Subject: Inter-Milan - A Derby Story 
Date: Mon, 13 Oct 1997 21:59:50 -0500 [posted in four long installments]
From: Paul Mettewie 

(This story is not intended to be a legally binding
 non-fiction story - especially when it concerns
 the blow-by-blow events of the soccer games
 themselves. Please do not hold me to the exact
 minute and scorer of games held a quarter of
 a century ago! Thanks - Paul)


Many American teenagers associate November with the
leaves falling off the trees, with the family getting
together for Thanksgiving, with going to football games
wrapped in blankets with mugs of hot cider to keep one

Not for me. But I didn't miss out on *anything*. Not
that I don't like leaves changing colors and the
wonderful Thanksgiving feast and family get-together.

But I was in Milan, Italy as an American teenager.

I thought of November as foggy mist around the Duomo,
as buying a farcito tost in the subway tabaccheria - con
carciofi (with artichoke) if you please - so you could
not only enjoy a tasty sandwich, but warm your hands as
well! November was riding the Metropolitana (simply
known as the "Metro") to school and to locations around
the city. It was the sparks shooting off the electric
tram lines at night, it was the hot chestnut vendors
in the Piazza Cordusio. There was even an organ grinder
man with a real monkey -- something I never thought I
would see in real life! "Novembre" was all this and more

but most of all, November was soccer.



And soccer in Milan is a crown jewel of the city. Along
with the great opera center, La Scala, along with one 
of the world's fashion centers located on the Via
Montenapoleone, along with the constant thrumming of
business deals of the "borsa", the stock exchange. Along
with the towering presence of the ornate gothic cathedral
called simply "Il Duomo", the symbol of the city.

Soccer was part and parcel of Milanese life. It was
discussed everywhere at anytime by virtually everybody.
You could hear it being talked about anywhere. But my
favorite place to open up a copy of the Guerin Sportivo
or to argue with a friend on the latest Italian National
team controversy was the Galleria. THE Galleria folks,
not some fake southern California yuppie spinoff.

It stands next to the Duomo, a stately elegance of ornate
glass, tile and lights called the Galleria Vittorio
Emmanuale, an enclosed promenade that may have been
the world's first indoor shopping mall, and is certainly
still its most wonderful. Nothing beats talking about
soccer, or art, or politics, or just plain people
watching in the Galleria.*

I guess you can tell that I liked Milano -- not pretty like
a Como or Orvieto or even Roma, it  was not glamorous
unless you are 'fashionable', but definitely a very livable city
and one that never lacks for goings-on.

Soccer in November in Milan was me playing the game for
the American School of Milan. For playing (and sometimes
even winning) games as a defender and then as a keeper.
But really November to me was being a fan of Inter-
nazionale of Milano, the "nerazzurri."

One of the world's most powerful soccer teams in a city
where some of the finest soccer the world has ever seen
has been played. A city with a sharp divide between its
two teams - Inter and arch-rival AC Milan. The neraz-
zurri (the black and blue) against their deadly enemies
-- the rossoneri (the red and black). Rivalry isn't
enough to describe the gulf between fans of these
teams! In fact, the word doesn't even come close.

Inter and Milan shared an almost complete lock on the
Italian soccer scene with Juventus, the "bianconeri".
"Juve" as they were often known as, were one of the two
main teams of Milan's sister industrial city of the
north, Turin. Together, the triumvirate of Juve, Milan
and Inter were - and still are - called "i grandi"
(the great ones).

No other team, no matter how talented, is given that
title except for these teams. Along with Juve's arch-
rival team, Torino, these teams have won 80% of Italy's
"scudetti" (championships) in the top soccer league in
Italy, Serie A (A Series, or A League). A virtual hege-
mony of power was shared amongst these three teams.

Soccer sports rivalries in Italy aren't like their
brethren in the States. True, in Chicago you will find
the odd Cub or Sox fan that almost foams at the mouth
when talking about the crosstown rival team. But in
Italy the crosstown rivalries (which are sometimes even
regional, like Bologna and Firenze) are much, much
more heated.

Inter-Milan, Juve-Torino (despite the descent of the
once-proud "Granata" into the second league in Italy,
Serie B), and Roma-Lazio were the biggest of these
crosstown rivalries, or "Derby" as they were called in
Italy. You can only compare these rivalries to their
brethren in Europe and South American and also to
ones growing in Asia and Africa.

A Derby in Italy (and in most of the rest of Europe as
well) is not a minor matter. It isn't just fans jeer-
ing each other for an afternoon, followed by a year of
benign behavior. Oh no, it is far, far more than that.

It is engrained in the Italian soccer fan's psyche to
root for one's team, but it is even more deeply en-
grained that one must hate the team's arch-rival with
a passion that is only approached by the passionate
love that Italians usually reserve just for wine, food,
music, and the opposite sex (not necessarily in that
order of course!)

It isn't just the Yankees against the Mets, it isn't 
just the Bears against the Packers, it isn't just Ohio 
State against Michigan, this is a bitter and longstanding
rivalry now 90 years old. The "ultras" (hardcore fans)
of the the teams are at all times passionate about
their teams. These clubs of usually quite young men
have names, usually in English words (probably because
of again the English tradition of the game and the
newer, somewhat American influence of being more cool
or modern because of using an english word) are named
"Commandos", "Vikings", "Boys", "Fossa dei Leoni"
(Italian for Lion's Den), "Fossa dei Serpenti"
(Snake pit) -- and they are NOT for the faint of heart.
If you sit in or around one of the areas that contain
these fans expect to stand for most if not all the
game and expect to listen to a cacophony of singing,
yelling, horn-playing (sometimes with huge truck horns
powered by batteries - the infamous 'klaxons' you hear
at every Derby,)

da-da-DA-da  da-da-DA-da  da-da-DA-da
da-da-DA-da  da-da-DA-da  da-da-DA-da
da-da-DA-da  da-da-DA-da....

Most of all, expect your vision to be blocked from
time to time by dozens, hundreds, even thousands of
flags and banners proclaiming love for one's team or
hatred for the rival. It is wise indeed to have a
flag of your own even if you aren't a big fan. Just
make sure that you are sitting in the right section!
But more about *that* matter about ultras later on....

Some ultras are merely very passionate, other bound
into the criminal. Suffice it to say that an Inter
fan does not sit in a Milan ultra section, nor does a
Milan fan do the same in an Inter ultra section. Not
unless you are insane or a very pretty young female.
VERY pretty!

So November in Milan for me was walking down the
hallways of my school with my Inter bookbag, saying
a hearty 'Forza Inter' to fellow Interisti, and an
equally hearty 'Milan di Mer..." to the wretched
Milanisti among the student population. But our
friendship with chants shared with other Inter fans
and the rivalry and taunts thrown at the Milan fans
in the school halls was incredibly muted compared to
the electric atmosphere of the Stadio San Siro, The
Saint Cyril Stadium.

