As the General Manager of the Saint Peter the Apostle Foundation in my hometown of La Guaira, Venezuela, my job required me to travel along the state’s coast to check on our small hospitals and our farming and navigation schools. My daily routine changed drastically in November of 1987, when my boss, the Catholic Bishop of our city, called me into his office and told me “Pack your bags, you’re traveling to Italy next week to buy us religious articles”. I arrived in Milan a few days later where a local Jehovah’s Witness convinced me to opt for a modest family albergo in Corso Vercelli instead of a nice hotel, with the purpose of saving a few extra Italian Liras. That decision was crucial for my destiny as a ‘rossonero’, as next to the place where I stayed was Pizzeria Da Gino, a restaurant owned by Antonio Marzani, a man that changed my life, by suggesting that I should go to an AC Milan game. And on the morning of Sunday, November 22, I did just that, following each one of his recommendations: “Follow the train tracks, ignore the scalpers and buy the ticket at the gate”. The biglietto on the tribuna blu scoperta cost me 25 thousands lire and it became my ticket to paradise. I saw AC Milan beat Avellino 3-0, with goals from Colombo, Donadoni and Maldini’s first ‘rete’ at San Siro. I must add that Gullit, Ancelotti, Tassotti, Baresi and Virdis were also on that magnificent pitch.
That experience was so impacting that only two and a half years later I was at the Praterstadion of Vienna covering the AC Milan-Benfica final as a journalist, which gave me the opportunity of interviewing the players during the time that they recognized the field the night before the match.
From that moment on, I never hesitated to follow the team and the legendary players at stadiums around the world. I covered for Venezuelan Television the first Italian Supercup played outside of Italy, the AC Milan-Torino match held at the RFK stadium in Washington, where we interviewed Maldini, Massaro, Giovanni Galli and Albertini and even attended a dinner at the residence of the Italian Ambassador to the United States. Many incredible encounters followed, including one with Ruud Gullit in New York City where he signed the white Mediolanum jersey. Another fantastic night with Giovanni Galli was at the press dining room of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium in Graz, Austria, where he was so shocked by my travels that he got up to show my press credentials to his TV colleagues. During a visit to Milanello, at the press conference room, my brother and I were greeted by AC Milan’s coach Fabio Capello, who one day before the Derby Della Madonnina, sat on a table before a one-on-one interview and told me in Spanish “Venga hombre, qué preguntas tienes”. (Come man, what questions do you have). The list goes on; Galliani and Massaro inside the elevator of Yankee Stadium in New York City; Van Basten at Las Vegas’s Caesars Palace Casino; Gattuso in Baltimore; Inzaghi in Long Island; Arrigo Sacchi in Rockefeller Center, New York; Seedorf at the Meadowlands in New Jersey; and Shevchenko and Rui Costa in Washington.
Just like the famous ABC’s Wide World of Sports! TV intro, with AC Milan I have experienced ‘The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat”. I have celebrated in the stadium the joy of lifting the Champions League Trophy and conquering the Italian Supercup, and yet I have suffered the bitter sensation of losing a Champions League Final (against Ajax in 1995) or a Milan-Inter derby.
Yes, it is true, I must have taken countless ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ trips to attend a match of ‘La mia squadra del cuore’, but I would also do anything to listen to the game or get a final score. One of my passions is listening to the Rai Radio broadcast of “Tutto Il Calcio Minuto per Minuto”, the fantastic play-by-play chronicles narrated by the voices of legendary ‘radiocronisti’ such as Sandro Ciotti, Riccardo Cucchi or Giovanni Scaramuzzino. Before the days of online streaming, I would go crazy trying to pick the Rai Radio signal on the AM band just to be able to listen to the game’s broadcast. I would go as far as calling the editorial room of a newspaper to get match results.
On Sunday June 3rd, 1990 while traveling from the Italian port of Brindisi to Corfu, Greece, I was watching a Milan-Bari match programmed as part of the inauguration ceremonies of the Stadio San Nicola which was only a week away from hosting a World Cup match. Frustratingly, as we navigated further away from the italian coast, we were also losing the TV signal of the game. I knew at that moment what an AC Milan game meant to me, even if it was a meaningless friendly match.
Nothing has changed from the days of glory, to the doom days and back to this period of renaissance. I still cheer for every single game that AC Milan plays. I watch or listen to each match religiously, ready to celebrate a win or suffer a defeat.
I must add that being asked by Vito Angele and the editorial team of Milan Reports to collaborate with this new website is quite an honor and also an immense joy as I get to write about the team that I love. Grazie Mille!!!