Football Italia For All

A Rome trip, to watch football, that cost less than £100. This isn’t your typical culture-fuelled Italy feature. I’m out to prove a point.

Walking through the urban sprawl of the Olympic Village towards the magnificent Stadio Olimpico in Rome, at night, in the rain, doesn’t conjure the magic of Italia ’90. The 1990 World Cup in Italy was a feast of sport and Italian culture. For me, a 15-year-old football fan, the sounds of Pavarotti were alien. But Nessun Dorma still resonates today amongst football and opera fans alike, it unites class and culture. This World Cup captured a nation, nay the world, as an estimated 26 billion viewers watched. Pizza and pasta became cool and 15-year-old boys desperately wanted to be Toto Schillachi, the working class hero who won the Golden Boot with six goals.

Four of Schillachi’s goals were scored at this Olympic Stadium which burns under floodlights in the distance. It’s located in Via del Foro Italico, inside the Foro Italico complex, on the north of the city. Although easily accessible by car or public transport on this occasion we walked. Our overnight accommodation was at the highly rated bed and breakfast A Peace of Rome just 2km from the stadium (see box). The evening pilgrimage along the River Tiber, towards the stadium, with the chattering, excited Roma fans felt like a rite of passage. We were becoming united.

The 72,698 capacity venue hosts both AS Roma and Lazio, they alternate the weeks they play their home games. Tonight AS Roma, i Giallorossi, play Fiorentina in a Serie A league match. Opened in 1937 the stadium has held some of the biggest ever sporting events including the 1960 Olympic games. Whereas our English stadiums maximise profits by commercial offerings the Italians believe this is a place to watch football. So no club-shop, no restaurants or corporate facilities; quite a refreshing change. The concession stands, built into the stadium, reminded me of the way US baseball stadiums serve food: quick, cheap and easy to eat.

Security is tight so remember to carry your passport at all times. Buying tickets is easy from one of the many AS Roma shops in the city, football is still a working class sport so some tickets prices remain low for matches. If you don’t feel confident in purchasing the tickets yourself there are agents who will do this for you, but you will pay more (see box).

The carnival atmosphere hits as you walk up the stadium steps and gaze upon the green of the pitch. It is hard to convey the spectacle that plays out, the majesty of the stadium and all those worshipping within stirs the soul. Fellow supporters were welcoming, despite warnings by the uninitiated of how dangerous it could be. Songs sung, in stuttering pigeon-Italian, were helped by their repetitiveness. Fireworks exploded and the place filled with a nervous energy that overloaded the senses. The seats high in the Curva Nord afford a wonderful view and a splendid atmosphere. Seats on the side are more expensive, but very quiet, and the Curva Sud is normally sold out with frenzied season ticket holders.

A riveting five goal thriller resulted in a 3-2 win for Roma. The walk back to the hotel was much more relaxed and full of happy Romans giddy from the win. The streets offered mobile food-stands selling pizza, wine, beer and other snacks. It was very hard to resist and I’m glad we didn’t. Unlike an English match day this was refined and relaxed and done as only the Italians could do it, with class.

This trip to watch Italian football, calcio, was inspired by the high cost of the English game. With a £100 budget an Easyjet flight from Bristol to Rome Ciampino, one night at A Peace of Rome and match tickets were booked. As the football consumes the evening the rest of the trip is free to explore the Eternal City. I introduced my travelling companion, who was visiting Rome for the first time, to the Vatican City, St Peter’s Basilica and the Colosseum.

You will be hard pressed to find a better antithesis to the sights and sounds of Italy, Rome in particular. But this is a part of Roman life as anything else. Experience it. Wherever you are in Italy, after you’ve shopped, seen the sights, eaten, drank and relaxed why don’t you check the fixture list? Even those of you who wouldn’t give football a second look should think twice. For the Italians it really isn’t just a way of life, it’s far more important than that.

Tickets

Match tickets can be purchased from a wide variety of internet ticket agencies. For a more personal approach try Pete at www.romalazio.co.uk who will personally meet you in Rome and hand over your tickets. You can also buy tickets at one of the many AS Roma shops in the city but remember you will need identification.