San Siro is not a pretty stadium -- but along with
Wembley, Maracana, and a few dozen other edifices,
it is one of the world capitals of soccer. A "must visit"
for any true (and sufficiently wealthy) fan of the
game. It looms out of the fog on the southwest side of
the city. It's grounds break up the montonous rows of
towering apartment buildings that house some of the
nearly two million people of the northern Italian
Industrial city.

The stadium when I was a boy was slightly different
looking than it is now -- thanks to "improvements"
made for the 1990 World Cup in which larger entrance
ramps and more modern facilities were installed. All
in all though, the improvements made the rather plain
colossus of a stadium (almost 80,000 seated in it)
into a truly ugly behemoth sitting in the "periferia"
(the periphery, or outer zone) of Milano.

But you didn't come to San Siro to admire its archi-
tecture, you came to admire your favorite team
destroying the opposition, preferably the team from
across town. You came to see the likes of Alessandro
Mazzola (called Sandro, Sandrino or "il baffo" - the
mustachioed one - by Inter fans.) Mazzola had wondrous
ball control talent in his slight frame. He hardly
looked the part of the talented athlete, but he
remains one of Italy's best soccer players of all

You came to see the elegant tall figure of Giacinto
Facchetti striding up from the defense to make
powerful counterattacks, the rocky face and even more
rugged game of bulwark defender Tarcisio Burgnich, the
bowl-like mop atop Roberto Boninsegna
(Bonin-SEGNA! - a play on words in Italian meaning
Bonin-SCORES! as "segnare" is Italian to "score" as in
to score a goal), or the speed of Jair Da Costa, the
Brasilian winger.

If you were Milanista, you came to San Siro to see Romeo
Benetti, the defending midfielder who possessed a cannon-
like kick, you came to see Albertosi, the graceful goal-
keeper who was battling with Dino Zoff for a starting
spot on the national team, or Karl-Heinz Schnellinger,
the tough German national defender.

But mostly a Milan fan came to see Gianni Rivera, the
midfielding wizard or "fantasista" (creative one - a
term reserved only for the most precious talents of
soccer) who clashed for years with his Inter rival
Mazzola and who battled him for a spot as the playmaker
of the Italian national side.

Both teams had recently won Italian championships and
had also had European Cup championships in the prior
years. Each year their derby matchups and the ones with
Juventus almost certainly decided who would win the
scudetto. Each year, the two derbies and the chance
meeting in a "friendly" (ha!) or an Italian Cup match was
the most sought-after ticket in town.

My first year in Italy I did not have "the fever" bad
enough nor the connections to go to a derby. But that
changed in my second year. But I had already been to
San Siro even as a newly arrived young high school
freshman to watch an Italian Cup match between Inter
and Juventus. This served as my "primer" and initiation
into Italians watching their beloved calcio. And it
helped make me into a lifelong fan. Coming into this
game I was looking for something to replace my interest
in American football; leaving it, I never again ached
to see a oblong ball be thrown.

I sat the entire game in a neutral section open to the
general public. Most of these fans had just bought
their tickets and a lot of them appeared to either
be mild Inter fans or those of the visitors.

Me and my friends Eric and John sat in a largely
pro-Juve section immediately next to a woman who spent
the whole game calling Mazzola the most vile of names.
At first I thought she looked a bit like the actress
Giulietta Masina that Fellini had used in years not
too long before this game. But as the game went on and
her insults to Mazzola unceasingly flowed forth, she
only looked like Masina after a long steambath and
too many grappas. Or Anna Magnani after being shot by
the Germans in "Roma - Citta' Aperta"!

The game was back and forth for the first hour with
neither team ever mounting a truly threatening attack,
Mazzola and Boninsegna being held in check by the Juve
defense; Bettega, Causio and Capello being controlled
by Inter. I remember the evening as being unusually
warm and from our high perches we could see the foot-
hills of the Alps.

The game ebbed and flowed while I drank in the atmos-
phere, the flags and banners, the animated conversations,
the chants and songs. It began to grow dark. With less
than thirty minutes left in the game "Il Baffo" Mazzola
scored on a quick turnaround and flick
shot after a Facchetti header was not cleared suffici-
ently far enough from the area by Albertosi. Pandemonium
erupted as the Inter fans erupted in cheers and massive
flag-waving. Horns blew, men danced together, fathers
bounced their children, little old men and ladies jumped
up and down like Olympic gymnasts. Inter had scored!
The "beneamata" (well-loved, a term used by Italian fans
to describe their team) had scored! The players piled up
on top of one another in a squirming blue and black mass
on the field.

da-da-DA-da  da-da-DA-da  da-da-DA-da
da-da-DA-da  da-da-DA-da  da-da-DA-da
da-da-DA-da  da-da-DA-da!

Some loud booms of big firecrackers could be heard. A
blue flare was ignited and began to burnt brightly in
one of the large Ultras section.

But Ms. Juve was certainly not happy. Not only had her
team been put behind, it had been bested by the player
she had been deriding for an hour. She clasped her head
in her hands and then closed her eyes as if not seeing
would somehow banish this horrible event from her mind.

'Po-rrrrrrrrr-ca miseria!" (hard to translate into
english because it loses its impact, let's just say she
wasn't happy) she trilled loudly.

She then raised her balled-up fists to the sky as if in
supplication to some god or gods, bemoaning her fate.
Then she was glaring at me as I jumped up and down in
glee at the masterful score by my hero. My two
Interista friends and I slapped five and ten (no high
fives or tens back then, we all slapped low) and began
the standard "INTER-INTER-INTER-INTER!" chant
that swelled to a roar as tens of thousands chanted.

Ms. Juve and the other Juventus fans were trying their
best at counter chants or sly little insertions between
the INTER (like "va cacccar'" or "take a dump" between
the INTER chant so they could make it sound like

INTER -'va caccar' - INTER -'va caccar' - INTER.....

Well, I didn't say Oscar Wilde or Ambrose Bierce was
in the stands, did I? These were largely working-
class people where I sat (even though I would not
have been considered one of them, as a student I
was much like them in that I couldn't afford to sit
with the rich in their covered, comfortable seatback
chairs in the lower stands.) So this is what was
going to pass for wit. Of course, Milan and Inter
fans did the same to the other teams' chants as
well as Juve and some of the more hated rivals like
Lazio, Cagliari, Fiorentina and Roma.

All seemed well until just a scant few minutes from
the end of the game, the dark, foreboding visage of
Juve center-forward Pietro Anastasi appeared alone
in front of the Inter goalie Bordon. Bordon came
out desperately and dove at the quick strikers'
feet...but to no avail. Anastasi whirled around the
prostrate black-clad form of the keeper and fired
the ball into the unguarded net as Facchetti vainly
tried to block the ball.

