Very good friend of the site Michael Greenwell,host of the great ScotIndyPodcast (site – https://michaelgreenwell.wordpress.com) and @mgreenwell on Twitter sends up this great report from his time in Rome for that majestic 2-1 victory over Lazio…enjoy – Desi
ROAMING IN THE ROMA
I got up and checked my messages to find that two Celtic fans had been stabbed on the Wednesday night. Not such a good start, but I thought I would be fine because I’ve spent time in Italy, my wife is Italian and I speak the language.
Anyway, off to the airport. My flight got into Rome at about half one on Thursday afternoon. The next thing was to go and get the ticket that Etims had kindly hooked me up with, so I went off to meet the guy near the main train station in Rome. There were already Celtic fans around, in colours and with beers (I’ll get back to the supposed alcohol ban later), and no sign of anyone from Lazio.
Then I had a little problem. My hotel was up near the stadium, but about half an hour walk past it, going away from the city centre. I had to go to the hotel, dump my bag and then try and work my way back past the stadium in the other direction to get back into the centre to the where all the fans were waiting to be picked up on the shuttle bus.
It was already about 4 o clock by this time, and on the bus on the way to the hotel a lot of the roads were already blocked.There was a line of Celtic fans, more or less all with beers in their hands, making their way on foot up to the stadium. So, this alcohol ban then? Let’s face it, we are talking about a major world capital city here, did anyone really think that Japanese tourists were not going to be allowed to buy a Prosecco because there was a Europa League match on? They may have asked shopkeepers and supermarkets not to allow massive carry-outs, however, this match was in Italy, where laws are considered to be just suggestions until someone actually gets hurt. Absolutely no one had trouble getting bevvy, except me, but I’ll get to that.
The police were watching the fans walking down the road but leaving them be. For me this meant waiting for the police to let the bus through, so a 15-minute bus journey became a 45-minute one. I checked-in quick, got the Celtic shirt on, covered it up with the jacket and then straight back out.
At this point I had a dilemma. It was about 5pm, with an 18:55 kick off. I realised I wouldn’t have time to get back to where all the fans were. So…right…plan B. I could walk to the stadium.I started out, showing no colours, and hoping to pick up that line of Celtic fans that were walking up on foot. Then after 2 minutes I thought better of it and waited for the bus. Then after 25 minutes of the bus not coming, I thought I’d better get a taxi, so I walked back up to the hotel and there was one outside.
“Can you take me to the stadium?”.
“Sure, as close as they’ll let me anyway”.
I got in and we started chatting away. He asked if I was a Celtic fan, and I have to admit, I said I was going as a neutral until he told me he was a Roma fan. After that I said yeah, I was a Celtic fan, and could he take me to the Curva Sud, where all the Celtic fans were. He said yes and told me to watch out after the game because the Lazio fans are “feccia”, which means scum. He also said “la vergogna d’italia” – Italy’s shame, which reminded me of a certain basket of assets that resides at Ibrox.
The best thing about this part though, was that he point-blank refused to take any money from me when we got there, he just wanted Celtic to beat Lazio.
Right, so now I’m at the stadium and go to the gate to get in. This was my first major problem. The name on my ticket did not match my ID, so the little jobsworth wouldn’t let me in. This is where speaking the language helps. I grabbed my ticket back off the wee clown because just before he ripped itup, and he was definitely going to, and went over to the supervisor who, somehow, I managed to talk round. Quite a few people didn’t get in for the same reason though. There were a few really upset fans outside. One of these was the only Celtic fan I saw that got way out of order as he couldn’t handle it that they wouldn’t let him in.
Another guy there said this was a “schoolboy error” and that you can basically just rub the name out if you do it right and put your name on it. Easy.
As I said, in the end I got in. As soon as I passed through the last in a series of gates what do I see? A big fucking stand selling beer, with a massive queue. Alcohol ban, right. I thought I would see if there was another one with a shorter queue, but everywhere was the same so I went back to the first one. I waited half an hour and just as I got to the front, the cops came over and told them to stop selling beer. Fuck. Still no beer for Michael. Sober, still. Everyone and their fucking dug in Italy’s got a beer except me.
With no chance of getting anything I went up into the stadium. Outside and inside, it is a nice ground. The problem is the athletics track. You’re just miles away from the pitch.
