"Bene - e' fatto," said Eric, saying that the deal
was done, grabbing the bigger Foccacia and
handing over the object of my culinary desire
to the interloping John. I could smell the
fresh bread, the cheese, the proscuitto! Ai!
"Madonna," I said in disgust, turing around to tell
John's girlfriend that he was a selfish jerk. She
smiled at me as if to say "tell me something I
don't know, Paul."
I consoled myself with the Porchetta Peck and the
Gazzosa that Eric brought back (a sweet Seven-Up
like drink sold in Italy). I also had a some sugar
cookies so I soon contented myself with talking
to Mike about how many more Inter flags were waving
and how much bigger they were than the Milan banners.
One huge Inter flag was being slowly and majestically
waved at the front of the top balcony by two fans
holding the wildly bending pole. The flag was easily
twenty feet in length and featured a large gold star
in a field of black and blue and the legend:
"INTER CLUB - COMO"
and underneath in smaller letters the legend
"FEDELISSIMI" (the most faithful ones)
The two young men struggled with the dual tasks of
keeping the flag from wrapping itself around them
or a luckless passerby and the seeming possibility
not being dragged over the edge of the long drop
to the grandstand below whenever a gust of wind
grabbed the huge standard.
My own flag, not exactly small (it was the largest
one I could find for sale in the sports shop by
our family's apartment), could have been layed over
many times inside this huge banner with space for
considerable lettering still left over.
To the right of the giant, a banner was draped over
the edge of the balcony and ran at least thirty meters.
On it were a large FORZA INTER! and then the word
"FOSSA" and then a fold that hid the other words
and then half-decent depictions of Mazzola, Facchetti
and Domenghini standing together confidently, arms
crossed in the age-old traditional soccer picture
pose. Other banners ran around all the balcony --
I stopped counting at 25 large ones, and except
for the corner that the Milan allotment was
compressed in, were all black and blue. A sturdy
fence separated the Milan fans on both sides from
the Inter ones.
The same kind of fence surrounded the field. Ten feet
high and topped with spikes, it was meant for some
serious crowd control. Also for crowd control was
an entrance to the field that came not from amongst
the stands, but out of a tunnel leading to a hole
in the field on top of which was extended a sturdy
canvas cover to protect the teams from thrown
objects. Unfortunately, it's presence was often
Several hundred riot police ringed the field, mingling
with photographers, ballboys and regular carabinieri
in their snazzy dark blue uniforms. A small group
of bersaglieri - the colorful army troops with feathers
in their caps and a trademark quick-run march - were
"Hey, the Bersaglieri are here," said Mike looking at
the feathered and peaked caps of the lounging troops.
"Why do they need them?"
"Probably the band we'll hear for the presentation."
said Eric. Normally there were no bands at games,
but an important Italian politician had recently
been assassinated by Red Brigade terrorists so the
band was part of short ceremony to commemorate the
unfortunate man's passing.
"Will they run while they play?," asked Mike.
"Nah, I don't think so -- not for this time
anyway," said the Italian-American Eric. "Non
sarrebbe appropriato per una ricordanza. (It
wouldn't be appropriate for a condolence.)
The riot police were ready for almost anything, they
carried nightsticks and had packs with tear gas
and gas masks. Plastic face shields rode high on their
heads and heavy jackets with POLIZIA emblazoned on
them made them bulky with intent. Some German Shepard
guard dogs paced with their masters. Shields lay
against the fence in groups.
A clutch of workers ran out to the center of the field
carrying some banners and poles. They quickly
assembled a pyramidal structure that was a four sided
advertisement at mid-field that read:
"PELICCERIA ANNABELLA - MODA PER LEI"
(ANNABELLA FURRIERS - FASHIONS FOR HER)
Some commotion occurred on one end of the stands,
seconds after this commotion an official in Inter
togs ran out to the advertisement gesturing wildly
and as suddenly as it had gone up, the ad was
brought down, right in the middle of some voice-
over advertisments promoting the furrier that were
being read by over the public address system.
