It’s a completely meaningless game for Milan, through to the next round of the Champions League by virtue of victory over Ajax two weeks ago, and half the squad has already travelled to Tokyo for the final of the Intercontinental Cup final against Boca Juniors at the weekend. There’s no Maldini, no Nesta, no Rui Costa, no Shevchenko, no Inzaghi. There’s only 36,000 people in a stadium that holds 85,000, yet I’m having the time of my life. While three sides of the San Siro feature large blocks of empty seats, the Brigate Rossonere end of the arena is packed, and it’s rocking. The chanting doesn’t let up in ninety minutes, led by cheerleaders stationed along the front of the tier who encourage the crowd to stay involved. Each of them has a microphone wired up to a primitive PA system, their disembodied, electronic voices booming across the stand like a series of competing Mu?azzen clerics. If you fold your arms for a second you’re singled out for criticism, your loyalty to the Milan cause cast into immediate doubt. To top it all off, there’s an elderly gentleman wandering the seats doing a roaring trade in miniature bottles of Sambuca.
The weirdest thing is that, apart from the moment went Kaka puts Milan ahead, the reaction of the home support seems to have very little to do the action on the pitch. While in the UK the volume and passion levels of the fans are driven largely by events during the game, here the noise remains constant whatever happens. Each Celta Vigo goal is met with something close to indifference, with no interruption to the song or chant in progress. It’s an absolutely bizarre, fantastic experience, and I doubt I’ve ever watched less of a game in my life yet felt so involved. The only slightly threatening moment comes during a visit to the urinals, when I’m studying a piece of graffiti that reads “Basta con la mafia delle giacchette nere sangue violenza Brigate Rossonere.” I don’t speak Italian, but any sentence featuring the words ‘mafia’ and ‘violence’ is worthy of closer inspection. The guy standing next to me offers to translate, and reads the phrase slowly back, gazing at me rather intently as he does so: “Piss. Shit. Beckham. Fuck off.” I decide not to persue the matter further and quickly return to my seat.
The Brigate Rossonere also sing a great version of ‘You’ll never walk Alone,’ where most of the consonants seemed to have been dropped, or at least that’s the way it sounds to my uncultured ears.
Ih Your Har
Ah yoo ne’ah war agai
Ah you ne’ah war agai
Someone please buy me a season ticket.