Any West Ham fans wondering what it’s like to watch their team from a stadium designed for Olympics should pop over to Rome. I recently had a chat with a few Roma fans about what they thought of their Stadio Olimpico, and specifically the experience of watching football behind a running track. Anyone who’s spent any time in Italian stadia will know what kind of response I got, but just in case anyone is in any doubt , there is very little to recommend about being a good 20 metres from the goal line.
So before Roma v Brescia I grabbed a couple of locals, luckily a pair who’d spent some time in England watching football. This is hardly uncommon; Italian football fans retain a healthy respect for – even fear of – English football, English stadiums and England in general. This Anglophilia manifests itself in different ways: for the middle class kids England is the home of pop music and style, a civilised country where everything is egalitarian and corruption doesn’t exist, where the streets are paved with gold and everything is possible. Meanwhile, for the kids in the curva, England is terrace style, excessive drinking and a jolly good dust up. The middle classes dress like indie boys and drink tea in pubs which cover their walls with portraits of Princess Diana*; the curva boys bastardise the casual look to a point past parody’s distant horizon and read all the second rate hoolie porn they can get their hands on. To give you an idea of how much respect they have for our game, I was repeatedly told we were going to win the World Cup. Seriously.
So it was no surprise to hear Filippo and Alessandro lament ‘poor Hammers’, ‘our stadium is crap’ they said and expressed their shock that England might be going the Italian way. Make no mistake, this is a disaster for West Ham, a move that the club has foisted on its fans without once bothering to ask them, and one that stupefies every Roma or Lazio fan I talk to. Lazio president Claudio Lotito said late last week that he would have a new purpose-built stadium ready within three years of being given the council’s permission, and today Unicredit bank will decide who will have the right to buy Roma from the Sensi family: each bid had to contain plans for a new ground.
It was no surprise to hear Filippo and Alessandro lament ‘poor Hammers’, ‘our stadium is crap’ they said
Down at the bottom of the Curva Sud it’s easy to see why clubs are so desperate to move away from their dusty municipal bowls; it is impossible to see anything that’s happening at the other end, which is where Napoli spent most of the first half on Saturday night, dominating Roma. Thankfully for those in the Sud who were interested in watching the game, we got a jolly good view of the Azzurri ripping Roma to pieces in the second half, making it clear that their title challenge is for real. Edinson Cavani bagged his 19th and 20th goals of the season, while all around me people spat quasi-racist abuse about what a bunch of terrible stinking gypsies the Napolitani are.
For those who haven’t followed Italian football since it was hoiked off Channel 4, this has been something of a strange season: the circus show that is Milan are top, with coach Massimiliano Allegri somehow keeping the egos of Robinho, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Antonio Cassano in check; Cavani’s Napoli are three points behind second and Lazio – who were almost relegated last year – are a further three points back in third. Juve, who on Sunday night beat deadly rivals Inter 1-0 to the soundtrack of anti-Samuel Eto’o racist chanting, are well off the pace. As are the champions, in fact, who are now eight point behind Milan after that defeat. Meanwhile, little old Udinese are flying, free-wheeling their way up to fifth table thanks to some of the most cavalier football I’ve ever seen, this week dishing out a casual 3-0 slapping to relegation fodder Cesena. If they hold onto their players they could cause some serious damage in next year’s Champions League; it’s just a shame you’ll have to see it from behind a running track.
*This is not a joke. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
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