Where To Stay

A Peace of Rome, Bed and Breakfast
Situated on the first floor of a 19th Century palace, the recently restored apartment is located close to St. Peters Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. A Peace Of Rome is consistently voted the best B+B in Rome. The owners are very friendly and the prices very reasonable. Top tip: turn right out of the front door and go in the first coffee shop you find, Café Sciascia, it is one of the best in Rome.
www.bbapeaceofrome.it/bb/en

Useful Websites

Official AS Roma: www.asroma.it
Official SS Lazio: www.sslazio.it
Stadio Olimpico guide: http://www.stadiumguide.com/olimpico.htm
AS Roma Ticket Offices: www.asromastore.it

Further Reading: A Season With Verona by Tim Parks. The author travels the length of Italy supporting Hellas Verona and discovering this hidden Italian football culture.


Yellows on Twitter

Darren Huckerby does it because he wants to, “interact with people you normally wouldn’t and read some funny stuff from folks.”

Darel Russel, “joined to keep up with pals and realised that I was not so anonymous. Lol. Love the banter and keeping up-to-date with social side of things.”

Gary Holt, “joined for a laugh really, always nice to get help to questions and advice about things like books and films.”

And Leon McKenzie has personal reasons, “I joined for my music reasons really, banter, my views and opinions. I like to be heard. Love me or hate me, I’m me. Haha!”

I’ve always fancied keeping a diary and it’s good for networking.

Yes this is the world of Twitter. It’s the place you can speak directly with your favourite author, film star, sportsman, as long as they deem your tweet worthy of response. For the record I tweeted all 36 of the people below and had just 4 responses so don’t get your hopes up. However for some of us just knowing what your favourite player or Norwich legend has been doing in their spare time is enough: travel plans, reflections of a game, charity work, inappropriate comments. Ooops yes it’s normally these comments that bring the headlines and the fury of managers.

QPR boss Neil Warnock on Anton Ferdinand, “I think he’s a twit for using Twitter. I don’t agree with it, but I suppose if you’re into that you have to take the rough with the smooth. I’ve already told him to come off Twitter”. Alex McLeish on transfer rumours, “It is utter nonsense. It is a phenomenon of the modern world – Twitter and Facebook – and it is not my world”.
You can understand why some managers would prefer their players to keep their comments and private lives under wraps and it’s understood Paul Lambert isn’t a huge fan of his players using Twitter. But this doesn’t stop them. Thankfully our boys appear to be pretty well behaved.

So this is less of a guide to using Twitter, you can find those all over the Internet. This is a directory of current and former players who talk the talk, walk the walk and tweet the tweet.

