In February Inter and Milan played against Chelsea and Manchester United and I really wanted to go to those games but was unable to get tickets. After Inter ended up beating Chelsea and CSKA Moscow to advance to the semifinals against Barcelona, I immediately decided that this was a game I was NOT going to be missing. Barcelona is considered by many to be the world's best team right now, and they also have the best player in the world in Lionel Messi. You might remember from my post about my trip to Madrid that I saw him score all 4 goals against Arsenal in the quarterfinals. To be able to watch Messi play in person at a point in his career like this, would surely be a one in a lifetime opportunity.
The tickets went on sale to the general public on Monday morning at 8:30am the week before the match. To ensure that I would be able to get tickets I woke up at 6am and arrived at the bank in Porta Ticinese at 6:45am. For whatever reason, the only place to buy tickets are the banks (in this case it was the Banca Popolare di Milano). You can also buy tickets online so I brought Oscar's passport with me to buy him a ticket and he sat at home to try to get the tickets online. With both of us trying to buy tickets we thought there would be no way we would not be able to get them. I initially wanted to get to the bank really early at like 3 or 4am but I called an Italian friend of mine (Alessandro Maurelli who studied abroad at Wharton last semester but goes to Bocconi full time) who said that there would absolutely be no one there until like 7am. When I got to the bank I was relieved to be the 4th person in line but was frustrated with the fact that the first 3 people in line would randomly walk away for like 15 minutes at a time to eat breakfast and then come back to the front of the line. Apparently once you get there and someone sees where you are in line then you have the right to come back to the same spot. I am more used to the lines in the US for black Friday where if you get out of line and no one that you know is there to save your spot then you lose it. In reality, I should have gotten there at 4am and once the 2nd person got there I could've come back home and slept for a few hours. In true Italian fashion, 2 seconds before the bank opened the 2nd guy in line let a couple of his friends come in front of him in line. It proved to not matter though, because the first guy in line who was like 65 years old has brought like 10 photocopies of his friends passports and wanted to buy 20 tickets. He had managed to buy 5 by the time everyone in the crowd started protesting and they made him leave. By this time he had wasted like 25 minutes because the man at the bank selling the tickets seemed a little incompetent and it took him forever to sell each one. Since so much time was wasted all of the tickets were sold out and no one else was able to get tickets. At this point, I was getting ready to shed a tear or two because I was so disappointed because I wanted to go to the game so badly.
A dutch friend of mine (was on the Tuscany road trip), Toine (pronounced twon), who was at another bank and was also unable to get tickets called me and asked me if I wanted to go get a coffee and brioche since we had woken up so early. I agreed and when we got there we probably looked the 2 of the most miserable people in the city. Maybe miserable isn't the right word, but I know I was really disappointed that I wasn't going to be able watch such a historic game at San Siro. This all changed when I received the phone call which was heard around the world (that's what I like to call it anyway). Oscar called to tell me that Oyvind (another friend here) was able to buy tickets online so I literally ran out of the place and sprinted all the way home. Everyone in the city must have been trying to access the site because it was extremely slow so I had like 10 different windows and with 2 different browsers open trying to buy tickets. Finally Toine (he made it here a couple minutes after I did) and I made it through to the purchase screen and when it was time to check out we used his credit card since I figured it'd have a higher chance of working since he's from the EU and my international card might get blocked or something. Unfortunately he realized that there was a pin that he needed from home to make it work so while I waited at the screen he ran home to get the pin and then call me so I could finalize the transaction. I went on my balcony to see where he was and it took him like 5 minutes to leave my building which was really weird. To make a long story short, he was able to get the pin and after like 25 mins of waiting and continuing to try to get tickets we were able to get 2 tickets for 90Euros each and it was a HUGE relief and we were both elated. I later found out that Toine had gotten stuck in the elevator here while trying to leave because he opened the door before it had reached the bottom because he was in such a hurry to get home. My elevator here is like an antique and there are 2 sets of doors and if you open the inner doors too early then the outer doors will still be locked. The doorman, Domenico, later told me that a guy got stuck in the elevator and he had to help him get out but I pretended to not know what he was talking about.
The rest of the week went by in a blur as I anticipated the arrival of the game day. The day before the game I helped a couple of friends from France film a video for their home university in the Piazza Duomo and then afterward I went to the soccer store behind the Duomo and bought an authentic Javier Zanetti Inter jersey. They had a promotion so getting a name and number was free so I paid an extra 10Euros to get the Champions League patch on the sleeve. In reality I got ripped off but the name and number would have normally cost 10Euros anyway and I always fall victim to silly promotions like that. I also ended up buying a couple of t shirts (not soccer related) and got a whopper for lunch so I had a fantastic day. The next morning I woke up with an extra spring in my step from the excitement of the game later that day. I proudly sported my Inter jersey to classes that day and could barely concentrate on anything related to school. I met up with Toine, 2 of his friends from Holland who also came for the game, and Oyvind and a crew of Scandanavians to go to the game at around 6pm. When we got to the metro station near the stadium all I could see were either Inter or Barcelona fans. The police made the Barcelona supporters exit through a different exit because they had to take separate buses to the stadium. From the metro station they had a bunch of buses going to the stadium and it was easily the most packed bus I have been on (except for maybe a bus in Torino that was crazy full but I am not really sure why that was the case). The bus started to shake because everyone started cheering and screaming like crazy out of the left side of the bus and thats when I realized that the bus with the inter players was driving past us with their police escort. The side windows were tinted so we couldn't see anything but a friend said he could see Murinho (their famous coach) sitting in the front seat.
The outside of the stadium was like a carnival and even though there was still over an hour until kickoff, we could already hear the chants from the inside of the stadium. Once we got our tickets Toine and I jogged to the gates so we could get to our seats and relish the experience. The atmosphere inside the stadium was absolutely electric. The goalies for either team were the first players to go out on the field and the cheers for the inter players made the place shake. When Barcelona's players came out all you could hear were whistles (In European soccer, whisteling is basically the equivalent of booing- you'll see what I mean in the video).
Before the game they played the Champions League theme song over the loud speakers and that is when it really sank in that I was actually at the game. I really have no words to describe the game itself but it was actually just like what I was expecting except louder and more emotion filled. I had an incredible time and the fact that Inter upset Barcelona by winning (3-1) made it even more incredible. After each goal the random Italian's next to us would hug us and I barely had a voice by the time the game ended. I really don't think that you can compare ANY sports event to the game I had the privilege of watching. Not the Super Bowl, World Series Game 7, the Kentucky Derby, nothing. This sport flows through the veins of the fans and it is like their religion. The place was so charged with energy that after the game I felt exhausted physically and emotionally but it was incredible.
After the game nearly everyone stayed and sang songs and celebrated in the stadium for like 20 minutes. When the official Inter song "Pazza Inter" was played everyone went crazy and I think I was the only person in the entire stadium which was sold out (81,300 people!!!!) that did not know the words.
After the game I bought Toine and I some Cannolis to celebrate while we waited for his friends. We then headed to a bar/ lounge called Circle and celebrated the wonderful day.
I may never attend such an incredible game in the rest of my life! It was absolutely perfect and might turn out to be the highlight of my time here in Italy!
P.S. Here are the game highlights in case you missed the game!!!