At this time a Milanista from our school named Paul
ran up the aisle laughing and said.
"The put the ad on backwards on two of the panels,"
he said giggling. "Inter can't even have the ads
This of course started a mini-squabble amongst our
factions which ended with John knocking over my
Gazzosa bottle by accident when Tex pushed him.
I told John that he might as well be a milanista -
first he took crudo from me and now he was trying
to have me die of thirst. He offered to buy a
replacement but I needed to go to the men's room
so I excused myself. Thirty minutes before the
game -- plenty of time.
I started down the steps and noted that the ad
for Annabella had gone back up, this time with
the additional advantage of having all the
lettering facing the right way. Some sarcastic
cheers rang out from the stands. The Milan fans
were singing to Rivera who was warming up with
a few short sprints. The Inter fans were
drowning them out with insults of Milan's
There was no more gazzosa so I had to buy some
acqua minerale San Pellegrino instead. I ran
into some Milan fans from the International
School of Milan soccer team that we regularly
played against. They were tall skinny Germans
who were not our best friends, this year they
were a bit more tame as we had tied them 4-4
instead of losing as we usually did to them.
"Hey Americano interista," said the taller one,
"Schnellinger is going to kick the shite out of
Mazzola and Boninsegna."
I asked him with as straight a face as I could
muster whether Milan would avoid scoring an
auto-gol (own-goal). A reference to the fact
that the tall German had had that unfortunate
event happen to him in that drawn game against
us. He scowled and muttered something not
complimentary in German. I smiled and while
trying to cooly Charles Bronson-like exit out
of there walked straight into a program seller
who spilled his souvenirs on the ramp.
"Eh, che fai!" The old gentleman bent over while
I tried to ignore the giggles of the two Germans
as I helped the vendor pick up the fallen
merchandise. A poliziotto watched me with an
amused look from his post by the entryway. I
excused myself and tried to vanish out of there.
Emerging out onto the balcony it was obvious
the time to the game was approaching -- the chants
were picking up and a groups of players from
both clubs were huddled under the cover of the
canvas over the exit tunnel talking amongst
themselves and with some field officials.
They conversed in a quite friendly manner,
sharing a moment of camraderie before the battle.
I thought one of the interista players was Bonimba
(an affectionate nickname for Roberto Boninsegna,
the Inter center-forward and Italian national)
while one of the Milan players was definitely
Chiarugi, a small winger famous for his speed
and his theatrical dives after fouls (or non-fouls).
At least he was famous for that with us interisti!
If there was one Milan player I disliked above
all others it was Chiarugi. The Inter fans on
our soccer team called players who made big
scenes after fouls a "Chiarugi" -- something
the Milanisti on the team tried to change to
a "Mazzola" - without much success or so I thought
anyway! Mazzola never faked a foul, everyone
knew that! Everyone except the silly Milanisti!
Chiarugi was so bad that he had drawn two yellows
the season before for seemingly endless agonized
rolls after alledged fouls.
On one the referee actually stood and waited for
the Milan player to stop rolling and look up
tenatively before slowly withdrawing the yellow
and writing his name down. Rivera, as captain
tried to placate the official, pointing the
opponent as a more worthy recipient. Meanwhile
Chiarugi huddled in a ball while the Milan
trainer applied the "magic sponge" that
seemingly cured every malady short of cancer
with just a few wipes and squeezes.
A roar interrupted my reverie. The teams!
Running parallel to each other the two sides
came out. Shivers ran down my spine as the
crowd of over 70,000 roared cheers for their
favorite players and teams. Wave after wave
of sound cascaded down from the packed stands.
Two of the world's great soccer teams were
lining up to do battle.
INTER! INTER! INTER! INTER! INTER!
The Milan fans waited for whatever breaks
they could to inject quick Milan chants
before being drowned out by the responding
"home" fans. Nevertheless the Milan cheers
were surprisingly loud and it took the Inter
group some effort to drown them out.