Former Players

Dean Ashton
@dean36ashton10

Ian Butterworth
@ianbutterworth2

Lee Croft
@croft7

Ian Crook
@chippycrook63

Paul Dalglish
@pauldalglish

Dion Dublin
@diondublinsdube

Darren Eadie
@eadie11

Robert Earnshaw
@robertearnshaw

Dickson Etuhu
@dicksonetuhu

Craig Fleming
@craigflemingfit

Jeremy Goss
@11gossy

Bryan Gunn
@mrgunny1963

John Hartson
@johnhartson10

Gary Holt
@gholt8

Darren Huckerby
@hucks6dh6

Malky Mackay
@malkymackay

Leon McKenzie
@leonmckenzie1

Anthony McNamee
@amcnameereal

Paul McVeigh
@paulmcveigh77

Mike Milligan
@PlayerFactorTV

Michael Nelson
@mnelse6

Jon Otsemobor
@semi36

Daniel Pacheco
@dani37pacheco

Iwan Roberts
@iwanwroberts

Carl Robinson
@carlrobinson33

Darel Russell
@darelrussell

Mathias Svensson
@svensenegger

Owain Tudur Jones
@OwainTJones17

Steve Walsh
@stevewalsh5

Active Players

Elliott Bennett
@ebenno88

Ryan Bennett
@ryan_bennett4

Richard Brindley
@rbrindley14

Josh Dawkin
@jgdork

Adam Drury
@adamdrury78

David Fox
@davidfox1983

Georgie Francomb
@francomb_28

Grant Holt
@holty30

Wes Hoolahan
@weshoolahan14

Simeon Jackson
@jacksonsimeon

Bradley Johnson
@realbradjohnson

Kyle Naughton
@knaughts88

Anthony Pilkington
@pilkington_11

John Ruddy
@johnruddy86

Jed Steer
@jedsteer

James Vaughan
@vaughany08

Zak Whitbread
@zakwhitbread

NCFC Related Twitter Links

Norwich City FC
@NorwichCityFC

Pink Un
@pinkun

Norwich City Ladies FC
@ncfcladies

Stephen Fry
@stephenfry

David McNally
@davidmcnally62 

Joe Ferrari
@joe_ferrari

If I’ve missed any or you can confirm that any of these are fake please let me know and I’ll amend the list.

(I cannot guarantee the authenticity of these Twitter accounts.)


Why I love Norwich City FC

An article, recently written, for the now defunct Norwich City fanzine Kick It Off.

Once upon a time there was a goalkeeper who played for Manchester United called Gary Bailey and he was magnificent. My 9-year-old self was completely obsessed with this footballing God and to a certain extent the team he played for. It helped that be bore an uncanny resemblance to Charlie “The Cat” Carter who played for Melchester Rovers. I was an avid Roy of the Rovers fan and Charlie was their star man between the sticks. You could say I was slightly obsessed with goalkeepers.

As you would expect I had no connection to the Manchester area whatsoever and being 1985 this was way before Man Utd Inc. No, my love of the club was down to their magical number one. I collected Panini stickers and always ensured the United team was completed first. I watched them on TV and I was bought Manchester United gloves and hat for Christmas, primarily to keep me warm. It is still fair to say my commitment to the Red Devils was greater than the majority of their supporters.

I’d just started the new Panini album which covered the 1985/86 season with big stickers and excellent shinies. Not like the poor excuse for a sticker album they produce nowadays. No this was a man-sized album and I remember taking it to school in a separate bag, not the only one I might add. Playtime become a battleground of swapping; poker face on, “got, got, got, got, got, need, neeeeed”. Then trying to convince a fellow 9-year-old that three Peter Shreeves were easily worth a Norman Whiteside. Just why were there so many Peter Shreeves?

This was a golden time when transfer activity could happen at any moment, no more countdown or inflated prices. “Big” Ron Atkinson could do his business whenever he liked and transfer rumours trickled into the playground, quite unlike the current tidal wave of football news. I can’t remember who told me, perhaps they didn’t, perhaps I dreamt it, perhaps I’d read that Gary Bailey was born in Ipswich (which he was) and got confused. But Gary Bailey was being signed by Norwich. If I’d have had a clue I would have simply dismissed this as untrue. Bailey was being recognised by England and with a World Cup coming up why would he move to Division 2 Norwich? My 9-year-old brain didn’t care, if Bailey was off to Norwich then so was I, or was it Ipswich? They were both in the same division and sounded so similar. Thankfully my Granddad spent a very long weekend putting me straight, yes I was that close to being a binner. So Norwich it was.

The first place to start was my sticker album, sadly all division 2 clubs were afforded back then was a team shot and a half-size shiny club badge. I remember spending hours pouring over the team shot looking for familiar players, there were none. I read the club info over and over again worrying about the ground capacity which was under review and I belatedly celebrated the Milk Cup win the previous year, gloriously relegated at the same time. I revered Ken Brown for bringing my idol to Norwich and felt rather smug that I was the only Norwich supporter in Worcestershire as far as I knew. No turning back now.

It soon occurred to me that Gary Bailey was still playing for Manchester United. This was not part of the plan. It was too late. I was hooked on the Canaries much to the disdain of my Dad who knew at some point he was going to have to trek across the country with me to the promised land. I partly blame him. If he’d have encouraged me to support Blackpool like him this would have never happened. Sure I’d still be supporting a perennial underachiever but at least when people asked me why I supported Blackpool I didn’t give them the most embarrassing reason in World football. Why do I support Norwich? Because I loved Gary Bailey.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.