Exactly a month after the AC Milan vs. Inter derby was postponed, here we were with my 3 years old son, back on our journey to Milan to kick off properly our football derbies challenge. This was going to be an amazing 36 hours round trip, full of excitement, adrenaline and challenges. But before, I take you on a damp Wednesday evening at the San Siro, let me tell you about our journey to get there.
5.30 am – Only had couple of hours sleep that I must wake up my son to dress him up. No easy feat I can tell you. 30min later, all dressed up and with our backpacks (he insisted in taking few toys in his own backpack!), we make our way to Gatwick Airport to take the
8.55 am – on board our flight to Milan Malpenza. We know well this airport from last month and it is really easy access to Milan. My son is fluey and I check the weather forecast, which is not looking good, heavy rain with thunderstorms. I curse my bad luck. I am worried that the game gets cancelled because of the thunderstorms (it has happened to me before) and I need my son to be on top form. Wisely I had taken my secret weapon…Calpol. Our flight leaves on time and 2 hours later we land in Milan with my son having slept all way through.
1.30 pm – we take the Malpenza Express at the airport train station that will take us straight to Cadorna Stazione. Commute: 40 min, 13 €. We then take a taxi to the hotel, another 40min and by 2.30pm we are finally lying on our hotel bed. Time to order some room service to get some ham and cheese toast. My son is not looking great I must say, a bit lethargic. Ok time to act. A wee bit of Calpol and a power nap I hope will do the trick. While he sleeps, I am checking how long it takes to get to the San Siro, 30min Google tells me. The game is at 6.30pm and I want to be at least an hour before kick off time. Therefore, I settle on leaving at 4.30pm.
On route to the San Siro
‘Madonna’ it rains like crazy. No umbrella, no rain jackets and the little one coughing like crazy, I can picture my wife complaining about taking him to a football game in his state. Sod it, I have not come all this way to give up. Another injection of Calpol will do the trick and give him enough energy to last the game! I order a Uber from the hotel and an immaculate Mercedes e Class comes to collect us. I am loving the comfort. And boy did we need it. Traffic jam after traffic jam. Our driver re-assures me that we will be on time but I can see the clock ticking along and us not moving. I check Google map and we are still 40 min walk away from San Siro. Normally I would have got us walking, but in my son’s state no way and it is absolutely pouring outside. Now I am getting a little bit stressed. 1h30 min later I can see the San Siro, phew I can breathe but by now it is 6pm. i decide to do the last few 100 meters walking.
Soaking the atmosphere
6 pm – Well the only thing soaking here is us. Soaking wet that is. Every fans are running to the gates and as we are about to do the same, my son tells me he wants to eat. S****! By the time I get him a hot dog I will have missed the warm up. Never mind, you need to have your priorities right (up to now you may doubt my ability to do so, I don’t blame you). We got to the food stand in front of the gate and order a nice hot dog. Eat in or take away he asks me. I am thinking, do I look to be wanting to eat it outside? I rush to Gate 7 and lucky for us, the rain has calmed down and very little queue.
Entering the San Siro
6.15pm – The security guy asks to see both my tickets and IDs. ‘Come again’ is my response. I have not taken any passports, why would I. Well it turns out that you have to at the San Siro. Now I panick. 2 trips to Milan, few quids out of my pocket, a tired son, you have got to be kidding me. Lucky for me, I have my driving licence but my son…by then the queue started to get longer and the game being minutes away, few home fans put him under pressure to let us pass. I just heared ‘bambini’, which I assume was, ‘he is a small kid what damage can he do!’ He gives me a smile and says ‘next time…’. Yeah right, no time to listen I am now rushing to the stairs. Another security check. This time, no issues.
This is what it is all about
We make the long journey to the top in about 5min (10 stair cases to go up). We arrive and both look at each others and wow, the magic happens. 80,000 fans shouting and getting ready for a gladiators fight. The noise is from a different planet, with over 100 decibels. This is the equivalent of a Boeing 707 taking off. Each end suddenly explodes ten minutes before kick off into huge, perfectly choreographed displays of banners. The whole vibrant spectacle is down to the dedicated work of hundreds of members of the much-aligned ultras. I get straight onto the camera and starts recording both ‘curvas’. Curva Sur for the AC Milan kop and Curva Norte for the Inter kop. We are seating next to curva norte. AC Milan kop deployed an amazing tifo and Franco Baresi comes and lay flowers in memory of the late Ray Wilkins. Nice touch.
