Harry Elliott (@harry94elliott) represents the FBAs in Italy, watching the Serie A match-up: Bologna FC vs Cagliari.
Arriving at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara just over an hour before kick off, tickets were easy to purchase from a window at the stadium. As Bologna vs Cagliari is a fairly low-key fixture, and Italian sides rarely sell out, it was hardly a challenge to find tickets. I asked in broken Italian for ‘non expensive’ tickets, and sure enough €18 + €16 Euros departed my wallet and I secured a spot on the Curva San Luca. Strangely my girlfriend @Aysha_Smith got in for €2 Euros less than I despite us both being the same age on our passports shown when buying – perhaps someone more well versed on Italian football ticket prices can comment below to explain that?
The purpose of this trip? Purely self-indulgence, but doesn’t that apply to most trips to the football? Finding myself in Italy it would be crude not to sample Italian football for the first time, especially with so much made in the UK about Italian ‘ultra’ culture.
From our perch just four rows from the front behind the goal on the Curva San Luca I had a great panorama looking over to the Curva Bulgarelli – home of said Ultras. They did not disappoint. Despite the match itself not being a classic, the singing was non-stop and the addition of flares and sporadic cannon fire, meant the spectacle that will live long in the memory extends beyond the football on show. The Ultras were a sight to behold, and closer inspections of fans around us proved to be somewhat eye-opening. Whereas in the UK, a football fan may groan at a misplaced pass, in Bologna some men literally engaged in a 10 second shouting match with the floor and anyone around them who would listen. It is possible that it sounded more intimidating than it in fact was due to the language barrier, but one particular man with multiple tear drop tattoos (if you know, you know) did strike a degree of fear into this Englishman.
A quick report of the football: Bologna won 2-1, after Cagliari were reduced to 10 men when ‘keeper and club captain Marco Storari saw a straight red on 54 minutes. The I Sardi stopper cynically took out Bologna’s Ladislav Krejci as the last man, resulting in a lengthy injury break. The home side opened the scoring through Simone Verdi’s 23rd minute free-kick (which happened to be right in front of where we were sitting). The set piece was one of those where you are unsure whether it is an excellently placed shot (bouncing right in front of the goalkeeper) or if, in fact, the man between the sticks should have done better.
(Photograph credit to, and all rights reserved by: @BolognaFC1909English)
The rest of the first half, on the pitch at least, was something of a non-event. Bologna were superior to their Sardinian opponents but lacked a killer instinct. They also did a lot to dispel the myth of Italian football being of a slow tempo style nature, with both sides fully exerting themselves either side of a drinks break in the first 45.
The red card just before the hour did change the game, as Bologna returned to the dominance they had in the first half, after a 10 minute spell in which, clearly with manager Massimo Rastelli’s words ringing in their ears, Cagliari for the first time meaningfully imposed themselves in the opponent’s half. Substitute Federico Di Francesco doubled the home side’s lead on 74 minutes, against the beleaguered 10 men, admirably backed by 250-300 or so that made the long trip from Sardinia.
However, that was not all she wrote, as Bruno Alves struck a powerful free kick to ensure no one left the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara early.
Final score 2-1, and as a first taste of Serie A football not bad at all. Three goals, a red card, a fast tempo match in the 30 degree plus heat and some interesting interactions will die-hard Italian fans all for around £15- £17 each.
Sign me up for it again.