Inter 3 Reggina 0

Vieri's just scored to put Inter 1-0 up.

Vieri’s just scored to put Inter 1-0 up.

Internazionale 3 Reggina 1 (09/02/2003)

It’s hard not to feel a little scruffy in Milan, as has been said many times. You certainly stand out as being English. I went there with a friend and his brother, and the moment we stepped into a pizza restaurant in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, there was an immediate comment of “they’re English” from another table. It’s not as if we were wearing football tops or Brits on the piss t-shirts, or anything awful like that, we just stood out as being different. Italians just dress better. As a generation of English lads who wear expensive designer label clothing, yet still manage to look like they covered themselves in glue and run through a jumble sale prove, It’s how you wear, not what you wear that’s crucial.

OK, we possibly hadn’t helped ourselves by one of our trio saying he wanted to eat in McDonalds – yes there may be a branch in the Galleria, but we persuaded him we’d need to have no shame to eat there – at least I think we didn’t stand out as three English lads wearing Inter shirts. All three had “Vieri 10” on the back, lacking the originality to even have a different favourite player between them. You just didn’t see Italians dressed like that in the city centre, although the fact that we saw them on the roof of Milan Cathedral was also a rather big hint they weren’t locals. Impeccable timing meant that we were there while the magnificent gothic frontage was entirely covered in scaffolding, but you were allowed up on the roof and up the towers – not something my vertigo suffering friend completely appreciated.

Milan’s other “cathedral”, viewable from the roof of the one in the centre, is the San Siro, home to both of the city’s clubs. At 65m high, it’s as tall as well. And like the main cathedral, it’s set in a plaza so you can really appreciate it, and be struck by its scale.

There are probably very stadiums in the world as recognisable from the outside as the San Siro. Perhaps the old Wembley, but from there, it’s a struggle. The ramps that encircle the San Siro are like a trademark. No other stadium looks like it, and even the 1990 editions don’t detract from the original 1955 design.

Not wanting to be watching through binoculars, we opted for seats on the 2nd tier, at the lower side with the horse racing track behind. I’d hoped that this would offer a view of the city over the back wall, but alas, the wall was too high to see over. Not that it really matters when such an impressive sight is in front of you. “Big” doesn’t really do it justice. We were at the top of the 2nd tier, yet the third just still seemed to go up and up, far higher than we were, surrounding as if we were actors on stage at an amphitheatre. How must if feel to the players?

Despite the distance, the view wasn’t actually that bad. While things at the very top might be different, the players didn’t look like ants, as I’d feared (although they weren’t far off when viewed through my cheap zoomless camera). The most popular section, after all, was the 2nd tier behind the goal. This was crammed full of fans of Inter, waving flags and singing away impressively. The sheer number of fans in that section clearly took the seats and their numbers as some kind of suggestion, as there were clearly far more fans there than seats. Even the aisles in that end third of the stadium were generally treated as impromptu seating areas. In England this would have legions of yellow or orange jacketed stewards throwing these troublemakers out. Here, in Italy, the steward at the front of out section ignored this, and carried on leaning over balcony wall and waving a giant inter flag instead.

To be honest, although we did find our seats, the steps wouldn’t have been all that less comfortable. The backless seats added for the 1990 World Cup were clearly very cheap additions, chosen for their resistance to vandalism rather than comfort, and the markings on most had all but worn away. The stadium was also very basic in other areas too. Beyond a man carrying a small tray of overpriced snacks, rather like a choc-ice seller at an old-fashioned cinema, there didn’t seem to be anywhere to buy food etc. The Milanese clearly aren’t fussed by creature comforts at football though, as they pack the fans in each week in numbers.

Mind you, even with 60,000 in for this game, that still left 23000 empty spaces, mainly in the top tier. Reggina aren’t the biggest draw in Italian football, after all. They did bring a decent contingent of fans with them though. How many of the 3000 or so had travelled up the 360 miles from Reggio Calabria, right on the tip of the “toe” of Italy, and how many were locals who’d migrated north is hard to say, but they were incredibly noisy. With their flags, flares and singing, they did their best to outdo their hosts. This pre-match “battle” fell into a routine of them singing – even my incredibly limited Italian was able to hear them making themselves popular with the locals by suggesting that Inter fans go forth and multiply – and this effort being overwhelmed by the even more vociferous and partizan home fans.

And this was pretty much how the match panned out too. Reggina would throw everything at Inter, only to have much more thrown back at them. Even after a decade or two of tactical change, the stereotype of Italian football being dull and defensive lingered on in our minds, but here were two team really going for it. The opening stages looked like they could be anybody’s, but it was Inter who scored first. Just 10 minutes in, Vieri scored in off the post, with the keeper just failing to keep the ball out. Those three Vieri-shirt clad lads would no doubt be thrilled.

After the goal, the Inter fans again sang away, louder than before, bouncing up and down on their tier. And “bounce is certainly the operative word, as not only did their stand visibly shift with each jump, but it had a see-saw action on our interconnected stand too, lifting up each time their section went down. I’ve felt a few stands have a little spring in them before, but nothing like that.

Again, it carried on at a high tempo, end to end, but Inter always looked stronger. Again the keeper was a little unlucky towards the end of the first half, as another shot was well saved, but bounced perfectly for Mohammed Kallon. He wasn’t going to miss from 6 yards, and lashed it in to make it 2-0. The mountain to climb became alpine just a few minutes later when a penalty gave Kallon a chance of a quick 2nd for him on the day. He sent the keeper the wrong way to all but seal the points before half time.

And that was a shame, as the 2nd half was at best half-paced. From being adventurous, Reggina just now seemed keen not to be humiliated. Inter had the points in the bag, and played relaxed, but not very incisive, football. The final score of 3-0 was more or less obvious from quite early in the second half, but it wasn’t too disappointing. At least all three goals were at our end. I even got lucky at got two of them on camera, despite only taking four pictures during the game. Unfortunately, long distances, no zoom, and a cheap camera that treated focussing as an idea it might try one day, does not add up to great pictures. Everything did add up to really enjoyable game though, and great trip to Milan overall, and that’s the main thing.

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