Inter-laced with Bergamo
I'll never tire of San Siro When the first round of the knock-out stage of the Champions League pitted Jose Mourinho's Inter against us we were all filled with equal measures of eager anticipation and a sense of foreboding. The prospect of our previous glorious leader entertaining Carlo Ancelotti on his return to the scene of his magnificent achievements was irresistible. Would the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ that we so fondly embraced prevail or would the cunning guile of the Italian maestro prove too much for the suave Portuguese? One thing was for sure - it was too good a fixture to miss! Milan is not one of my favourite European cities. It does not have the grandeur, splendour or beauty of many Italian cities. Furthermore as I simply do not get fashion, the outrageously priced boutiques of the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele are anathema to me. Consequently the objective was to go to the game but spend as little time as possible in Milan. This was very pleasantly achieved by spending the night before the game in Bergamo. It is often all too easy to dismiss the towns that Ryanair fly in and out off as being simply inconvenient points en route to the place that you really want to be. Bergamo is certainly worth spending time in, though, particularly the old town perched high above the new town. It has stunning architecture and magnificent views. The French writer Stendahl is alleged to have said that its town square is the most beautiful place on earth. Although this is rather overstating its charms, it is easy to see why he made such claims. It certainly offered tranquillity on the eve of the storm to follow. The following day we made our way on to Milan and embarked on the long trek to the ground from the local metro stop. It must have been at least a twenty-five minute walk – prompting comparisons to the delightful hike from Seven Sisters tube to White Hart Lane. The San Siro emerges from the chaos of the vending stalls selling food, drink and Inter merchandise and it is only on entering the stadium that it reveals its truly awesome magnificence. It is an almost overwhelming experience to be amidst the intensity of the colour and the ever-present wall of sound created by the home fans. When they did a pre-match version of ‘bouncy’ the whole structure shook and, briefly, I thought it was going to collapse!# Being in the press over spill area meant that we were sat amongst the Inter fans. Although this was potentially intimidating, it strangely enhanced the emotional intensity of the occasion as we witnessed the passion of the Italian fans among us, some of whom were sat on the steps between the packed rows of seats. The noise, particularly the whistling when the Chelsea team was announced, was relentless. The setting off of red and yellow flares in the Ultras’ end added to the madness of it all. Although we trailed behind after Diego Milito's third-minute goal for the entire first half, it was one of the best prolonged passages of play that I have seen from Chelsea for a very long time. The Blues created many fine flowing moves that were unfortunate not to result in at least one goal. Had Drogba's powerful free-kick gone in or if the ref had spotted the foul on Kalou as he bore down on goal it would have been only what we deserved. In the amazing environment of the San Siro it was a half that I did not want to end. Kalou's early second half goal suggested that we might well get our just desserts for the fluid play of the first half. Unfortunately this well-grounded optimism was put paid to by Cambiasso’s thumping winner. The second half never quite measured up to the promise of the first half. However Hilario was never troubled after he had replaced Cech following his somewhat troubling injury. But the away goal gave cause for mild optimism for the return leg in three weeks’ time. All in all it would seem that the result handed a slight advantage to Mourinho's Inter. But if we can create some of the passion and noise that the Inter fans have, there is no reason not to believe that we can overturn this narrow deficit. I will always treasure my vivid memories of seeing Chelsea play in one of the true theatres of the game. A win would have been better but to witness the intense passion of the San Siro is one of the ultimate football experiences. As a colleague remarked, "A man who tires of football in the San Siro, tires of life!"
Related Chelsea News