Saturday night, 21h kick off. I got there nice and early, for once, anticipating chaos. And chaos there duly was. Because the game was managed by the League directly, rather than the two clubs involved, there were particular arrangements for ticket sales. Specifically, tickets were sold through a national network of ticket vendors, with the tickets for southern half of the stadium available only in the Province of Rome, and those for the northern part of the stadium on sale in Milan. There was no presale or reservation of seats for season ticket holders.
You can imagine, or perhaps you can't, the hell that broke lose. Irate season ticket holders, myself included, were forced to queue for hours to have the chance to buy a seat, while occasional fans who turn up to one or two games a season managed to buy tickets in the Curva Sud. In fact I had a big row with my flatmate about it: he and a group of mates planned to buy tickets for the Sud, "because I don't want to pay more", when 4 of the group had no interest in football and the 5th was a Juventino (so more or less the same.) I told him in no uncertain terms that this was a very bad idea: tourists not welcome. Luckily, after 4 hours' queuing, they failed to get hold of any.
On the night therefore the Sud contained a number of unfamiliar faces, including a scared looking girl next to me who didn't know any of the songs, and couldn't identify any players apart from De Rossi and Totti, while outside at the tornelli had gathered a moderate crowd of regulars who'd not been able to buy a ticket and were intent on making it in anyway. Obviously most of these simply vaulted over the barriers inside, but some tried to squeeze in through the turnstyles with the chaotic consequences one might anticipate, including an unpleasant crush, a lot of shouting, and a huge delay. All of which was eminently predictable and entirely avoidable. Top marks to the organisers.
I don't think this was a problem for the Inter fans, though, since the newly crowned Champions of Italy, enjoying their most successful period since Helenio Herrera and a chance to wrap up a memorable double over their greatest current sporting rivals, brought all of.... 5,000 fans. Maximum. One of the guys in the group I go with lives in Milan, and commutes up and down for matches. He had forthright things to say about the interisti: porca puttana sti interisti di merda, come cazzo si fa a venire in meno di cinque mila quando siete campioni d'italia? ti giuro, a milano, ce ne sono cinque bandiere tese dai balconi, cinque, ti giuro, cinque, 'ste merde, non sanno manco che cazzo sia il calcio (continue for 15 minutes or so).
I have to say that I thought it was a pretty poor show myself, when they could have had a full half the ground, and it highlighted the difference between the Coppa Italia and the FA Cup. D'you reckon United fans would have all stayed home? or complained about having to travel down from Manchester to the capital for the final? methinks not (and I am scarcely here to praise Utd of all people). On the other hand despite their numerical paucity they were actually for once in good voice and good form, for the first time that I've seen them at the Olimpico. They had a successful coreografia with little flags showing the red-and-white cross of the city, and apparently they had planned & set up another with coloured card which they had confiscated on the way in.
The Curva Sud was in a bit of confusion, since whether in protest or due to the abovementioned ticketing issues, a number of the capi from the central lower section were in the Tribuna Tevere, with all their flags, rather than in their usual spot. Others were sprinkled around different parts of the ground, but although this meant a few moments of disarray in Curva it also meant a rarely heard level of singing all round the stadium.
And the atmosphere was fantastic (learn to count with Roma!) despite the repeated and concerted efforts of the organisers to make it saccharine and polite. Arranging for the national anthem to be played by a band from the carabinieri was perhaps particularly stupid: they were booed and whistled so deafeningly I didn't even realise that the anthem had been played at all. And of course the Inter players appearing on the big screens were also whistled with great vigour. Again, what were the organisers expecting? polite applause, displaying mutual respect and admiration for the fine sporting values of our opponents. Not fucking likely. They got half a dozen rounds of "Siete come la Juve". What's that about "Il fair play"? I refer you to my esteemed colleague, mentioned above: ma vaffanculo con sto fair play del cazzo, Matarresse - li mortacci tua, Napolitano, li mortacci tua, e voi merde del'Inter, li mortacci vostra.
Meanwhile the decision to play what sounded like the theme tune from Chariots of Fire as the two teams came out on the pitch was also not appreciated by the ultras. In a spirit of rejection of this phony attempt to invent tradition or impose grandeur, or of simply cuntishness depending on your perspective, it was drowned out by a vigorous chorus of the most obscene song currently sung at Roma, the one about sticking fingers up Lazio fans' mothers' arses (they love it, apparently, but don't quote me on that). Yes it was childish, yes it made I giggle.
As for the match: if you're interested you've probably already read about it on the Gazzetta or the Guardian or your regular website of choice. I don't really do that whole match report thing so well, anyway. In brief, Mexes tried to suggest that we didn't need to buy a striker, just rethink our formation; Perrotta got the deserved reward for some excellent recent performances; and on the other side young Pelé showed a hint of maybe why they've given him that nickname. The PA guy seemed to have developed a fetish for reading out the safety regulations, and telling us what we could and couldn't do, or must and mustn't do, and what the Inter fans ought to do at the end of the game, and what punishments would be applied in the case of failure to comply with these regulations, and so on and so forth. Perhaps you can imagine for yourself the reaction of my calm and unsweary friend.
The end was tense but exciting and after an implausible, interminable 6 minutes of injury time all kinds of mentalness broke out. One Sig. F. Totti came out onto the pitch to celebrate. Everyone had special shirts with the number 9 (for the number of cups we've won) and the date in the place of a name. Napolitano presented Totti with the Cup, and there was the obligatory blast of Queen, before we switched back to Roma songs. The team did a lap of honour with the Cup, and Rosella Sensi was hoisted in the air, and we sang a lot, and twirled scarves and waved flags and shouted and jumped about, and I twisted my knee rather painfully but without really noticing til after.
Then came the best bit of the night, as Mirko Vucinic, with whom I am now definitively in love, nicked the little electric cart they use for injured players and drove it around the track with Taddei. After waving at us all for a bit, they came back up to the Sud, collected the cup, and then set off on a complete lap... to drive under the Nord and wave the cup at the Inter fans.
It was well after midnight before we left the stadium, and then there was a bottle of Moet & Chandon to be drunk beside the Tevere. And then there were laps of the city to be made, with flags and scarves flying from open windows, and much honking of horns, and more singing, and crowds of people by the Colosseum and in Piazza Venezia and a good many other places besides.
A wonderful end to a great season.