At the front of the groups ran Mazzola and
Rivera side by side, holding small momentos
for the other teams captain and a presentation
to be given to a charity that was being
As long as I live I will not forget the wave-
like movements of thousands of flags, blue,
black, red, black, dollops of gold and white
thrown in here and there (gold was the third
color of Inter, while the third color of Milan)
The Klaxons went wild, other deeper horns now
joined the awesome tide of sound. I looked over
at one of the girls, Kerry, and she was holding
her hands over her ears, wincing in pain. Not
for the faint of heart, nor was it for the
short! Poor Kerry was having trouble seeing
anything but Eric the German's back.
Flags waved wildly, the stands in the balconies
and behind the goals literally undulating with
the blue movements of hundred of small, medium
and large flags and banners. Two smaller
knots of red moved amongst the sea of black,
blue and gold, one in the lower corner and
another in the corner above them. Milanisti
in an ocean of Inter.
Klaxons went off wildly, their four note
squeals going off over and over again. Other
sirens let out brief songs, the favorite one
being of all things "La Cucaracha" for some
reason or other. Probably because only five
notes were needed for the key refrain. La Scala
this was not, this was far more serious "art"
to many Italians - leave the music to Sills
and Callas. It's derby time!
Eric and I slapped hands for luck as we
always did before games and I did the same
with John -- despite his culinary crimes.
The Milan fans amongst us tried to look
calm and cool amongst the thundering of
the Inter fans. Fat chance! We laughed at
them and elbowed them if we could. They
defiantly shove back and yelled Forza Milan!
as loud as they could. What a moment. The fog
seemed to lighten a bit and the day grow a
bit less gray for a few minutes. INTER!
The players ran out diagonally from the
field tunnel to the center of the field
facing their bench and the main grandstand
where the big shots sat in the plush seatbacks
that cost $80 or more a game - stratospheric
for the time. Politicians, Inter and Milan
management, a smattering of celebrities
joined the wealthy of Milano and Lombardy
in those seats -- a bomb thrown here would
cripple the city, no doubt the mayor and
most of the leaders of industry were here,
including the father of current Inter owner
But enough of the big shots....
Mazzola looked like the corner barber and
Rivera like a young dandy -- neither appeared
to be the world class midfielder he was.
Right behing them strode the more imposing
blocklike figures of Burgnich and Schnellinger,
no-nonsense men with pillar like legs. The
almost giraffe-like height of Facchetti towered
over all but Milan's Albertosi, the Milan
keeper wore a gray and black keeper kit and
Bordon, the Inter goalie, wore all black and
his trademark rakish tilted cap. I considered
wearing one of these in honor of him during
my own contests, but my long bushy curls didn't
"cotton" to this kind of cap, so I settled for
a headband instead. But at least I always wore
all-black as the keeper. For back then, almost
all keepers wore all black.
At that time there were few teams or countries
that had the colorful keeper kits that now
dominate. Most everyone was emulating as
a tradition the famous all-black kit of the
immortal Russian keeper Lev Yashin.
The players lined up with each team on one side
of the midfield line. The coaches and bench
players walked or ran to the fiberglass protected
bench areas. Inter's manager Invernizzi and his
Milan counterpart Rocco shook hands and talked
for a few seconds. Undoubtedly words of great
wisdom were being exchanged but no one would
hear them over the singing that now came from
the stands. Invernizzi looked the part of the pained
orchestra conductor, a wince always playing on
his face. Rocco looked like his name sounded
-- tough-as-nails, with a mouth set hard in a
resolute boxers' visage.
The players did as players everywhere did while
the pre-game ceremony was being held. They jumped
up and down, talked, scratched themselves, joked
with one another, checked the stands out. Then
they raised their shoes as the officials walked
by checking for any illegal studs on their shoes. The
linesmen then ran out to the goals to check the
nets at both ends. With shooters like Benetti
and Boninsegna on the field, it would be best
to make sure they were securely fastened and
The players that stood still through a brief
ceremony as the bersaglieri played a song I
didn't know (not the Italian national anthem,
because that was rarely done at Italian sporting
events of the time). But something stately and
also mercifully short. Then the exchange of
tokens and a quick posing for team pictures.