Suddenly Black and White flags appeared out of
nowhere, scores of them dancing around in manic glee
as the Juventus fans celebrated the equalling score.
Inter fans moaned and buried their head in the
hands or screamed abuse at the referee who had --
according to them -- let Anastasi get away with a
push on Burgnich.

Ms. Juve was doing a bad twist imitation with her
husband or boy friend. I was trying not to look
devastated. She ended her cheers for Juve with
--surprise!-- more invective directed at Mazzola.

The game ended as a draw, which suited the Juve
fans just fine, but left the Inter fans in a funk.
I picked up my flag (on a hollow plastic pole
because solid wood ones had long since been
banned) and me and my friends walked out slowly
out the ramps to the exits.

We always took the "metro" to near the stadium
and walked to and from the games that way. So we
were on the way to the subway stop when we ran
into two groups of fans - one juventino and the
other interista who were yelling at one another
from across a street. Occasionally a can would be
launched from one group to another. We were on
the side of the street with the Inter group. We
stopped in our tracks.

"I don't think we should get any closer" said

"Nah, it's no big deal," said John, a tough
New Yorker. "We just keep walking. We're on
the right side of the street anyways."

"Let's just cool it here for awhile," I suggested
waiting to see if the groups moved on into the
subway as we wanted to do.

Suddenly a huge crash filled the air and everyone
started running in all directions. A bottle or
rock had hit a car window and broken it. I saw
Eric and John turn around and run up the street
the other way. I wasn't far behind.

I don't know what happened there because we kept
going until we saw a trolley line stop that we
knew went into the center of the city and we got
on it. It was full of Inter fans and one older
couple with Juventus colors on. But there was
no antagonism on the car, only the Inter fans
arguing amongst themselves over who was to blame
for the missed opportunity for a win over rival
Juve. The Juve couple stared straight ahead with
inscrutable expressions. John stood next to them
holding onto a strap hanging from the ceiling.
Me and Eric sat further back in the trolley next
to two old ladies in black dresses carrying UPIM
(an Italian department store) bags full of
loaves of bread.

"Ha perso l'Inter?" asked one lady, showing a
mouth missing more than a few teeth. She was
asking me if Inter had lost. No doubt the sullen
discussion amongst the bigger group of Inter
fans had provoked this question.

"No, signora, l'hanno pareggiato uno a uno,"
I replied telling her that no, it was a one to
one tie.

"Ah, ma quelli di la comportono come e' stato
una sconfitta," she said laughing and shaking
her head as she looked at her friend. She was
amused by how sad the Inter fans looked after
a tie. Probably a woman of southern Italian
origin who knew that a tie with Juventus was
no small accomplishment. But then, to those
other Inter fans, and to me and my friends
as well, we thought differently -- this was
Milano, this was Inter. More was expected.

Indeed, that is the blessing and the curse
of Italian soccer, more is always expected.

The anger of fans came to me in a more forceful
way the next season when we managed tickets to
the real thing - Inter versus Milan in a game
that was official for the campionato. Both teams
were high on the rankings along with Lazio, led
by Giorgio Chinaglia, and with the aforementioned
Juve team. The stadium was sold out and we were
heading to the game in a large group from our
school, about half of the kids were Milan fans
and half were Inter fans.

We took the subway to the last stop, Lotto. We
then decided to walk to the stadium instead of
taking the bus. The girls that were with us
(only three had come - ah, the pain of teen-
agers!) did not fancy getting on a crowded bus
with plenty of "roaming hands" threatening
their bottoms. So we walked -- it was not a
problem for us anyway -- we were there early
enough and our young legs thought nothing of
the walk.

"Milan is going to win," said Mike to me, his
Milan cap cockily tilted to one side on his
head, a red-and-black scarf keeping him warm
against the cool breeze that was blowing on
another foggy Milanese Sunday in the fall.

"Now how can you say that, Mike - you know
nothing about soccer," said Eric, not the
one from before, but a taller German who
lived in a marvelous penthouse with a view of
the Duomo. His friend Enrico, a Brasilian,
laughed at the suggestion that Milan would
win. But Mike stuck to his guns.

"I know enough to know that Milan is playing
great right now and Inter doesn't have the
attack to score on Milan," said Mike some-
what defensively. Mike was a relatively new
arrival in Italy, but had picked up the lan-
guage and a love for soccer quickly. He and
his brother Tex (guess where they were from)
had fallen in with a group of Milanistas at
the school - poor devils!

"Schnellinger is getting old and Albertosi
is second rate - both Zoff and Bordon are
better than him," said Eric, looking down
imperiously at the shorter Mike.

"Eh, Americani, americani che fate qui?"
(Hey, Americans! Americans! What are you
doing here?) a group of surly older (must
have been all of 20 or 21 while none of us
was even 17) Milan ultras suddenly appeared
in front of us. They had guessed from hearing
our English mixed with Italian that we were
not Italian and they didn't like the easy
mixture of blue and red amongst our group.
They also looked to very likely be commu-
nists, judging from their student attire,
so an additional tension was in the air.
The Vietnam War was in full swing and
student demonstrations in Italy had been
heated lately, mixed with labor protests
and the contest backgroud of strikes.

"Ma siamo da tutti nazioni," said Eric, a
longtime resident of Milano who knew the
rules well. He let the ultras know that we
were Americans and Italians and Brits and
French and Brasilians and Germans. The American
School had kids from 18 different countries
in it from North and South America as well
as Europe and the Middle East. At this time
many rich foreigners sent their kids to our
school so they could pick up English quickly.

When the Milan ultras heard Eric was a dual-
national German-Italian, they asked him if
he liked Schnellinger. Eric responded enthusi-
astically that he was while we stifled giggles
because Eric was dyed-in-the-wool Interista
with a passionate hatred for Schnellinger,
considering him a traitor, and worse -- a Milan
player. Fortunately Eric had no blue or red
on that day -- he fancied himself a sharp
dresser and compared to the rest of us who
were in in the standard student uniform of
that time -- jeans and drab olive jackets,
he was.

Another rossonero ultra came up to me and Mike
and asked us what we thought of Nixon, then
President of the United States. I answered that
I didn't particularly care for him while Mike
kept quiet, his halting Italian and his
Republican party tendencies causing him to
consider silence a wise choice in this situation.

"Ma, sai devi ucciderlo!" said the ultra, leaning
into me and poking his finger in my chest. He was
telling me I should kill him! I answered that
that would accomplish nothing, I would only be
arrested and the same things would go on (the
Vietnam War, the bombings in Cambodia). I said
that assasination was not the answer, political
change was and that I was hoping to vote for a
Democrat when I was old enough.

I could see he was winding up for a long speech
about politics and the evils of the United States
so I began to back away, apologizing and saying
that the rest of my group was leaving (which they
were as the girls started to complain that they
were getting cold standing around.) He shook his
head in disgust at my obviously ignorant views
of the world and fired a parting shot.

