Monday, 6 January 2014

Match 3: Bologna

Match day three of my football-watching journey took me to Emilia-Romagna’s ‘red belt’. Bologna, the city, has a reputation of being a bit red around the gills in a political sense, and in fact has the nickname of the la dotta, la grassa e la fossa (the learned, the fat and the red). This comes from the fact that Bologna has the oldest university in the world, has some great food, and habitually votes for lefties (in politics, not southpaws).

The match that drew me here was between Bologna and Hellas Verona. As someone commented to me in the days before, it was a meeting of the reds and the blacks. See, Verona have a reputation for being fairly right-wing. So, a nice relaxing kick about between communists and fascists. When I was organising my fixture list for this season, I thought to myself, what's the worst that could happen?

Well, things didn't start particularly brightly. First, I got on the wrong train from Milan. I say wrong, but it was kind of right. Both 'my' train and this train were going to Bologna, but 'my' train should have arrived in fifty minutes and comfort. The train I took arrived in Bologna after a two-and-a-something hour journey, and was far from comfortable. The Italian word for comfortable is comodo, but this train was more commode than comodo. I half expected people to get on with livestock in cages. Added to this was the train inspector who, when enquiring after my ticket, informed me that I shouldn't be on this train. “No shit, Sherlock” doesn’t really translate well in Italian, so I tried to look apologetic while making a 'what can I do' gesture and he humphed and tutted but then disappeared never to return. I stewed in my own self-annoyance for a while, but then reasoning that there wasn't much to do about it now, tried to spot through the pre-dusk gloom and fog the lone equine inhabitants of the dozen or so towns we stopped in. By the time we got to Bologna, it was dark, wet and I was a little peeved. My hotel was once again in the shady part of town, which was as fun to find as always.

For those of you who have never been to Bologna, it's really very nice and I'd recommend it. It's a bit of a university city, so there are lots of young people and a good atmosphere in the centre of town. Coming from Genoa, which is essentially a giant care home masquerading as an urban centre, this was as refreshing as the rain that ran down my back on the way to the hotel, but far more welcome. On this trip I was strictly a football tourist though, so didn't venture in, but I've been before and it was most pleasant. That said, because of it's geographical location, the summers are very hot and humid and the winters are freezing, so not nice enough for my delicate soul to consider habitation. 

The Bolognese divide their sporting passion between football and basketball. There's only one team that kicks balls about, but two that throw them. They are Fortitudo and Virtus. A lot of the people I met at the game were going straight to watch Fortitudo play later on in the evening, who were described to me as being “a bit shit” but the people's club, while Virtus are more of a Juventus (successful, but not universally loved). I'll get to the football soon, but it surprised me to hear that there's an Ultras’ group for Fortitudo (la Fossa dei Leoni). I'd never imagined that basketball, while being a fun and interesting sport, could get the blood going quite enough to warrant an Ultras’ group. As Jim Morrison once opined: “People are strange”.

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