Forza Inter! Thanks Norwich City for bringing back my heroes, from a nerazzurro fan
PUBLISHED: 16:51 28 November 2017 | UPDATED: 08:46 29 November 2017
Honestly, I had lost all hope. Moving away from London four years ago, meant the chances to go to an English ground to watch my team playing became very rare.
Plus, Inter Milan were struggling, both domestically and in Europe, after their triumphant 2010 Champions League campaign.
On Friday when a Norwich friend ‘tagged’ me on Facebook to let me know about the legends’ game, I could not believe my eyes.
The life of a football supporter living abroad can be strange. Even in these times of easy access to live games, everything can feel quite distant and detached.
Of course, the passion for the colours you fell in love with as a child never goes away. The problem is that there is no one to share it with.
Football chat has never been the same for me since I left in Italy. At best I managed to share some memories with few guys fond of the iconic Football Italia Channel 4 show in the 90s.
Norwich, however, proved to be a special place. Here every time I have been asked which team I support my answer has always produced a glint in the eye of the other person.
The word ‘Inter’ (or ‘Inter Milan’) is special for every Norwich City fan who vividly remembers those famous games.
Back in 1993 the midweek European cups ties carried a magic aura. Every time your team qualified for the next round it gave you the opportunity to discover places, names and faces completely unknown up to that moment.
And so, my nine-year-old self became familiar with Norwich City and its ‘egg and cress’ shirts.
I am almost certain I missed Inter’s goal in the first leg, at Carrow Road, as Dennis Bergkamp scored from the penalty spot at a time past my bed time.
But I do remember vividly how Norwich City gave the neroazzurri a run for their money in the return match at San Siro only to lose by the odd goal.
It is fair to say, that year my team was a massive underachiever.
Having finished runners up in Serie A in the previous campaign, Inter added Dennis Bergkamp and Wim Jonk from Ajax to a squad that already featured the likes of Walter Zenga, Giuseppe Bergomi and Ruben Sosa. All players who shone at the Italy 90 World Cup.
However, things did not work out: the manager was sacked halfway through the season and the team avoided relegation by just one point.
The UEFA Cup proved to be the only consolation and few months after the Norwich tie I was celebrating my idols lifting the trophy as they defeated Salzburg.
I later learnt that in the very same competition Norwich City had beaten the mighty Bayern Munich and what a special place those games still hold in people’s memories in this part of the world.
Moving around various cities in the UK meant that I have always tried to develop an interest in the team representing the place I lived in at that time (even Peterborough United!).
I never dared to consider myself a fan, but I always tried to keep up to date with the results. At least for the sake of Sunday League’s changing room banter.
Because Norwich City was the first British team I ever witnessed Inter Milan playing against my ‘soft spot’ for the Canaries grew with time.
Even before moving to Norfolk I owned a Norwich shirt. Although, I must admit, the fact that I bought it on sale helped my purchase decision.
“Oh, but it won’t be the ‘real’ team. It’s only a charity game”, an Italian friend said to me in the attempt to defuse my enthusiasm.
Actually, applauding the idols of my youth will make it even more special and exciting.
Every football fan’s passion is alimented by memories.
Those who played at Carrow Road in 1993 contributed in making me the supporter I am now, no matter where I lived.
Nicola Berti, Alvaro Recoba, Francesco Toldo: I could talk about every single one of the legends coming to Carrow Road for hours.
But if I had to choose one favourite player it is, and always will be, Javier Zanetti: more than an icon, the incarnation of the history and values of Inter Milan.
I am already counting the days to the 20th of May.
The nerazzurri scarf I put away a few years ago will (finally) see the light of day again. Forza Inter!