So today was the last day of the Prima Categoria, as I am certain all true football fans will know, and also marked a first for me. CB is away in the UK for his brother's stag do last night, and hence (at the explicit invitation, I should add, of the guys) I went on my own with the group I have been frequenting, as I am no longer certain whether we say in English.
It occurs to me that the loyal and interested reader (I use the singular advisedly) has a good idea of what the matchday experience at Roma is like, but less so, perhaps, when it comes to local amateur football. The group boasts in total just over a dozen members, of whom not everyone attends every game even at the best of times - which this is not, since as a result of the carabinieri shenanigans described the other day troubles of a legal nature are on their way; under which circumstances, the mood when we meet is not what one would hope on a bright sunny May morning.
The game is a good distance away - 55km, google informs me now - and what with various forms of lateness, debate, confusion, idiocy &c we manage to arrive late for kick off, just for a change. The journeys to & fro are spent discussing: someone's knackered scooter; Chelsea's dramatic and painful (/ highly amusing, depending on perspective) exit from the Champions' League [the subject of much hilarity - perhaps it was as well for CB that he wasn't around]; the political & economic power of the Catholic Church; the failings social, intellectual and sexual of various members of the group, along with their inadequacy as drivers; my opinion of Forest Green Rovers; Francesco Cossiga; Sampdoria's likelihood of winning the cup on Wednesday; the whereabouts and characteristics of Mansfield Town; comparative policing techniques; types of beer.
The dynamic of the group is, I think - though what would I know - very much what one would expect from any group of young male friends. Being there without CB is sometimes odd: they don't quite know me enough to be certain what they can say to me without offending me, to which you can add that I am both foreign and female besides so they can't, I think, entirely work me out. I try to tell them that I'm not easy to offend but they remain unconvinced. Perhaps the language doen't help; romanaccio is only my third language, after all. Or maybe I just have an offended face. At the end there's a bizarre moment when, after the players have come over & chucked all their shirts & shorts into the crowd [of 9] someone offers me - or rather chucks at me - a pair of sweaty shorts. To be honest my reaction is that of a woman who has, in her time, received gifts more entirely to her taste; a shirt would be one thing but the damp shorts are beyond my ability to feign enthusiasm so I offer them to someone perhaps more deserving & appreciative. For some reason this causes people to be alarmed that they have offended me with the offer so we spend a few moments in a surprisingly English round of apology and self-denigration in an attempt to clarify this incident.
One of the guys who is associated with the group in an indirect fashion is slightly problematic. He is capable of causing trouble at this rather delicate moment in time not least for his unsavoury political views, and his inability to keep his mouth shut, which combine in a somewhat undesirable fashion with a style of dress which to say the least tends to attract attention, indicating clearly as it does his way of seeing the world. The others talk about him like he was a problem child, whose political views incur mild reprimands combined with a desire not to encourage showing off, like a kid whose new party trick is farting the marseillaise and they need to be discouraged with indifference and disapproval rather than telling off. The way the group dynamic here works is rather interesting, in terms of the interaction between solidarity & disapproval and the way in which groups self-govern (particularly in an all-male context) which makes me think of my research on morale & discipline & identity, and I need to ponder on it further I think (not that I'm conducting some giant sociological experiment, I just can't help myself).
Anyway the team we're playing today are the champions of the division, and have turned out in big numbers to celebrate their promotion. It's a typical south-eastern Lazio hill-town, with the campo sportivo some way down the mountain (since you can't have a football pitch right on the top of a hill, usually). In this case the ground is rather spectacular, cut into the rock on one side with the historic centre perced several hundred metres almost vertically above, while behind the solitary, narrow, vertiginous covered stand the ground drops away sharply to the valley floor below, presenting an amazing vista of luscious spring greenery. Shame the pitch is artificial. This is the first other ground where there have been rival fans to speak of - normally it's just players' parents & girlfriends. Here we meet - and are indeed overly enthusiastically welcomed by - a home ultras group. They're not bad, they put on a decent show, they sing, they have flares and smokebombs in their club colours (red & blue)... we're just a tiny bit curious to know where they were when their team played in Rome back in January.
vabbeh we take a 1-0 lead and play pretty well but it's soon clear why they have waltzed away with the league and despite heroics from the keeper they win 2-1. But we have secured a place in the Coppa Lazio for next season, so despite missing out on promotion (more a hope than an expectation at the start of the season) people are generally pleased. The president of our team watches in the stands with us - well, near us - and everything is very relaxed in mood. The home fans are happy, there are two coppers in the far distance keeping half an eye on things, the president had spoken to the guy on the gate and we weren't asked for ticket money, and the two striscioni prepared by the group get a good reception. On the way back we eat prosciutto sandwiches and share a beer and contemplate the fact that in all probability we shan't be able to do this again for 2 years.