Celtic had the Curva Sud, where the Roma fans normally go, and a little bit off to the left of that. Lazio had the two sides because the bit where their ultras usually go, the Curva Nord, was closed by UEFA on account of them being a bunch of motherf*ckers. I’d say it was more or less 50/50 in terms of support.
I won’t talk too much about the actual game, because you have all seen it, and given how far away from the pitch you actually are in the Stadio Olimpico, you probably saw it better than we did. They started really well and when they scored, I think most of us were worried about getting humped, but we got back into it after a shaky first 20 minutes. When Forrest scored it was total scenes.
Then they started selling beer again, so I went to get one. Speaking the language came in useful for a third time as I had a suspicion and I asked if it was non-alcoholic beer, and he said yes. Again, fuck. I told loads of fans this so that they wouldn’t waste their money, but I couldn’t be personally responsible for telling all 9000 of us.
We started the second half well, then they had us pinned back, then it was up and down. Then, 95 minutes Ntcham. Wooooowwwww. Several minutes of going absolutely mental with the final whistle somewhere in the middle. We also gave our fond farewells to the Lazio fans as they left of course. All good fun.
After the game we were all kept in for about 45 minutes I think, but I didn’t check. In the meantime, Lenny came out on his own to salute the fans and on the big screens they were playing videos of classic Celtic matches, presumably to keep us calm. It didn’t work, singing and bouncing non-stop for about half an hour until people started to properly want out. No trouble, just singing and then waiting. I did think to myself that it was a bit weird being in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome watching Pierre van Hooijdonk score against Airdrie, but what’s not to like?
When we got out we were all marched down the street, police lining both sides of it, to where the shuttle buses were. The police didn’t bother anyone from what I saw. Again, at this point I had a decision to make as I had to go in the other direction, so I said goodbye to the dudes I was talking to at the game (hello Kev from near Dumfries!), zipped up my jacket and slipped through the police lines because I had seen the bus I needed to take me back to the hotel, and I had something to do the following day in Rome.
The bus journey passed without incident but there were ambulances flying about. However, in a big city like Rome they might have been for anything and not connected with the football (later it came out that another Celtic fan had been stabbed and that one of the shuttle buses broke down and got separated from the others and was attacked).
Near the hotel there was a wee bar so I went in. Finally, a beer. It was full of Spanish tourists, so no worries about trouble. I got talking to the barman and in walked 5 people in Lazio gear, who were German. The fucker in the light blue hat here actually said “Seig Heil”, and not ironically.
Dammit. I was on my own and didn’t want any bother, so I went to the hotel bar instead. Group of Scottish accents sitting on the right, I said “Hello,what a game etc” and they said “yes” but clearly didn’t want to talk to me, which I thought was a bit weird after an away victory like that. They weren’t rude or anything, just not interested. However, they understood that I could hear them from where I was sitting, and at the bar when we were buying more beers one of them told me they were actually part of the Scottish police delegation that went to the match. Their chat was mostly about how the Italian cops handled it all.
At that point it was about 1am, and it had been a long day. Still though, there were things to do. I got a few beers from the bar (making up for lost time) and took them up to the room where I got online and made a comment or two to a couple of Lazio racist fans who make reaction videos. One of them said that he didn’t mind losing, but he did mind losing against Celtic, a poor team, so I told him in Italian “2-1 home and away, have a word with yourself”. He didn’t seem to like that, so I followed it up with “Better Team. Better Fans. Better Stadium”.
After that I crashed out.
Next morning, I decided to do that walk past the stadium in the pishing rain. It could have been Glasgow.
Some little love letters had been left by the Lazio fans.
So as I finish writing this, I’m sitting in Rome waiting until my departure time and I don’t know how to sum it all up other than that I would do it again. For me it all happened without any major incidents, others weren’t so lucky. The Roma fans treated us well, the Lazio pricks obviously not, “Italy’s shame”, as the man said. The police were not heavy handed at all from what I saw. A couple of folks in the stadium said that journalists from The Sun were actually trying to provoke trouble. If true, that wouldn’t surprise me.
The bottom bottom line though, is Fuck Lazio. Home and Away. Have a word with yourselves.