"Inter di merda, Mazzola di merda, Stati Uniti
di merda," he said as he flipped us the bird.
(Inter is shite, Mazzola is shite, the United
 States is shite.)

Mike couldn't take it any longer and returned
the bird back to him, then turning it sideways
and yelling in english "And this is for the
horse you rode in on!" We disappeared around
the corner and there was the stadium and also,
even better, a lot of carabinieri (the Italian
State Police). Some of them had riot gear on
with shield and helmets and long batons, others
were adjusting packs which obviously contained
gas masks. It made you think -- am I going to
a game, or am I going to a battle?

A lot of the first and not too little of the
latter was the answer to that question.

We walked in through large steel gates and handed
our tickets to the ticket takers and were then
eyeballed for weapons by police. Some of the
more questionable looking (not me I swear! --
although they carefully checked my flag and the
pole to see that no weapons were in the pole
or hidden in the furls of the big black and blue
banner) were led aside for more thorough
searches. We passed through after a policeman
almost broke my plastic flag pole (a not un-
intentional move I think, either he was Milanista
or just didn't like the pole even if it was
legal, being hollow).

We began the walk up the ramp to our level on
high above the field on the same side as the
teams but towards the corner. Well, we got in!
Some danger of nosebleed, but at least no one
could urinate on us (a danger for fans of one
team seating underneath fans of another - dis-
gusting but true).

We sat in a fortunately mixed section that seemed
not to have too many problems for our group. But
only thirty meters away a huge Inter ultra
group sat behind a fenced partition (and this
was the upper deck). It was an infamous Curva
group of Ultras. We didn't know much, but we
knew to steer clear of them, even the Inter
fans amongst us. They were already chanting in
unision. First they would chant to the field and
to the few players or officials on the pitch at
this time.

Then they would turn to the left and begin to
yell chants at the one large Milanista group
in the upper seats. This was an Inter "home"
game, and the Inter fans held their usual
season seats with the Milan fans in fewer
numbers and out of their element slightly.

Most, if not all the chants yelled at this
groups involved high praise of Inter, and no
praise of Milan. A favorite chant was

"Gianni Rivera - putana rossonera"

Well I already said it wasn't slick wit in the
stands. I think most everyone can make out
the gist of that insult. Milan fans responded
in kind, one cheer referred to the fact that
Inter had its origins as an offshoot of Milan
and was therefore a bastard child. Slightly
more witty, but you left allegory to Dante
Aleghieri at home when you came to the game,
these fans were more interested in overlaps 
and motor midfielders, not couplets and the 
fate of man's soul.

"Hey, I am going to get something to drink,"
said Eric. "I got to have something to wash
down this prosciutto crudo."

"Hey, I'll trade you my Porchetta Peck
sandwich," I said to Eric, smacking my lips
at the idea of some smooth, tangy crudo.
And the bread that Eric had looked absolutely
fresh baked. I forgot about the game while
I considered this treat (some things never

Eric's mom shopped at the Rosticceria Peck
downtown. Actually her maid shopped there --
and he liked to have the salty, spicey
pork sandwich called the Porchetta. I could
almost taste the proscuitto melting in my

"Hey, I got a foccacia from Stella tabacchi,"
said John, blowing my trade negotiations
sky high. "I'll trade ya."

"Bene - e' fatto," said Eric, saying that the deal
was done, grabbing the bigger Foccacia and
handing over the object of my culinary desire
to the interloping John. I could smell the
fresh bread, the cheese, the proscuitto! Ai!

"Madonna," I said in disgust, turing around to tell
John's girlfriend that he was a selfish jerk. She
smiled at me as if to say "tell me something I
don't know, Paul."

I consoled myself with the Porchetta Peck and the
Gazzosa that Eric brought back (a sweet Seven-Up
like drink sold in Italy). I also had some sugar
cookies so I soon contented myself with talking
to Mike about how many more Inter flags were waving
and how much bigger they were than the Milan banners.

One huge Inter flag was being slowly and majestically
waved at the front of the top balcony by two fans
holding the wildly bending pole. The flag was easily
twenty feet in length and featured a large gold star
in a field of black and blue and the legend:


and underneath in smaller letters the legend

"FEDELISSIMI" (the most faithful ones)

The two young men struggled with the dual tasks of
keeping the flag from wrapping itself around them
or a luckless passerby and the seeming possibility
of not being dragged over the edge of the long drop
to the grandstand below whenever a gust of wind
grabbed the huge standard.

My own flag, not exactly small (it was the largest
one I could find for sale in the sports shop by
our family's apartment), could have been layed over
many times inside this huge banner with space for
considerable lettering still left over.

To the right of the giant, a banner was draped over
the edge of the balcony and ran at least thirty meters.
On it were a large FORZA INTER! and then the word
"FOSSA" and then a fold that hid the other words
and then half-decent depictions of Mazzola, Facchetti
and Domenghini standing together confidently, arms
crossed in the age-old traditional soccer picture
pose. Other banners ran around all the balcony --
I stopped counting at 25 large ones, and except
for the corner that the Milan allotment was
compressed in, were all black and blue. A sturdy
fence separated the Milan fans on both sides from
the Inter ones.

The same kind of fence surrounded the field. Ten feet
high and topped with spikes, it was meant for some
serious crowd control. Also for crowd control was
an entrance to the field that came not from amongst
the stands, but out of a tunnel leading to a hole
in the field on top of which was extended a sturdy
canvas cover to protect the teams from thrown
objects. Unfortunately, it's presence was often

Several hundred riot police ringed the field, mingling
with photographers, ballboys and regular carabinieri
in their snazzy dark blue uniforms. A small group
of bersaglieri - the colorful army troops with feathers
in their caps and a trademark quick-run march - were
also present.

"Hey, the Bersaglieri are here," said Mike looking at
the feathered and peaked caps of the lounging troops.
"Why do they need them?"

"Probably the band we'll hear for the presentation."
said Eric. Normally there were no bands at games,
but an important Italian politician had recently
been assassinated by Red Brigade terrorists so the
band was part of short ceremony to commemorate the
unfortunate man's passing.

"Will they run while they play?," asked Mike.

"Nah, I don't think so -- not for this time
anyway," said the Italian-American Eric. "Non
sarrebbe appropriato per una ricordanza. (It
wouldn't be appropriate for a condolence.)

The riot police were ready for almost anything, they
carried nightsticks and had packs with tear gas
and gas masks. Plastic face shields rode high on their
heads and heavy jackets with POLIZIA emblazoned on
them made them bulky with intent. Some German Shepard
guard dogs paced with their masters. Shields lay
against the fence in groups.

A clutch of workers ran out to the center of the field
carrying some banners and poles. They quickly
assembled a pyramidal structure that was a four sided
advertisement at mid-field that read:



Some commotion occurred on one end of the stands,
seconds after this commotion an official in Inter
togs ran out to the advertisement gesturing wildly
and as suddenly as it had gone up, the ad was
brought down, right in the middle of some voice-
over advertisments promoting the furrier that were
being read by over the public address system.

