Basking in Italy - Juventus Away

Posted by Olly on April 22, 2005, 09:10:11 AM

It's 3.30 am on Thursday 14 April, 2005.  I look around and see my mates Nick, Carl, Alan and Richie lounging around in a hotel lobby, beer in hands and huge grins on faces.  There's no need for words.  We're all basking in the glory.  We've just seen our Liverpool come away with an excellent 0-0 draw against the mighty Juventus to book a place in the semi-final of the European Cup.  We've just knocked out one of the finest teams in Europe, and have reached our first European Cup semi-final in 20 years.  Grinning is the only thing we can do.

This was the first competitive match between Liverpool and Juve since that fateful night 20 years ago at Heysel, where 39 football fans died supporting their team.  The first leg had seen Liverpool offer the hand of friendship to the Italians and the mighty Reds had come away with a deserved 2-1 lead.  Some Juventus fans had decided not to accept the show of friendship, and in my opinion they were well within their right not to.  As supporters of Liverpool Football Club, we too have experienced tragedy and pain, and we are well aware how difficult it is to forgive.  As such, emotions were running high before the away leg, and with the safety of our fans not being fully guaranteed some of our usual group decided against travelling - mostly for financial reasons, but in Bucharest John's case because he wouldn't have been able to last 36 hours without a beer!

So it was that on the morning of the game Carl, Alan, Nick and I landed at Geneva airport, jumped in our hire car and headed out into France.

Objective No. 1 - Get to Italy and Find Hotel

Within half an hour we reached the Alps and drove along a couple of extremely high viaducts.  Carl informed us that he has Gran Turismo 4 on the Playstation and he excels at windy roads such as these.  Cue accelerator to the floor as we took the racing line through the mountains, a hundred or so metres from the ground below.  With Nick and I literally bricking it in the back of the car, Alan asked Carl whether he ever crashes whilst playing on the computer.  Carl's reply bred confidence:

"Sure, but whenever I go off the edge of the road I just hit the reset button."

"That's OK then.  So when I can see the valley floor rearing up towards me I'll pull my Playstation controller out of my arse and press the reset button then should I?!!"

Luckily Carl relented and slowed down slightly, allowing us to take in the view.  Absolutely fantastic.  I've never driven through the Alps before, and felt like an excited little kid seeing lots of snow and big mountains.  Some of them really were pretty big.  As the road wound up to Mont Blanc we reached a junction - left took you round the Alps through a pass, and right cut out 2 and a half hours of your journey by taking you through an 8 km tunnel.  Right it was then, as we needed to get a wriggle on.  We reached the toll booth and pulled up.

"One return ticket please. We're coming back tomorrow."
"Yes sir, that will be 40 euro"
"No no, just the one ticket please. We don't know the people in the cars behind us!"

40 euro!!  Bloody cheek.  And the tunnel wasn't even that good.  For that kind of money I expect the car to be driven for us by naked ladies!

Out the other side, and we sped off down hill towards a beautiful little Alpine town called Aosta, where we checked in to our hotel.  Objective No. 1 - Completed.

Objective No. 2 - Safely get to Ground

After a quick scrub, we drove on through the slightly flatter terrain of Northern Italy and reached Turin airport for 6 o'clock, leaving us an hour and a half for a few beers and some fine Italian cuisine.
Unfortunately Turin's 2 day drinking ban included the airport, whilst Italy's fine cuisine stopped at its doors.  At a loss we sat round a table and devoured a warm pizza each, some ice cream and a couple of coffees.  What a way to spend the hours leading up to a European Away game!

With boredom setting in, we jumped into a taxi and asked our chauffeur to take us to the ground, with strict instructions to drop us directly outside section "Est 3", to lock the doors, and not to stop for anyone.  The traffic on the slip road leading to the ground was bad, and so progress was slow and painful.  A few Italian lads with scarves round their faces were walking up and down the road looking into cars and coaches, and so all four of us slunk down in our seats trying to hide (we don't look the most Italian) half expecting our taxi driver to wave the lads over offering them the chance to give us a kicking.  This didn't arrive, and 15 minutes later we were standing outside section "Est 3" of the Stadio della Alpi.  Bumping into Lee, Ali, Sarah, Brenda and Christine we walked up towards our gate, and after a quick frisk during which we were given a Liverpool - Juve wristband we were directed into the lower tier of this massive ugly ground.  Objective No. 2 - Completed.

Objective No. 3 - Watch Game and Progress to Semi's

The Stadio della Alpi is huge, but it looks dilapidated and ugly - just a big concrete structure miles away from the city.  The Juventus fans were waving huge black and white flags and were holding up a variety of banners.  I'm sure you've seen some of them.  "You are uglier than Camilla" made me laugh, but most of the others weren't quite as humorous.  With half an hour to go before kick off, the teams came out on to the pitch to warm up.  To the right of us the Juventus fans started taking an interest in our fans, and within seconds a whole barrage of coins, seats, poles and bottles came flying over the fence towards us.  As the media monkeys turned around to take a few snaps, we all moved back out of the firing line half expecting the police and stewards to take a hard line with the masked Juve fans.  Watching events unfold in Milan the night before, this was perhaps a little unrealistic and so it proved as the stewards simply grabbed each perpetrator and shoved them back in to the crowd.  After 10 minutes of this, a few lads on our side of the fence started getting restless and so returned the items over the divide.  This swapping of recyclable material, currency and stadium furniture continued up until kick off, when the mindless idiots from each side decided to watch the game.  Everyone that is apart from one lad who spent the whole time staring at the stand to our right.  I'm sure he believes his trip was money well spent.

We looked good for our 0-0 lead at half time, and although Ibrahimovic missed a sitter early on, we had a couple of good opportunities ourselves.  Biscan was again proving that this team of ours isn't totally reliant on Stevie G, Alonso showed us what we've been missing this season, and Riise looked a constant threat.  Half time provided another opportunity for the exchange of goods, whilst a small minority of our followers decided that it might be a good idea to try and fight with our own stewards.  Quite what this would have achieved is beyond me, but I'm sure there was a reason for it.

The second half saw the Mighty Reds take the game to the "Old Lady" in the early stages.  Baros could, and probably should have scored, whilst Sami and Carra were performing heroics to keep Juve's now three-pronged strike force at bay.  With time ticking on, and my nails chewed to bits, Dudek and Crazy Legs somehow managed to divert a header against the post before squeezing it out of play.  Cisse came on to a huge applause to try and stretch the Juve back line, and with every Liverpool fan urging the referee to blow for time he did so.  A small section of three tiers in the ground went crazy - everyone jumping up and down, hugging each other, kissing each other, and singing their hearts out as the team celebrated on the pitch.  Our team, the Liverpool that everyone had written off, were in the European Cup semi-finals.  And the basking could begin!  Objective No. 3 - Completed.

Objective No. 4 - Return to Hotel and Bask

As the home fans disappeared, everyone sat down and smiled.  Two young lads started collecting all the loose change kindly donated by the Italians, and when I told one of them that it was past his bed time, he replied "Bollocks to bed - I'm going gambling!"  At around midnight we were allowed to leave the ground, and made our way to coaches to take us back to the airport.  Despite hearing rumours of Juve fans fighting with riot police before the game and other tales, I personally thought the game was policed very well.

Back in our car, we drove away from Turin and back to Aosta.  It felt very odd travelling away from a European away game sober, whilst texts and phone calls from back home came flooding through from extremely drunk friends.  Desperate for a beer, we stopped off at a petrol station near our hotel, grabbed a few cans and a few minutes later retired to our hotel lobby to drink and bask.  Objective No. 4 - Completed.

© Olly 2005

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