Derby della Madonnina: AC Milan vs. Inter

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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.

The journey

Arriverdverci London

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.

Buongiorno Milan

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!

VAR

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.

Costs

Flights: £150
Hotel: £100/night (for four)
Trains: £25
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
Transport: 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
Costs: 6/10

Overall: 7.75/10

Conclusion

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.

Ciao.

Benoit Mercier

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San Siro Stadium Tour

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We start our football derbies challenge with a bang, AC Milan vs. Inter. My son is really excited and we arrive in Milan under the snow. We are not that well prepared and we could have done with some wellies. On the day of the game we learn that it has been postponed because the Fiorentina captain has died in the team hotel of a heart attack. Consequences for us is that we will not be watching the game this month, but there are more important things in life than football! Instead we get to visit Milan and what a beautiful city. The architecture is amazing (full report on our adventure will be written once we get to see the game). On the Monday we are heading towards the San Siro to visit one of the most iconic stadium in the world, where battles have been fierce.

San Siro stadium

The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, commonly known as San Siro, is a football stadium in the San Siro district of Milan, Italy, which is the home of A.C. Milan and Inter. It has a seating capacity of 80,018, making it one of the largest stadiums in Europe, and the largest in Italy.

Construction of the stadium commenced in 1925 in the district of Milan named San Siro, with the new stadium originally named Nuovo Stadio Calcistico San Siro (San Siro New Football Stadium). The idea to build a stadium in the same district as the horse racing track belonging to the man who at that time was the president of A.C. Milan, Piero Pirelli. The architects designed a private stadium only for football, without the athletics tracks which characterized Italian stadiums built with public funds. The inauguration was on 19 September 1926, when 35,000 spectators saw Inter defeat Milan 6–3. Originally, the ground was home and property of A.C. Milan. Finally, in 1947, Inter, who used to play in the Arena Civica downtown, became tenants and the two have shared the ground ever since.

From 1948 to 1955, engineers Armando Ronca and Ferruccio Calzolari developed the project for the second extension of the stadium, which capacity was meant to increase from 50,000 to 150,000 visitors. Calzolari and Ronca proposed three additional, vertically arranged, rings of spectator rows. Nineteen spiralling ramps – each 200-meter-long – allow to access the upper ranks. In the course of the execution, the realisation of the highest of the three rings was abandoned and the number of visitors limited to 100,000.On 2 March 1980 the stadium was named for Giuseppe Meazza (1910–1979), one of the most famous Milanese footballers.

The stadium underwent further renovations for the 1990 World Cup with $60 million being spent, bringing the stadium up to UEFA category four standard. As part of the renovations, the stadium became all seated, with an extra tier being added to three sides of the stadium. This entailed the building of 11 concrete towers around the outside of the stadium. Four of these concrete towers were located at the corners to support a new roof, which has distinctive protruding red girders.

Architect

Armando Ronca (13 September 1901 – 19 March 1970) was an Italian architect who has executed numerous buildings and interior designs, mainly in South Tyrol, Trentino and Milan

Stadium Tour

No need to pay online, it is only in Italian, and you can pay at the gate. We took a taxi from Duomo, in the city centre where our hotel was, to the San Siro. The fare was approx. 15€ for approx. 30min drive.

Arrived at the San Siro and the least I can say is that it is an imposing structure but full of concrete like Santiago Bernabeu (not pretty and lack of colours).

Make your way to Ingresso 8 (gate 8) and their we got to stand in the queue for 30min. They only had two people issuing tickets with only one credit card machine (really annoying).

The price of the ticket is 17€ and free for kids under 5. You go through metal detector and make your way to the museum. Did I say museum? It is basically a room with players shirts, one trophy and few other memorabilia. The best thing about it, is the fusball table where I got to play with my son.

After 15min, we then made our way to the stadium. We pass what I assumed was the press area where players stop for interviews after they got changed, but not confirmed. It is a self guided tour…with no information! There is some really friendly staff that do give us some info and mention that the AC Milan and Inter dressing rooms are of the same size but different configuration. Players shorts are hung and you get to take pictures. You can’t see other amenities disappointingly.

You then take a long tunnel towards the pitch and it is the perfect time for the little one to stretch his legs. You emerge on the other side and then wow. What an impressive sight. You are in the arena and feel like a gladiator. But then after the wow factor comes in the reality. You start to realise that it is dilapidated. Also, because the ground is shared, you don’t feel a sense of belonging. You usually have fans banners but this is after all a neutral ground. It originally was AC Milan and there are talk of Inter moving away. It would make sense. As a neutral fan, I associate the San Siro with AC Milan rather than Inter. The seats are worn out and it would need some renovation. We make our way to the terraces (not a good idea to bring a pram!) and my son gets to shout. Well his shout goes all around the stadium and I can only imaging how deafening it must be when full capacity with flares and crackers.

We then make our way out of the stadium and the visit is concluded. Overall, disappointing. Such and iconic and amazing stadium and yet an over prices tour. They could do so much more with it! You can view my video below:

http://www.sansiro.net/?page_id=1757&lang=en

Cost: 17€ adult, 12€ juniors and free under 5
Stadium architecture: 10/10
Stadium history: 10/10
Stadium tour: 1/10
Overall mark: 7/10

Benoit Mercier

First derby for the challenge is…AC Milan v Inter Milan

Ok, I have now reviewed my options and I have decided to start our challenge in Milan for what should be a cracking of an opening for us. The game is on the 4th March at 3pm local time.

The Derby della Madonnina is one of the most sought after. Looking forward to visiting Milan and its rich history, as well as, the famous San Siro.

Remember, you can help me: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/football-beyond-borders-derbies?tk=e1462d1e565825ec5eb17bfa158daac3485aa036

And don’t forget that it is also for the FBB charity: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ben-mercier1

Look out in a month’s time for the first report!

Benoit Mercier