At this time a Milanista from our school named Paul
ran up the aisle laughing and said.

"The put the ad on backwards on two of the panels,"
he said giggling. "Inter can't even have the ads
run right."

This of course started a mini-squabble amongst our
factions which ended with John knocking over my
Gazzosa bottle by accident when Tex pushed him.

I told John that he might as well be a milanista -
first he took crudo from me and now he was trying
to have me die of thirst. He offered to buy a
replacement but I needed to go to the men's room
so I excused myself. Thirty minutes before the
game -- plenty of time.

I started down the steps and noted that the ad
for Annabella had gone back up, this time with
the additional advantage of having all the
lettering facing the right way. Some sarcastic
cheers rang out from the stands. The Milan fans
were singing to Rivera who was warming up with
a few short sprints. The Inter fans were
drowning them out with insults of Milan's
great #10....

There was no more gazzosa so I had to buy some
acqua minerale San Pellegrino instead. I ran
into some Milan fans from the International
School of Milan soccer team that we regularly
played against. They were tall skinny Germans
who were not our best friends, this year they
were a bit more tame as we had tied them 4-4
instead of losing as we usually did to them.

"Hey Americano interista," said the taller one,
"Schnellinger is going to kick the shite out of
Mazzola and Boninsegna."

I asked him with as straight a face as I could
muster whether Milan would avoid scoring an
auto-gol (own-goal). A reference to the fact
that the tall German had had that unfortunate
event happen to him in that drawn game against
us. He scowled and muttered something not
complimentary in German. I smiled and while
trying to cooly Charles Bronson-like exit out
of there walked straight into a program seller
who spilled his souvenirs on the ramp.

"Eh, che fai!" The old gentleman bent over while
I tried to ignore the giggles of the two Germans
as I helped the vendor pick up the fallen
merchandise. A poliziotto watched me with an
amused look from his post by the entryway. I
excused myself and tried to vanish out of there.

Emerging out onto the balcony it was obvious
the time to the game was approaching -- the chants
were picking up and a groups of players from
both clubs were huddled under the cover of the
canvas over the exit tunnel talking amongst
themselves and with some field officials.

They conversed in a quite friendly manner,
sharing a moment of camraderie before the battle.
I thought one of the interista players was Bonimba
(an affectionate nickname for Roberto Boninsegna,
the Inter center-forward and Italian national)
while one of the Milan players was definitely
Chiarugi, a small winger famous for his speed
and his theatrical dives after fouls (or non-fouls).
At least he was famous for that with us interisti!

If there was one Milan player I disliked above
all others it was Chiarugi. The Inter fans on
our soccer team called players who made big
scenes after fouls a "Chiarugi" -- something
the Milanisti on the team tried to change to
a "Mazzola" - without much success or so I thought
anyway! Mazzola never faked a foul, everyone
knew that! Everyone except the silly Milanisti!
Chiarugi was so bad that he had drawn two yellows
the season before for seemingly endless agonized
rolls after alledged fouls.

On one the referee actually stood and waited for
the Milan player to stop rolling and look up
tenatively before slowly withdrawing the yellow
and writing his name down. Rivera, as captain
tried to placate the official, pointing to the
opponent as a more worthy recipient. Meanwhile
Chiarugi huddled in a ball while the Milan
trainer applied the "magic sponge" that
seemingly cured every malady short of cancer
with just a few wipes and squeezes.

A roar interrupted my reverie. The teams!

Running parallel to each other the two sides
came out. Shivers ran down my spine as the
crowd of over 70,000 roared cheers for their
favorite players and teams. Wave after wave
of sound cascaded down from the packed stands.
Two of the world's great soccer teams were
lining up to do battle.


The Milan fans waited for whatever breaks
they could to inject quick Milan chants
before being drowned out by the responding
"home" fans. Nevertheless the Milan cheers
were surprisingly loud and it took the Inter
group some effort to drown them out.

At the front of the groups ran Mazzola and
Rivera side by side, holding small momentos
for the other teams captain and a presentation
to be given to a charity that was being

As long as I live I will not forget the wave-
like movements of thousands of flags, blue,
black, red, black, dollops of gold and white
thrown in here and there (gold was the third
color of Inter, white the third color of Milan)
The Klaxons went wild, other deeper horns now
joined the awesome tide of sound. I looked over
at one of the girls, Kerry, and she was holding
her hands over her ears, wincing in pain. Not
for the faint of heart, nor was it for the
short! Poor Kerry was having trouble seeing
anything but Eric the German's back.

Flags waved wildly, the stands in the balconies
and behind the goals literally undulating with
the blue movements of hundred of small, medium
and large flags and banners. Two smaller
knots of red moved amongst the sea of black,
blue and gold, one in the lower corner and
another in the corner above them. Milanisti
in an ocean of Inter.

Klaxons went off wildly, their four note
squeals going off over and over again. Other
sirens let out brief songs, the favorite one
being of all things "La Cucaracha" for some
reason or other. Probably because only five
notes were needed for the key refrain. La Scala
this was not, this was far more serious "art"
to many Italians - leave the music to Sills
and Callas. It's derby time!

Eric and I slapped hands for luck as we
always did before games and I did the same
with John -- despite his culinary crimes.
The Milan fans amongst us tried to look
calm and cool amongst the thundering of
the Inter fans. Fat chance! We laughed at
them and elbowed them if we could. They
defiantly shove back and yelled Forza Milan!
as loud as they could. What a moment. The fog
seemed to lighten a bit and the day grow a
bit less gray for a few minutes. INTER!

The players ran out diagonally from the
field tunnel to the center of the field
facing their bench and the main grandstand
where the big shots sat in the plush seatbacks
that cost $80 or more a game - stratospheric
for the time. Politicians, Inter and Milan
management, a smattering of celebrities
joined the wealthy of Milano and Lombardy
in those seats -- a bomb thrown here would
cripple the city, no doubt the mayor and
most of the leaders of industry were here,
including the father of current Inter owner

But enough of the big shots....

Mazzola looked like the corner barber and
Rivera like a young dandy -- neither appeared
to be the world class midfielder he was.
Right behing them strode the more imposing
blocklike figures of Burgnich and Schnellinger,
no-nonsense men with pillar like legs. The
almost giraffe-like height of Facchetti towered
over all but Milan's Albertosi, the Milan
keeper wore a gray and black keeper kit and
Bordon, the Inter goalie, wore all black and
his trademark rakish tilted cap. I considered
wearing one of these in honor of him during
my own contests, but my long bushy curls didn't
"cotton" to this kind of cap, so I settled for
a headband instead. But at least I always wore
all-black as the keeper. For back then, almost
all keepers wore all black.

At that time there were few teams or countries
that had the colorful keeper kits that now
dominate. Most everyone was emulating as
a tradition the famous all-black kit of the
immortal Russian keeper Lev Yashin.

