What a fantastically ridiculous scoreline. And what a daft game. Here surrealism was the order of the day: an absurd result played in an absurdly half-empty stadium.
They scored after 2 minutes, when we barely looked like we'd noticed we were on the pitch, and then they did exactly the same thing in the second half to score after about 30 seconds. So even though it was 2-1 at half time, the second half was spent in us trying to edge ahead and then them equalising. Frankly, if we'd made it 5-4 (which we very nearly did with a couple of chances at the end) they' d have somehow snicked it back to 5-5. It was that kind of night.
It was also the first cold night of the year: despite being known as Il Derby del Sole, it was about 10°C, and your correspondent was under-dressed, and accordingly rather cold. On the other hand... both big screens were working! Oh yes. I trust you are all very excited about this news. Perhaps I should explain that the Curva Nord screen stopped working some time in late 2005 and we had to make do with craning our necks to see the screen behind us for almost 2 whole years. Then at the start of this season, a temporary screen had been erected in front of the Sud screen - with which there had never previously been any problems - and which worked for a week or two. Then it died but at the same time the screen in the Nord began to work instead. Well, after a fashion. There was a tendency for goals to be wrongly allocated, for scorers' names to appear all in upper case letters or alternatively without any at all, or to be mis-spelt. Or for the "GOOOAAALLL" animation to be played for the opposing team rather than for the home side. And when Inter beat us, the scoreboard obstinately refused to acknowledge this for some time, showing the names of the scorers but asserting that the score remained 1-1. Even today, the times of the goals disappeared suddenly, late on in the match. However both screens were fully functioning, and this was a big moment indeed.
I'm telling you this as a displacement activity, rather than talk about the actual football. It mostly boils down to: conceding stupid goals. As Curci was having one of his relatively rare starts he was doubtless keen to make an impression... just not this kind of impression. His first child was born on Thursday so maybe his thoughts were elsewhere. He had a shocker, though I am never in favour of booing one's own players since I can't see what earthly good it could do. Napoli played some decent football and are very fast on the break: I liked the look of Zalayeta and their "new Maradona", Argentinian kid Lavezzi, and Hamsek in midfield. We looked less than our usual selves by some distance, lacking a bit of confidence and fluency, and missing Aquilani - though Pizarro was not half bad, and even scored. Our defence though were repeatedly caught immobile and dozing, while Curci's positioning was repeatedly at fault. And once again there was a severe shortage of decent crosses, and a total absence of people to get on the end of the few good balls into the area which were forthcoming. Hmm. Doubtless for the neutral it was a very exciting game. My sentiments on these occasions tend to be "Sod the fucking neutral."
Meanwhile there were only some 27000 of us there because for reasons explored in previous posts the match was open to season-ticket holders only. In essence this is because a) Napoli fans have been causing trouble and b) when away ticket sales were halted for their last game they just bought home tickets instead. So the many thousands of Roma fans who buy their tickets on a game by game basis lost out - as of course did those travelling Napoli fans who aren't all mindless thugs, and I'm sure there are plenty. Many people here can't afford to buy a season ticket: incredibly cheap though they seem to those on UK salaries, it's a big lump sum to pay all at once (though the payment plans are popular) and especially if you attend as a family is beyond the means of many. So a situation like today's ends up - however unintentionally - being another way of penalising the poor. My mother's song about gravy springs to mind. But on the bright side there was not a whiff of trouble (at least, that I saw/heard about) despite a large police presence and slower than usual queuing at the turnstiles. Still no ID checking in the Sud though apparently they were doing so in some sectors. They had kept the Nord empty and shifted all the ST holders from there into other parts of the ground: why? Perhaps fearing that opposing fans might turn up and forcibly demand admittance? It looked as though the authorities were keeping them a space. Large numbers of Napoli fans meanwhile congregated under their own Curva A outside the San Paolo, to follow the game together (via radio, one presumes), to sing, throw flares around, and generally enjoy themselves.
Offensive song watch: a brief and energetic chorus of 'Dai Vesuvio, Napoli in fiamme' (which is more or less comparable to what we sing at both Milanese teams, really, except that in the case of the Milanese we rhetorically preserve agency by proposing hand grenades as the source of the fire rather than abdicating responsibility to nature as embodied in Vesuvius) but happily the less lovely chant posted in the previous comment section was absent, save for one very half-hearted and localised rendition which was begun but then faded out. My feeling was that the rather draconian measures taken at Inter have had an impact: nobody wanted to risk missing the Derby, which is our next home game.
Watching a game with no opposition fans feels all wrong. The silence around the ground each time they scored... ok, Chievo used to bring about 50 people, but at least it was something. When you sing 'cori contro' you are singing against the opposing fans, and you know they are singing abuse at you too, even if you can't hear it. And although there is a disparity of numbers there is some kind of equality. When your abuse is aimed only at the 11 men on the field, and there are over 20,000 of you, it ceases to feel like football banter and starts to feel a bit like bullying... not that that in any way impeded me when they got their fourth.