Locked out

Not quite the perfect Sunday, but not bad either!

di Richard Hough

We are very happy to host Richard Hough‘s first article, which will introduce Hellas Verona to English-speaking people.

Thanks Richard and may the blues be with you!

Andrea, Matteo and the editorial staff of hellas1903

Three o’clock on Sunday afternoon is the quintessential kick-off time here in Italy. Nowadays, Sunday afternoon kick-offs are few and far between, so when they do occur, it’s an occasion to savour.

For the locals, that means their favourite Sunday lunch of “Pearà e bollito”, washed down with a glass or two of Campofiorin. They might even fit in a quick post-lunch nap and still arrive at the stadium in plenty of time for kick-off!

Last Sunday was just such an occasion, as Hellas hosted Udinese at the Bentegodi.

Thanks to a scheduling anomaly, it was the second home game in a row for Verona, having hosted Roma the previous weekend.

Of course, last Saturday’s game against Roma was played behind closed doors, and Sunday’s encounter with Udinese was open to just 1000 select invitees, the first tentative step by the Italian authorities as they try to re-open the football stadiums to the public. In the meantime, the vast majority of fans remain on the outside, resigned to watching the game at home or at the pub.

It’s painful to be missing these first few games of the season, usually a time of great hope, renewal and anticipation, before the cold hard realities of the campaign sink in.

 

After a long hot summer, the temperature has finally dropped a few degrees. We arrive at the stadium with plenty of time to enjoy a couple of beers in the late summer sunshine. We then grab a grilled sausage sandwich before joining the unruly queue to pass through the temperamental automated turnstiles. Once inside, we bound up the steps two at a time, keen to snatch that first glimpse of the playing surface.

 

We like to arrive early and watch the players do their warm-up. We say hello to a few friends and acquaintances, before making the way to our seats high in the east stand, grabbing another beer on the way. As we take our seats, our eyes are immediately drawn to the famous Curva Sud. Sparsely populated at the moment, but still the noisiest part of the stadium. A glance towards the north stand, the away end, reveals a smattering of defiant travelling fans, desperate to make their voices heard despite their stark numerical inferiority.

More hellos to the regulars who surround us, as gradually the stadium begins to fill.

With five minutes to go, there are just a few empty seats, but the noise levels are really rising. Great flags swirl overhead. Someone in the away end releases a firecracker in a premature gesture of defiance and excitement. Then, coming from the south, but soon engulfing the entire stadium, the unmistakable sound of “Alè Forza Verona alè”, the rousing opening sequence of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Marcia trionfale.”

The players enter the pitch and the noise erupts. After months of transfer speculation, finally a chance to see those new signings on the pitch. Proud fathers embrace their kids in a shared moment of excitement and anticipation. Who knows what the next ninety minutes will bring, let alone the season ahead.

Of course, this season is different. Fans all over the world are locked out of their stadiums.

We try to replicate the experience, at home or in the pub. But it’s not the same.

After the game on Sunday, a tough one-nil victory against a robust Udinese, we raced off on our bikes towards the stadium. We said hello to some friends and greeted the players as they headed towards their luxury cars. With six points from two games, for a few hours we could enjoy being top of the league!

Not quite the perfect Sunday, but not bad either!

 

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