The players lined up with each team on one side
of the midfield line. The coaches and bench
players walked or ran to the fiberglass protected
bench areas. Inter's manager Invernizzi and his
Milan counterpart Rocco shook hands and talked
for a few seconds. Undoubtedly words of great
wisdom were being exchanged but no one would
hear them over the singing that now came from
the stands. Invernizzi looked the part of the pained
orchestra conductor, a wince always playing on
his face. Rocco looked like his name sounded
-- tough-as-nails, with a mouth set hard in a
resolute boxers' visage.

The players did as players everywhere did while
the pre-game ceremony was being held. They jumped
up and down, talked, scratched themselves, joked
with one another, checked the stands out. Then
they raised their shoes as the officials walked
by checking for any illegal studs on their shoes. The
linesmen then ran out to the goals to check the
nets at both ends. With shooters like Benetti
and Boninsegna on the field, it would be best
to make sure they were securely fastened and
without holes!

The players that stood still through a brief
ceremony as the bersaglieri played a song I
didn't know (not the Italian national anthem,
because that was rarely done at Italian sporting
events of the time). But something stately and
also mercifully short. Then the exchange of
tokens and a quick posing for team pictures.

Then the players burst out to their field
positions. The roars keyed back up to ear-
splitting levels. A Baffo! Baffo! Baffo!
chant started for Mazzola who was easily and
artfully juggling the ball at the center
circle while playfully keeping it away from
Boninsegna. The ball seemed on a string from
thigh to instep, back to thigh again, then
to instep, all the while Bonimba laughing as he
tried to take it away from Sandro. When it looked
like Sandrino was going to lose the ball he
hit it just a little bit harder up to his head
where he balanced it above his heavy eyebrows
and then dropped it so sweetly, continuing with
the amazing juggling.

An artist with the ball -- Georgie Best had his
great skills, Platini his marvels with the ball, Diego
Armando Maradona the incredible balance and
sweet touch, Pele the laser-like eye for the open
space, but to me, Sandro Mazzola was the master
of dribbling. He seemed to have a secret agreement
going with the ball -- 'you don't leave my foot and
I will see that you are treated well.'

Mazzola finally surrendered the ball to the referee
and did quick little gallops, raising his
thighs so that they almost touched his chest.
Facchetti kicked some looping shots at Bordon.
On the Milan side Chiarugi was talking to one
of the linesman. Should have figured that to
be happening. Already politicking!!!

Benetti fired some twenty-five meter rockets at
Albertosi who fisted all of them (except one
or two who rippled the net sharply) back in huge
arcs almost all the way back to Benetti on
the fly. Rivera was now talking with the referee
and Boninsegna at the center circle. Mazzola
came running back up and shook hands with the
referee and pushed Rivera slightly and in a not
unfriendly manner. Rivera hopped backwards while
gesturing in a friendly manner back to his
nerazzurro rival. Ma che cosa? ('What are you
doing' you could hear them saying....)

Hmmmm....joking with the enemy? How could this
be? Come on Sandro, this is Milan! Our
enemies! This is The Derby!

The Milan fans beseeched their hero while Inter
fans roared their approval for their idols. The
referee looked at his watch in that age-old
referee's timekeeping gesture.

Sandro would have a great game, but as for his
teammates....well, some things just don't
happen as you want them to.

The plane that had been constantly flying over
the stadium towing first an UPIM banner and then
a Pelicceria Annabella banner was flying off with
a little wiggle of its biplane wings as a final
sign. Hmmm...was a milanista or an interista
in there? Hopefully not a juventino I thought.

Now it was business.

The whistle blew and all fans roared at once.

Milan started with the ball and Rivera promptly
launched a long strike to Chiarugi who dribbled
the ball off his feet prompting long derisive
cheers. Obviously all Inter fans "liked" him
about as much as I did!

Facchetti threw the ball into Bonisegna, who
had come far back to get a quick early touch
on the ball. He always seemed to like to do this
and the Inter faithful roared in support.

"Bonimba! He will be on his game today!" said
Eric the German. "Watch him score quick!"

Inter held sway in the first few noisy minutes,
the chants never-ending. An Inter banner was
passed over us, a twenty meter wide star-filled
flag that had us laughing at the sour expressions
on our milanista classmates. Mike refused to
help and had his Milan hat knocked off by the
flag brushing it off -- we laughed and temporarily
kept it from him until his brother finally jumped
and got it back. Milan di mer....

Milan was absorbing the Inter attacks well, Karl
Heinz was particularly outstanding, clearing the
ball from Domenghini's foot as he prepared a shot
from little over ten meters and then once poking
the ball away from Mazzola, who went catapulting
head over heels after the tackle. The crowd howled
but no sign from the official except a play on.
Mazzola looked to have been more than just touched
but the ball had been played first according to the
referee apparently. Facchetti lobbied for his
running mate of many years, but of course, to no

A few minutes later Benetti (or was it another
midfielder?) lost the ball as an Inter counter-
attack was led by Domenghini and Facchetti. There
was a heavy mist around heightened by the flares
that were intermittently being set off in the
stands. Milan in the fall -- waves of gray in the

But nowhere near as bad as the Cagliari game the
year before when the officials debated whether to
play the game at all. Heavy fog made viewing the
contest from beyond the fourth row of the lower
stands an exercise in psychic powers. And the
Milanese fog had a taste to it -- sulfur dioxide.
This "cat's feet" had chemical claws.

A roar brought me back to reality.........
Jair had beat two men with a serpentine run down
the far side and unleashed a perfect cross that
ended with Facchetti just missing the far post
with a solidly struck header that had Albertosi


Sixty thousand throats cried out in agony.

Eyes were covered as the disbelief at the missing
of the golden opportunity sunk in. A smoke bomb
had been thrown on the field after Mazzola had
gone down, and now was clouding the field in front
of Albertosi. Mazzola himself kicked it off to the
side where some Carbinieri poked at with batons
before covering it with a tarp. The first smoke
bomb of the game, it would not be the last.

Prati was beginning to help Rivera at midfield for
Milan and they began to gain more and more possession
on the ball. A quick one-two between the Milan
midfielders broke the Inter lock on the middle of
the pitch and let Rivera stroke a long pass to
Chiarugi who broke down the wing past a slipping
Inter defender. Burgnich broke over to cover the
quick little rossonero wing but not before Chiarugi
cut a quick head-high cross that whizzed by the
Inter libero and past the turning head of Facchetti.

The cross found a lunging Schnellinger who beat the
frozen Bordon to the near post with a header from
just eight or nine meters out.

A stunned silence then a roar of joy from the Milan
sections as Karl-Heinz bounded away to the corner
in front of the Milan fans. He soon disappeared
under a swarm of red and black shirts and white

Meanwhile Facchetti and Burgnich were by the lines-
man claming that Schnellinger was behind the Inter
defense and that the goal should be disallowed.
It was just frustration, even from my far, and
decidedly Inter-friendly viewpoint, the Milan
player looked well onsides. The official walked
away from the two two desperately appealing Inter
players, shaking his head.

