Genoa 1 Chievo 1

Genoa 1 Chievo Verona 1 (20th September 2017)

The award for the world’s least busy metro system, surely, must go to Genoa’s. It doesn’t matter what time of day you use it, if there are more than five people on a platform, it counts as “packed”. It was handy for me though, with a stop near my hotel, and also near both major train stations, one of which was about a 10 minute walk away from the Luigi Ferraris Stadium, home to both Genoa and Sampdoria.

From the station, it was an easy stroll alongside a wide and rather ugly concrete riverbed, virtually dried up and thriving with vegetation. I’d read that you shouldn’t even think about trying to walk up and over the hill that separates the stadium from the city centre, despite it looking on a map the more obvious route. Seeing that hillside now, like a small mountain ridge, I can see why.

I’d bought my ticket from the Genoa shop/museum down by the harbour earlier in the day, but I wanted to have a quick walk round the stadium. I was forced to re-evalute my idea of ‘quick’ though, as an over the top security operation saw all the roads adjacent to the stadium closed off, turning that “quick walk round” into a near half hour detour. I’m not sure if it was better or worse that I realised the gate I needed to get into the ground was right where I’d started from.

When I was to eventually go beyond the security iron curtain – all this for the visit of Chievo, who’d have less than 100 fans there – I found another bar, and incongruously, a branch of Lidl. It can’t really have helped trade much.

It was a little early to go in, so after a quick look at a shop selling souvenirs, and it seemed, ladies underwear, I found a cafe/bar and went in for a beer and a bite to eat. The place had an ever so slightly rough edge to it, possibly due to the bar being the sort of place that sold Tennants Super on tap, at 9% proof. Not being a tramp, I opted for a Moretti instead. I asked for a pint, but was given a bottle. This, it turned out, wasn’t the usual Moretti sold in pubs over here. It weighed it at a daft 7.2% itself, even if that would get me labelled as the Italian equivalent of a “soft shandy-drinker” by the Tennants Super crowd. To the bar’s credit, it not only seemed friendly enough, the guy behind the bar didn’t go by the “five second rule” when he dropped my ham & cheese focaccia on the floor, making another one instead.

The Luigi Ferraris Stadium really looks stunning from the outside and in photos. On TV, it looks brilliant inside too. Four stands, all close to the pitch, fully covered, it seems almost the ideal stadium. Up close and personal though…thing were a little different. Let’s just say it was exhibiting what does often seem the typical Italian approach to building maintenance, namely; build something, let it deteriorate for a few decades, enjoy!

Some of the seats were starting to fade, and most were pretty grubby. No doubt there are footprints on some celebrating their silver jubilee. Down at the front there weren’t even actual seats, just concrete benches of the type last seen in the UK at Stamford Bridge’s terrible old West Stand. Toilets in the top tier had no lock on the door, no toilet paper, no proper toilet (a hole and the “spaceman’s footprints” either side) and the sinks had no running water at all. The tea bar also sold me a dreadful beer (Ceres), but to be fair, I can’t blame to club for that one.

That said, if you can pretend all that doesn’t exist, it does look a magnificent stadium. The view is excellent, at least from the back of the top tier behind the goal, especially when sat opposite the Genoa ultras, who, even for a low key game such as this one, create quite a sight. Less good were the people who decided to stand, for the whole game, at the front barrier of the upper tier, completely wiping out about a dozen rows of seats as a viewing possibility.

If you are wondering why the stewards didn’t move them on, then you obviously haven’t been to an Italian football match. Italian stewards seem to like to do the bare minimum, if not less if they can get away with it. Climbing the stairs to the top tier would be far too much effort. Even the stewards who do the security pat-down of fans entering the stadium seem to regard it as little more than a gesture, given the bulky items in pockets I’ve had that didn’t raise a single question. I think you could go in with a harpoon gun, nunchukas and a cricket bat, and they’d still wave you through.

When I’d bought by ticket in the Genoa shop I’d said to the guy that I’d seen Chievo play on the Sunday, and as they weren’t hugely impressive, Genoa had a good chance of winning. He acknowledged this gem of information with a smile and a shrug, with more than a hint of “Why are you still bothering me, you tourist idiot?” in his body language.

Or maybe he’d just seen Genoa play more than I had, because while Chievo weren’t impressive, nor were Genoa. Oddly, in the first half it was nearly all Genoa. They just weren’t very good. It was as if Chievo’s tactics were to let Genoa have a completely free run, and just wait until Genoa’s own incompetence made them give up the will to live.

With the impressive ultras singing away, it was a good backdrop to a game that was struggling to happen, but to was one of those occasions where the ultra style singing just feels too one-paced, and didn’t fit the rhythm of the game at all – although considering how Genoa were playing, that might not have been a bad thing. Genoa mustered a few wayward efforts, and Chievo had the odd chance, hinting at what they could do if the Genoa team got fed up of trying. At half time though, I was staring at my 3rd goalless first half in four games.

While teams usually come out to great fanfare before the game, in Italy they seem to come out for the second half to almost total apathy. If anything though, Genoa played better. They came very close to scoring in early stages, when a ball in the six yard box was clipped across the keeper. It looked a goal all the way, except that it just kept rolling, rolling past the far post. Another shot from the edge of the box went flying just past the post with the keeper beaten.

The breakthough came in the 62nd minute. A punched clearance got no further than the edge of the box and was fired back in. It went straight in past the fumbling keeper, possibly with the aid of a deflection, to put Genoa 1-0 up, and possibly on their way to their first win of the season.

Unfortunately, rather than trying to go on and make the game safe, Genoa took this as an opportunity to throw down a “now see if you can score!” challenge to Chievo. It took about 10 minutes. A nice diagonal ball into the box was picked up by a Chievo player that the Genoa defenders seemed to decide just wasn’t worth marking, and he clipped the ball past the onrushing Genoa keeper to level the scores. The travelling dozens from Verona in the stand to my left went wild, and whistles of derision rained down from the rest of the ground.

While Genoa did manage another pretty good shot from distance, there was a definite feeling that the home side had resigned themselves to the draw, as it somehow they could treat this as a moral victory, even if it wasn’t an actual one. When the final whistle blew though, the home fans let the team know in no uncertain terms what they thought of such an attitude. I began to suspect that most of the damaged seats in the stadium had had their backs snapped off after similar performances. Or maybe they just knew this south end was normally the Sampdoria home end, and took delight in buggering up their rival’s facilities.

There is a strange fascination in watching the fans after such an annoying display. The same gestures, the same tone of exasperation is so familiar, even if in a foreign language. On the bus back to the city centre, one older fan had a full on rant, perhaps to friends, perhaps to strangers, who knows? But what it did know, without actually speaking Italian, was exactly what he was saying. Every fan knows that “things have got to change/why do they keep doing x, y & x?/why can’t they do a, b & c?/how long has this been going on for now?” rant that always seems to take over one person on public transport after a game, like a kind of football fan demonic possession. In a foreign country I may have been, but it made me feel at home.

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