfield that Inter were lacking before. The son of Diego Simeone started up front for Genoa and looked very bright. And there was a nice moment of real appreciation and nostalgia as Goran Pandev came on for Genoa, a man heavily involved in Inter’s treble winning side of 2010. You could see how much they loved the man.
Inter won the game 2-0 with a professional and controlled performance. Nagatomo came through it alive, and Joao Mario showed why he was part of a Euro’s winning side in the summer – he was flawless. Mauro Icardi was quiet, but the service to him was poor. Inter fans though, can be happy with what they saw from their side, who were led from the back by the outstanding Miranda.
The 3-4-3 didn’t quite work for them. I can’t say I’m surprised, it seemed unnatural. Chelsea’s 3-4-3 is actually more of a tweaked 4-2-3-1. You remove the number 10, tell Moses to defend a bit more, Alonso to attack a bit more, and Azpilicueta to tuck in and boom, you have your 3-4-3. Inter played it a bit too literally, and you could tell they looked short of ideas at times.
It was an interesting experience for me. Since joining my 7-a-side team ‘Figasaray’ (if you don’t know what ‘Figa’ means, please don’t look it up, and what ‘sarai’ means, again please don’t look it up – I didn’t choose the name the name ) I’ve learned a lot about what Italian football is like. There is a real emphasis on aggressive football, defensive organisation and being powerful and fit. In fact, simple 5 yard passes don’t exist as much, but a direct approach certainly does. It’s rushed football. There were groans and whistles around the stadium for every back pass, simply because they want to be entertained – and rightly so.
Italian football took huge steps forward under Conte in the summer, but club football needs to follow-suit. I believe Italian football is actually the most effective style, as shown by Ranieri’s counter attacking style with Leicester of last season. There’s just something missing, and maybe it’s the right coach to bring it out of those clubs.
As I write this I’m making my way back to my home – Bologna, excited to plan many more trips around Italy to see the best teams and the best players in the world. I would like to thank my uncle Giovanni for taking me to the game, and my aunt Francesca and grandma Rita for offering to buy my ticket and host me whilst I was in town! All in all, it was an amazing experience. Inter got the three points, I had a happy uncle and got to see some great players in a great stadium. I learn more and more about the difference between Italian and English football as I live here, and it turns out there are many. But let’s learn more about Spanish and German football too, the ones leading the line. After-all, Sam’s already found a direct train from Bologna to Munich! Champions League last 16, here we come!