Inside the Rossonero Inferno
As an AC Milan fan following the team from outside of Italy, you constantly ask yourself, “What will it be like to enjoy one of those magical nights of Champions League games, to physically live through the tension of advance or be eliminated, and witness those amazing red and black fires right under the Brigate Rossonere, Fossa Dei Leoni and Curva Sud banners?”
In the city of Milan I felt like a local. I knew my way around, specifically inside the magnificent Stazione Centrale, one of my favorites buildings of the city, as well as the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the amazing il Duomo Cathedral, and il Teatro alla Scala. The night of December 6th, 2005, the fans were getting ready for the last fixture of the E Group with three clubs, AC Milan, Schalke 04 and PSV Eindhoven, still trying to qualify for the knockout stage. It was fun and crazy riding with the german fans on the tram, from the city center to San Siro. The match atmosphere actually started right there, in the public transportation, where the drunk Schalke ultras were singing, laughing and provoking the AC Milan fans by cursing loudly.
There were two must go stops before entering inside the stadium - the food trucks, where I enjoyed a delicious roasted pork sandwich and the Bar Il Trotto, where a couple of cold beers are the perfect pre game refreshment.
This was a special night for the simple fact that AC Milan was playing an elite lineup vs Schalke, with Dida in goal, Stam, Nesta, Maldini and Serginho in the back four; Gattuso, Kaka, Pirlo and Seedorf in midfield; and the duo Inzaghi & Shevchenko in the attack. There’s no better feeling for a rossonero fan than being at the stadium while the UEFA Champions League Anthem is playing and huge fires are illuminating the curvas. We were just about to live an unforgettable experience during the game, when the person that invited us to the match, a friend of the Curva Sud, approached us and invited my brother and I to watch from behind the goal. We followed him, feeling intrigued, curious, and excited as we were about to enter the famous red and black inferno. The sequence of events that followed seemed more like a script taken out of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather than of a football game. We were there to meet Giancarlo Capelli, “Il Barone”, the storico capo of La Curva Sud; there were formal protocols to do that. We were instructed to wait a few steps away from him while he was informed that the two “americani” were ready to meet him. He turned his head, looked us up and down, and nodded in approval to the informer, which meant that we were ok to say hello. We got close to “The Baron” and exchanged a short and pleasant conversation, right next to the guy on the megaphone that initiates every chant while risking his life hanging on to the edge of the railings. We drowned in the voices of every single fan in the Curva Sud area that were yelling at us “Fischiate” (whistle), something that was required every time Schalke had possession of the ball. .
There are mysterious reasons why things happen in life, and I always go back to my “Meant to be” destiny with Ac Milan. The moment that we were there sitting with “Il Barone” at la Curva Sud, with the game still 0-0 in the 42nd minute, the well known Spanish referee Mejuto Gonzalez, signaled a foul in favor of the home team. We had absolutely the best view in the stadium to admire a stunning free kick taken by Andrea Pirlo, which floated in slow motion (in our direction ) all the way into the back of the net. That masterpiece was followed by total madness, as everyone embraced, jumped, laughed and yelled in joy, submerged under a sea of giant banners and surrounded by fire.
The game, remembered by most for the intense battle between Poulsen and Gattuso, was a rollercoaster, with Poulsen tying up, followed by two goals from Kaka and another Schalke netter that sealed the 3-2 final score.
Ac Milan, who faced the risk of being eliminated that night, advanced as group leader to the knockout stage where they were drawn to face (and later beat) Bayern Munich.
Our magical night ended with our local friend showing us the imposing Gran Cavallo, Leonardo Da Vinci’s horse, exhibited close to the stadium. We made a final stop at a local brick oven pizzeria and celebrated a fantastic night in heaven.