The game and the fans
The first interesting fact is that the fans mix themselves, in the same way they would do in the Merseyside derby. It is all in good spirit, no fights, no intimidation. Even close to the away fans nothing gets thrown. I was surprised as it was coined as one of the most violent derbies in world football. Other interesting fact is that people smoke, and not just cigarettes. Some cultural habits cannot go away that easy. Also, if you are relatively tall like me (1.80m), your knees will be in the person in front of you. This arena was clearly made to be standing up.
The game itself is not great. Italian football has never been my cup of tea but they are easily the 5th best league in European football nation right now. We get to experience two goals but both ruled out after VAR. The noise when the goals are scored is indescribable. You get goose pumps. I know now why my cousin told me he could not hear his team mates when he played at the San Siro vs. AC Milan. I could not hear my son talk to me! The sound reverberation is phenomenal.
The first 45min flew by. At half time my son tells me he is cold. I am in trouble now. I tell him 15min more min, then 5 and then promise him some treats at the hotel. This works until the 70th minute but then we make our way out. This is the longest he has been able to stay at a game and I am pleased with what we experienced.
I bought him a friendship scarf on our way out so that we can start decorating his room…well try to before his mother notices it!
I was not planning on discussing it but then it occurred twice during the game, and as a fan I feel compelled to give my opinion on the subject.
I love the fact that we can give a fairer outcome to our game. I really do. I embrace goal line technology for example and I hate Platini’s idea of 5 referees, which is pointless. But I must agree with Pochettino. VAR kills the atmosphere and the essence of what a football game is all about. When Inter score the first goal, there were amazing celebrations at their end for few seconds and a barrage of abuse at the other end. But rapidly, the speaker and score board annouced VAR and the whole stadium quieten down. 5min later (truly 5min) he cancelled the goal, which was the right decision. At this point AC Milan fans erupted. But in between, the away fans did not know whether to celebrate and the away fans did not know whether to shout and vent their anger. We were in limbos. I agree with Pochettino that VAR is a bad idea. Unlike goal line technology, which is instant, VAR delays the output and by default kills the adrenaline of the moment. Until they can decide on the validity of a goal in a split of a second, I would rather the referee give a bad decision and be the talking point the next day but at least it would keep the emotions high within the stadium.
Our way back to the city centre
In one word, nightmare! I am looking for a taxi as it is raining a lot and get straight onto my Uber app. It tells me 5min. Fantastic. Issue, the taxi is not coming to the right location and after 15min of making me go up and down various avenues, cancel my trip. Ouch, the stadium is starting to empty itself and I make my way to the metro M5 (easiest way to San Siro and back to Milan). I can’t be bothered being jam packed so I keep asking Uber for a taxi. It is always the same one that comes back. Luckily, this time he comes to the right place. 30min later we are at the hotel, ordering room service and reflecting on what has been an extraordinary day.
Journey back home
9am – we go and get our breakfast and order a taxi to take us to the train station. We arrive at the airport just before noon and then fly back to London and arrive at home at 4pm. My son is delighted to see all is toys again and I am delighted with our trip. Before going to sleep it tells me ‘I enjoyed travelling with you dad and going to the game’. I did not need anymore to know that the next journey, will be another amazing adventure.
Hotel: £100/night (for four)
Taxi: £150 (for four days). To go to San Siro (£30 each way)
Food: £10/pers per meal
Match ticket: £130 viagogo
The overall experience
City accommodation: 10/10
City history: 10/10 (a lot of history, museums)
Football atmosphere in the city: 2/10 (you don’t feel it is a derby day)
Football atmosphere in the stadium: 10/10
Insecurity: 10/10 (never felt in danger)
Quality of football: 4/10
The whole purpose of this challenge was to educate my son and myself on discovering a new city, new culture, new history with an amazing football experience. For a first I must say that we go both and I can’t wait for the second adventure when the new football season starts. And please, remember that you can support our challenge by giving what you can and want to our selected charity, which is Football Beyond Borders.