The rest of the first half disappeared in a haze
of smoke bombs and scattered whistles towards a
sputtering Inter attack. The Inter group of the
American School of Milan was quite dejected.
Things weren't helped by the constant reminders
of our deficit by the Milanistas of ASM.


The crowd chanted as Mike and Paul the Milanista
joined them along with the rest of the knot of
Milan followers in our group. The girls even
cheered with them, adding insult to injury.

Eric the German grabbed me and pulled me down
a runway crowded with sullen Inter fans smoking
the acrid Nazionale Italian national brand of
cigarettes. The smoke genuinely stung your eyes.
The reek from them made Lucky Strikes and even
the powerful French Gauloises pale in comparison.

"Madonna, we're playing like crap," said Eric
looking somewhat more rumpled than his usual
dapper self. "We aren't using the flanks and
Mazzola is being fouled every time he touches
the ball. Boninsegna is coming back nearly to
the defense to get the ball and we have no one
to launch the counter to."

"Outside of that, we're allright!" I attempted
a feeble joke. All I got from Eric was an even
more disgusted look before he spun on his heels
to go to the jam-packed loo.

I shook my head and gazed out at the Milan
section where chants of derision were being
hurled at the Inter followers. Behind the
safety of the sturdy partition of course.

I walked back to our seats to see Eric the
Italian trying to salvage something from the
game trying to chat up one of the girls.
Hmmmm, Eric had always been rather shy, so I
settled back to watch his nascent technique.

Tex and Mike interrupted my observations as
they grabbed my flag, wrapping the Inter
banner around the pole and hosting a Milan
scarf tied to its top.

Now that was too much.

I was quite a bit bigger than the two
brothers but two girls were between me and
the Milanistas so I couldn't just trample
them in my rush to separate the interlopers
from my flag (or consciousness). I reached
around one of the cringing girls and grabbed
Mike by the lapel of his jacket and pulled
him and the flag backwards towards me.

I got the flag back, but at the cost of the
pole being cracked and also Tex was angry
at me for pushing around his brother.
Mike wasn't angry, he was too happy with
Milan's lead and the fact that the pole
was cracked to mind too much.

I apologized to Tex but told him to stay
away from the flag or risk further wrath.
He, of course, started a Milan chant in
reply. Me and the Inter contingent seethed.
The girls had finished checking to see
whether us blundering males had spilled
anything on their clothes. Assured that
they were still immaculately casual, they
went back to talking animatedly.

"What do you think they're talking about
Paul," said Eric the Italian to me. "I
bet it's not about soccer."

"Why don't you ask them?" I responded my
mind more on my grumbling stomach than
on either the girls or whatever subject
they may have been considering.

"Hey Kerry, what are you guys talking
about," said Eric to the nearest one.

Three quickly turned faces stopped their
conversation, only to explode into giggles
and then they returned to the talk, this
time in whispers.

"They're either talking about us or which
of the guys around us is cute," I said
craning my neck to see if Eric the German
was returning with the food.

"You think Kerry likes me?" said Eric the
Italian. "I think she's cute."

"Eric, you know what I just said?" I said
as I rolled my eyes. "Why don't you ask
them? Girls actually answer when you talk
to them."

I was starting to feel something that
didn't involve teenage flirting or even
food (general surprise there.) Things
were tense with Inter trailing in the game
and I felt as if some of that tension
was directed at us.

The Milan chant had the effect that other
fans in the section, Inter of course, had
begun to notice us. It was not a pleasant
recognition on their part.

Another green-jacketed, blue-jeaned
Inter fan walked over to our section and
told me I should have punched the Milanista
for taking the flag. I tried to play him
off a bit, saying that Mike was a little
crazy and not to mind him.

Just then Eric the German appeared with
some pannini and one of those gaucho
leather squeeze sacks full of apple cider
to save the day. He pushed past the
curious outsider and we were soon all
munching and ignoring the angry interista,
the curious Inter fan snorted and
walked away, glancing over his shoulder.

Both Erics and I told Paul, Tex and Mike
to cool it. It was bad enough that they
were wearing Milan colors at an Inter
home game, but to screw around with an
Inter flag in full view of everyone (not
to mention the fact that it was my flag.)

"Ah, Inter fans are all talk," said Paul
the Milanista, all 5'4 of him. "We got
nothing to worry about."

Yeah, right. He wouldn't be saying the
same thing in a hour or so. I would be
wishing then that *he* was right.

The second half of the game was more of
the same from Milan and more of the same
from Inter. Substitutions were made on
both sides, but the play remained largely
at the midfield with Rivera and Prati
dancing away from their markers, retaining
possession of the ball for maddening
stretches of time.

Invernizzi began to push up Facchetti
more and more seeking the tying goal.
Burgnich was left to man mark the tall
legend's man in lieu of his usual duties
as libero. Ultimately this only led to
a second Milan goal. It was just not the
nerazzurri's day.

It happened just 10 minutes from the
final whistle. Chiarugi broke free again
down the sidelines and passed into the box
to a stunningly wide-open Rivera who
curled a lazy shot into the far "seven"
of the goal, leaving Bordon flat-footed
and disconsolate.

Milan 2, Inter 0. Oh, the pain!

Now the Milan area was openly abusing a
whistling Inter crowd. The Inter fans
did not respond heartily at first, pre-
ferring instead to whistle and catcall
at Invernizzi, who had never enjoyed
the status of his famous predecessor,
Helenio Herrera, the Uruguayan manager
who had brought 3 scudetti, 2 Champion's
Cups, and 2 Intercontinental Cups to

The day grew cooler and the fog settled
heavily in the waning moments of the
game. Eric the German wanted to leave
early, disgusted. The rest of us, of
course the Milanisti, wanted to stay to
the end.

We should have listened to him.

Several flares and one or two smoke
bombs were thrown onto the pitch,
some yellow rain-suited Inter employees
ran out to kick them off the pitch.

The natives were indeed restless. Any
decision, favorable or not, was derided
by the fans, howling and whistling and
throwing objects. The police and soldiers
moved into position around the edges of
the field, their shields now protecting
their bodies in fronts. Their plastic
face shields lowered over their eyes.

What surprised me was the numbers and
the armour of police and soldiers behind
a stout ten-foot steel spiked fence.
There seemed to be at least a couple
of hundred troops and police, all ready
for action. No one was taking any chances
with a pitch invasion.

