Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Match 18 - Inter

Many moons ago, some friends and I went to Amsterdam for a wee holiday. On the way to the Van Gogh Museum our seventeen-year-old selves got lost and ended up walking down a canal where a bouncer encouraged us to enter his salubrious establishment with the romance-drenched line “it’s so close to your face you can smell it”. His patter probably wouldn’t have stuck in my head had he not looked a lot like Sieb Dijkstra, the Motherwell and Dundee Utd ‘keeper of the nineties. Then again, any similarity might just have come from the fact that we were in the Netherlands and that he was a moustachioed Dutchman. 

What’s this ramble down memory canal got to do with anything, though? The end, that’s what. In a fit of ambitious planning, I’d decided that my last two trips out of Genoa would be sandwiched into one weekend - Inter on the Saturday, then a flight to Sardinia to catch Cagliari on the Sunday. So Sieb Dijkstra’s doppelgänger came to mind when I was thinking about the end - now it was so close to my face that I could smell it. And it smelled like the Cuban cigar and bottle of Hendrick’s I’d promised myself would be enjoyed on my balcony when I finished writing everything. 

But before that happy day, I had to pay another trip to Milan, this time to see Inter. Founded in 1908 by a breakaway group of members of Milan Cricket and Football Club (which would come to be called AC Milan), they wanted a club less-dominated by Italians and struck on the self-explanatory name of Internazionale after their first meeting, saying: "This wonderful night will give us the colours for our crest: black and blue against a backdrop of gold stars. It will be called Internazionale, because we are brothers of the world.”

All very artistic and lovey-dovey, that, and while historically AC Milan were considered the proletarian club in the city, Inter were seen as being more for the bourgeoisie. Nowadays of course, these lines of demarcation are nonsense, and while Italy couldn’t be described as a bourgeois paradise, Inter can boast being the third-most supported team according to research by Demos. Their poll was conducted in 2011 and then again in 2012. In 2011, 18.6% of people asked declared their undying love for Inter. Then, one year later that number had shrunk to 14.5%. Now, based on these figures I’m going to suggest something outlandish here, so if you’re standing up, please do sit down. 

Ready? Ok. 

Fans are fickle. In 2010, Jose Mourinho’s side had won the Scudetto, Coppa Italia and Champions’ League, then in 2011 they finished second. Moods were good, and people who had been celebrating the historic tripletta one year earlier were presumably still full of the pride that this reflected glory brought them. Another year on, in 2012, they finished a poor sixth, and the number of people who would proudly bang the Inter drum had contracted by a smidgeon over four percent. The ‘fans’ who had abandoned ship as soon as the seas got rough obviously hadn’t been paying attention to the official anthem of ‘their’ team: 

  “No, non puoi cambiare la bandiera “No, you can’t change the flag
E la maglia nerazzurra     And the nerazzurra strip
        Dei campioni del passato           Of past champions
              Che poi è la stessa   That’s the same now as then
            Di quelli del presente       I want their pride
         Io da loro voglio orgoglio     For the team from Milan
          Per la squadra di Milano   Because there’s only Inter”
           Perché c'è solo l’Inter”

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