Soccer Magazine

AC Monza 2 Hellas Verona 0

By Stuartnoel @theballisround

Sunday 6th November 2022 3pm – Serie A – Stadio Brianteo, Monza

Day two of the weekend and the sun was shining, whilst the rain continued to fall back in England. Naturally breakfast involved the smallest possible cup of coffee and a dirty look when I asked the waiter if they could rustle up a bacon sandwich. Perhaps my mistake was not asking for pancetta, or using my emergency travel Marmite on my croissant that offended him so much. But when he spotted me looking at my map of Monza his eyes lit up.

“I Bagai” he said, which translates as I discovered later not to my smart tan man bag but to “The Boys”, one of the nicknames of Associazione Calcio Monza, Serie A’s newest side, having been promoted for the first time last summer.

Monza is most famous for the location of the Italian Grand Prix, held traditionally on the first week of September. The circuit, just a few miles north of the town centre, has hosted the annual race every year since the competition began in 1950 bar one season, meaning it has hosted more F1 races than any other circuit. Tens of thousands of motor racing fans head to the town for the three-day event every year, meaning that you’d think public transport could cope with a sudden influx of people. Or perhaps not as we discovered.

The football club have spent most of their history in the 2nd and 3rd tiers of Italian football, naturally with a few bankruptcies thrown in for good measure, the most recent being in 2015, which eventually paved the way for the arrival of a man very well known in these parts – Silvio Burlusconi. The former president of AC Milan and Italian Prime Minister on four separate occasions, no stranger to controversy and the courts, took over the club in 2018, through his holding company Fininvest. Since then the club has risen from Serie C to Serie A, via the playoffs.

Being their first season I had thought tickets for games at the 15,000 capacity Stadio Brianteo would be hard to come by. But, as I saw in buying my €14 AC Milan tickets, nothing is what it seems in Italy these days, and four tickets, albeit ones exposed to the elements, were easily procured through the official website. To be fair, all tickets, bar the €50 to €100 ones are open air at Monza and whilst the weather at this time of the year can be very wet and very cold, we struck lucky with warm Autumnal sunshine when we eventually made it to the ground.

AC Monza 2 Hellas Verona 0
AC Monza 2 Hellas Verona 0
AC Monza 2 Hellas Verona 0
AC Monza 2 Hellas Verona 0

I say eventually as unlike the day before with transportation logistics, a simple 10 mile journey from Milan became a bit of a nightmare. The metro runs almost to Monza itself, terminating at a stop called Sesto 1st Maggio. From there you cross the road to the overground station where a 4 minute journey deposits you at Monza Centrale. Hop onto a waiting bus and within 10 minutes you are at the Stadio Brainteo right on the edge of town. Simple.

Very simple. Except when the train doesn’t arrive and then there is a bus strike. Our train to Monza simply disappeared. One minute is was “approaching” but it never arrived. A group of other football fans sensed an issue and jumped in a cab outside the station. Of course, I knew best and suggested we waited as trains don’t just disappear….OK, having experienced similar phenomenon many times with South Eastern Trains I made an assumption such things didn’t happen outside of the UK.

Eventually a train arrived. It wasn’t our train, which was still missing, but it was going in the right direction. We could still make kick-off. That was until we found out the buses were on strike. Uber suggested our nearest driver was 25 minutes away and so we walked. Why do we always think Google Maps is wrong when it suggests the walking time is long. It wasn’t and 41 minutes later we entered the stadium, 10 minutes into the game.

A few years ago the Italian authorities introduced a rule that all tickets for football had to carry the name of the holder on, and IDs would be checked. Of course if you are arriving an hour before kick off in Italy (as opposed to 10 minutes before in England) it may not be an issue with the number of people trying to get in, but 10 minutes after kick-off and any mistakes stick out like a sore thumb, or so you’d think. I presented my Saudi Arabian Visa page in my passport and after a good 30 second study, trying to understand what my name looked like in Arabic, I was in.

We hadn’t missed much, although the two sets of fans were in full flow. The Hellas Verona fans had come in good numbers, making the 100 mile trip, to take up their place in the open stand, perfectly framed against the Alps in the distance. The covered main stand (with the €100 tickets) was half empty, with the fans enjoying the Autumnal sunshine in the cheap seats. They were soon on their feet as Giangiacomo Magnani was sent off for bringing down a Monza forward, after another long VAR review.

Despite having the numerical advantage it took another forty minutes for the home side to score, Carlos Augusto opening the scoring. The visitors bus had to be removed from the parking space in front of the penalty box but they were never in the game. We had a choice at this point – we could gamble on finding a taxi and staying until the end or leave now and start the long walk back to catch the 17:10 train back to Milan. We took the former and subsequently missed another 90th minute goal, Andrea Colpani doubling the lead for Monza.

I shared the good news as we started on our route march. The train was 6 minutes late. And we all know that once a train is late, it only gets later. Apart from in Italy it seemed. Every time I checked on our Olympic paced walk, it had gained a minute. With the station in sight, we saw the train slowing down at the platform. We needed tickets so we sent the youngster ahead to hold the doors. A great idea, except they held the doors open of the train heading north, rather than south to Milan much to the bemusement of the carriage. Our train was indeed still six minute late and we got on without an issue.

We had a twenty minute turnaround in Milan, the Current Mrs Fuller heading home, the rest of us heading to Turin for the final game of the weekend.

Three games, three 90 minute goals missed. Could we make in four out of four?


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