We had to get to Inter’s training ground out of town at Appiano Gentile by 10am. It’s supposed to be a half hour drive. “Easy,” we thought. We left at 9am, thinking we were giving ourselves plenty of time. 30 minutes later we had arrived back at our point of departure, having been led a merry dance by Milan’s chaotic road network.
The fog, congested roads and our poor navigating left us battling the clock. Panic began to set in. Nasty words were exchanged between driver and navigator. But somehow, almost miraculously, we found the right road and made it, just about on time, to the photo-shoot.
We drove past the paparazzi waiting at the high-security front gate and were escorted out back, just outside of the players’ area right before practice. We were told that it would be Brazil’s number one goalkeeper Julio Cesar, who would be joining us.
“He is 100% for the World Cup”, said Andrea Butti from Inter. “That is why we thought he would be the right man.” A true gentleman, he signed The Ball and headed it on its way.
Special Olympics was represented by athlete Matteo, who gave The Ball a big kick southwards, and whose signature on The Ball means a great deal to us — two stars kicking and signing The Ball in one day is a rare event.
We were guests of Inter Milan with tickets on the half way line in the San Siro — one of the world’s great football cathedrals.
The Ball got stuck in the turnstiles. Christian and I were inside. The bag and The Ball were outside. The fan behind me could have simply legged it with by backpack and The Ball. But he didn’t. The Ball squeezed in with the help of a nameless Inter fan whose name we wish we knew.
“WTF?” Christian screamed, “How did that not go in?”
“He’s like a cat”, Luigi, sitting in front of us, said, referring to Julio Cesar’s incredible reflexes.
The rest of the match was spent in conversation with Luigi and his friends. A lecture in football, Inter-style followed. Indeed, replays aren’t allowed in stadiums but luckily Luigi would call his cousin after any controversial scenes. Yes, we can confirm that Calgiari’s goal was offside. Of course it was offside: his cousin, a die hard Inter fan would never have said anything else.
Inter 3 — Cagliari 0
After the match, Christian asked Luigi to describe who supports Inter and who supports AC. “Intelligent people support Inter, of course. And the other team in Milan is called AC Milan. The normal part is for Inter, the remaining part… I don’t want to use any rude words… is for Milan AC.”
We think we know what you mean Luigi. Sort of…