The bersaglieri disappeared down the
ground tunnel -- they were hardly dressed
for crowd control and they had their
instruments to boot. You could see a
few of them ducking objects from the
stands. Things were definitely turning

An Inter shot by Bonimba that hit the
post a few seconds before the final
whistle seemed to only serve to heighten
the frustration of the Inter fans as the
final whistle blew amidst jeering of
Inter fans and cheering from the Milan

Paul, Tex and Mike were jumping up and
down, taking particular care to include
the girls in the celebration. Double

Only the Milan fans seemed to be sway-
ing, their rossonero banners and signs
waving gayly amidst a sea of limp neraz-
zurro flags and banners. It was defin-
itely not my dream of a derby ending.

We argued briefly with our Milanista
schoolmates about staying or leaving,
an argument won by us when we said we
were leaving whether they came or not.
The girls, looking at our Inter colors
and much larger size, decided to go
with us. That ended the argument as
Mike, Tex, and Paul the Milanista will-
ingly followed the fair ones onto the
exit ramps.

The crowds were not sullenly quiet as
they winded down the ramp. They were
sullen and noisy. Every minute or so a
firecracker would explode deafeningly
in the enclosed concrete ramp, a
ringing noise that had us all covering
our ears in pain.

A klaxon sounded from a group of insane
Milanistas, shouting and some pushing
ensued between that group and the surr-
ounding Inter fans. I looked over at
Mike and saw that he did not seem to
care, that no concern seemingly crossed
his face about the incident.

We filed out of the stadium and noted
that the small army of troops and police
that had been there at the start of the
game had seemingly vanished. There wasn't
a shield with "Polizia" on it anywhere to
be seen!

We walked off in the direction of the
metro stop at Lotto. I wanted to stop at
a Tabacchi (a Coffee/Cigarette bar) to buy
some gettone (tokens used to make calls
instead of coins) but the Tabacchi was
packed full with fans commiserating over
a "caffe' forte", a cup of powerful
espresso with a dash of grappa in it.
Arguments roiled back and forth between
the crowd of Inter fans. No gettone
today from this place, unless you wanted
to spend 15 minutes wading through the
crowd to get to the bar.

There went the chance of getting anybody's
parents to drive out and pick us up!

We turned away and continued to walk to
the metro. The cowd was rapidly thinning
out as the ones who had driven were
already either in the main parking lot
of San Siro or were fanning out to the
side streets near the stadium where they
had parked. Many of them would find par-
king tickets when they got to their cars,
the police had not been without some
forces outside the stadium too!

We bought a bag of hot chestnuts from a
vendor to help ward off the cold as much
to stay our hunger. Kerry clutched at one
in her mittened hands, cradling it like a
Faberge' egg and smelling its delicious
aroma and revelling in its warmth. I, on
the other hand, ate mine as soon as it
seemed cool enough, burning my tongue
slightly in my greedy disregard for
safety. The chestnut vendor asked the
score and when informed that Milan had
won, just shook his head and lamented
that business would be poor today. Losing
fans didn't buy as much as winners did.

Here was one man removed from the
maelstrom  of emotions, instead concerned
with the day to day practicalities of
life. We asked him who he supported. He
smiled and said that he was from a small
village near Catanzaro and still supported
his home town team although they were
mired well back in the Italian divisions.

We bought another bag of chestnuts from
him because he looked like he needed the
business and he thanked us, wishing us
luck. He also admitted with a cackle
that he was a little bit of a Juventus
fan too. Ay, ay, ay....

We continued our walk to the Metro and
now the crowds had definitely thinned
out. We were in several small groups,
I was walking alone with Mike talking
about the game. We were arguing over who
was better, Mazzola or Rivera, when some
shouts broke our concentration. I looked
around expecting to see Eric or Paul
or some of the girls, but it wasn't
them. No, it wasn't them at all...

A group of Inter ultras were closing on
me and Mike quickly, yelling insults at
Mike. They seemed to have appeared from
nowhere, stepping out from amidst the
curtains of fog.

The whole incident happened so fast, my
first reaction was to try to bar them
from getting at Mike with the flag pole.
That was no great help.

The plastic flag pole snapped easily as
four or five Inter ultras surged into
Mike, grabbing at him. I was pushed off
to the side by some others. Mike's Milan
cap and scarf were torn off him, he only
saved his small Milan banner.

It was over as fast as it happened, the
ultras running away as the rest of our
group ran up, Eric the German and John
leading them.

Mike had not been hurt much, a scratch
under one eye from someone grabbing at
the cap probably. I was unhurt but ab-
solutely furious and shaking with fury.

My Inter flag lay draped on the ground
with Mike picking it up and handing it
to me. He shook his head as he looked
at the shattered pole.

"Better your flag pole broken than his
jaw," said John, casting a streetwise
eye around for any further trouble.
"Didn't you see them coming," he asked
me and Mike. "We thought you did and
then we yelled but it was too late."

"No we didn't we were talking," said
Mike, whose jaw was trembling -- it had
been a shock to see and feel so many
people rushing at you, hate in their
eyes. "My cap is gone, my scarf!"

"They took off down to the subway,"
said Eric the Italian who had just come
running up. He panted out "I saw a
policeman and told him about what
happened and I think he saw it, but
he just waved me on. He didn't give
a bloody damn."

"Nah, don't even think about it," said
Eric the German. "They don't want to
hear about crap like this. Unless some-
one got knifed they aren't going to
get involved."

Not heeding this last thought and
whether it might still apply to us,
we all wanted to get Mike's stuff
back. We decided to put the girls in
a taxi with Mike the Milanista and
we ran down to the metro to see if
we could catch up to the ultras.

We ran down into the Lotto metro sta-
tion, expecting to find the ultras
long gone. We instead found a train
sitting at this end-of-the-line
station waiting for enough passengers
before it set off.

The ultras were on the next to last
car, yelling at us, waving Mike's cap
out the window like a trophy.

"Milanista di merda, venite qua!"said
one hooligan, taunting Mike to get
back the scarf he held teasingly. He
then began to try to tear up the
scarf, without much success.

"Come on out here and show us how
tough you are now!" said John to the

They taunted us to come in, we
taunted them to come out. Strangely,
I never remember a policeman in the
station, an almost regular sight at
any time, if only to be there to have
a coffee or two in the station bar.

The train doors eventually closed
with the ultras going off with Mike's
hat and scarf. The booty of war...

We caught the next train and joined
the rest of the group at the Galleria
for some panini, granitas and fru-
latti. We didn't normally splurge like
this but we had some extra lire and
some of us thought we could impress
the girls with our money and suave
manners amongst the crowds of the
Duomo. We soon were laughing and having
a good time looking out at the forest
of neon signs opposite the Duomo

A strange but somehow fascinating
combination. A stately and ornate six
hundred year old cathedral and the
glaring modern boisterousness of the
neon signs.

With night coming on and some coffee
to warm you and belly full of good
food, it all didn't seem so bad.

With a girl leaning on your shoulder
and a eyeful of history on one hand and
on the other, a look at the future,
the game's result seemed withstandable.

Until next Sunday, when the madness
would start all over again!


- Paul Mettewie