so I am going away for 5 days tomorrow early and will have no time to blog. And I haven't got time to upload my photos from Sunday right now, sorry (I went out for dinner instead, oops) but will try to do so afterwards.
Roma's second place was assured and the only point of the game was to make sure that our Francé scored at least 2, but generally as many as possible, to increase his chances of winning the Golden Boot. He is currently head of the classifica but everything depends on Ruud Van Nistelrooy not scoring a shitload in the last few games of the Spanish Liga - which doesn't finish til, iirc, June 17th.
So we were playing solely for Totti to score. Messina, already relegated, were playing for... well not for their fans, that's for sure. There were five of them. 1,2,3,4,5. 5,4,3,2,1. Really. Given that there were 3 or 4 stewards and a pair of policeman this was quite funny. When towards the end of game the PA read out the standard announcement, which also comes up on the big screen "I tifosi del MESSINA sono pregati di non fare casino ecc ecc" (I paraphrase a little) we were all a bit astonished. What, you're going to keep the rampaging horde of FIVE people locked in the ground after the match for an hour lest they riot? Or maybe the turnstiles couldn't handle that number of people flooding through them? The police want to individually engrave their names on their batons before they beat them up? They might stampede through the Foro Italico causing literally euros of damage to priceless neofascist graffiti?
Anyway the match was quite entertaining though I find it quite... convenient that Totti got to score his essential two goals. Just as in Cagliari last week we needed Totti to score & they needed 3 points: Final score Cagliari 3 - Totti 2. Very convenient. Corruption? No sirree. How could you insinuate such a thing.
Wit in Italian football is more generally the preserve of striscioni, whereas funny and spontaneous chants is much more an English/British phenomenon. However Sunday was an exception, perhaps due to the excitable party atmosphere. The vigorous efforts of the Messina goalie, wearing number 71, in front of the Sud in the second half earned him some opprobrium. "Sessantuno vaffanculo" and suchlike. Then once he fluffed an easy save for Totti to score everything changed. There's only one seventy-one, Seventy-one one of us, Seventy-one sign for us, sign for us! Seventy-one give us a wave, Keeper Keeper what's your name? All of which went on for some time before the poor chap finally acknowledged the fans and got an enormous cheer for his pains. The Sud was in fact in exceptional form, running through loads of old songs from the 70s and 80s as well as elogising some former heroes. There was a pre-match procession along the Lungotevere to celebrate the Coppa Italia win, then some decent coreografie including a giant shirt from the Ultras Romani and a celebratory striscione from the Fedayn. Noteworthy also was the (one-off?) reappearance in the Curva of some banners no longer usually displayed, such as the Curva Sud 1973 banner which used to represent the group in the central lower section who disbanded at Christmas. For celebratory reasons they put it back up on Sunday... but facing in, to the Sud, not out to the pitch: strictly an internal communication.
The stadium, incidentally, was pretty full: 60,000 or so. Partly this was due to the (misleadingly) awful weather forecast which encouraged people to put off going to the beach, which is the default Sunday activity from May onwards (the season usually finishes 3 or 4 weeks earlier, since of course we started late after Calciopoli). Partly this was because Sunday was our celebration of the Coppa Italia: having triumphed in Milan, it was time to celebrate at home with a lap of honour and the Cup getting waved aloft precariously - including by the Capi Ultras seated (in what must be a formidably uncomfortable position) on the central perspex gate. But also because Sunday was Roma's choice of fixture to meet what is now a legal requirement introduced under the Melandri/Amato regulations: a certain number of games each year must now offer cheap entrance to under-14s accompanied by a parent. Kids' tickets were just €8 in most parts of the stadium, while even for adults they were only €10 in curva instead of €15, and the top price seats €43 instead of €100. I've never seen so many kids (or mums, for that matter) at the Olimpico. This measure is intended to encourage families back and to limit the influence of the ultras. Which it assuredly can do: the absolute power of the Irriducibili at Lazio has been as much broken by the opposition of the rest of the stadium, of the regular fans, as it has by Lotito's determined action. Filling the stadium with kids also helps counteract the influence of the ultras if, as, on Sunday, the Curva is partially filled with them. A guy behind me grumbled "Kids are great in the stadium but even better at home," since they obviously don't sing, wave flags, jump up and down and make a lot of noise in the way that Curva culture requires of its members. Is this yet another example of reducing unpleasantness also reducing atmosphere? Only time can tell.
So that's the end of my first season as a season-ticket holder. After the lap of honour and singing and celebrating and the players all having a kick-about with their kids (kids, incidentally, are de rigeur this season for any kind of football celebration: see Peruzzi & Costacurta saying farewell, and Inter with their Scudetto party) I went up to the top of the curva and watched the stadium empty and enjoyed a quiet moment. Not alone, quite a few people clearly felt the same and lingered contemplatively. Rumour has it they're going to majorly restructure the Sud over the summer (well, the Nord too, I daresay Laziali are concerned about that) to make it accessible to police & stewards. Which of course is sensible. Whether the tifo will ever be the same again who knows... not that it's what it used to be now, of course, as veterans forever assure me, trapped in the compelling narrative of nostalgia and decline. Now, being an odd-numbered year, the long abyss of summer opens up ahead of us and we turn our minds to trivialities like holidays and parties in a futile effort to fill the void. Roll on the 2007/8 season.