Then the players burst out to their field
positions. The roars keyed back up to ear-
splitting levels. A Baffo! Baffo! Baffo!
chant started for Mazzola who was easily and
artfully juggling the ball at the center
circle while playfully keeping it away from
Boninsegna. The ball seemed on a string from
thigh to instep, back to thigh again, then
to instep, all the while Bonimba laughing as he
tried to take it away from Sandro. When it looked
like Sandrino was going to lose the ball he
hit it just a little bit harder up to his head
where he balanced it above his heavy eyebrows
and then dropped it so sweetly, continuing with
the amazing juggling.
An artist with the ball -- Georgie Best had his
great skills, Platini his marvels with the ball, Diego
Armando Maradona the incredible balance and
sweet touch, Pele the laser-like eye for the open
space, but to me, Sandro Mazzola was the master
of dribbling. He seemed to have a secret agreement
going with the ball -- 'you don't leave my foot and
I will see that you are treated well.'
Mazzola finally surrendered the ball to the referee
and did quick little gallops, raising his
thighs so that they almost touched his chest.
Facchetti kicked some looping shots at Bordon.
On the Milan side Chiarugi was talking to one
of the linesman. Should have figured that to
be happening. Already politicking!!!
Benetti fired some twenty-five meter rockets at
Albertosi who fisted all of them (except one
or two who rippled the net sharply) back in huge
arcs almost all the way back to Benetti on
the fly. Rivera was now talking with the referee
and Boninsegna at the center circle. Mazzola
came running back up and shook hands with the
referee and pushed Rivera slightly and in a not
unfriendly manner. Rivera hopped backwards while
gesturing in a friendly manner back to his
nerazzurro rival. Ma che cosa? ('What are you
doing' you could hear them saying....)
Hmmmm....joking with the enemy? How could this
be? Come on Sandro, this is Milan! Our
enemies! This is The Derby!
The Milan fans beseeched their hero while Inter
fans roared their approval for their idols. The
referee looked at his watch in that age-old
referee's timekeeping gesture.
Sandro would have a great game, but as for his
teammates....well, some things just don't
happen as you want them to.
The plane that had been constantly flying over
the stadium towing first an UPIM banner and then
a Pelicceria Annabella banner was flying off with
a little wiggle of its biplane wings as a final
sign. Hmmm...was a milanista or an interista
in there? Hopefully not a juventino I thought.
Now it was business.
The whistle blew and all fans roared at once.
Milan started with the ball and Rivera promptly
launched a long strike to Chiarugi who dribbled
the ball off his feet prompting long derisive
cheers. Obviously all Inter fans "liked" him
about as much as I did!
Facchetti threw the ball into Bonisegna, who
had come far back to get a quick early touch
on the ball. He always seemed to like to do this
and the Inter faithful roared in support.
"Bonimba! He will be on his game today!" said
Eric the German. "Watch him score quick!"
Inter held sway in the first few noisy minutes,
the chants never-ending. An Inter banner was
passed over us, a twenty meter wide star-filled
flag that had us laughing at the sour expressions
on our milanista classmates. Mike refused to
help and had his Milan hat knocked off by the
flag brushing it off -- we laughed and temporarily
kept it from him until his brother finally jumped
and got it back. Milan di mer....
Milan was absorbing the Inter attacks well, Karl
Heinz was particularly outstanding, clearing the
ball from Domenghini's foot as he prepared a shot
from little over ten meters and then once poking
the ball away from Mazzola, who went catapulting
head over heels after the tackle. The crowd howled
but no sign from the official except a play on.
Mazzola looked to have been more than just touched
but the ball had been played first according to the
referee apparently. Facchetti lobbied for his
running mate of many years, but of course, to no
A few minutes later Benetti (or was it another
midfielder?) lost the ball as an Inter counter-
attack was led by Domenghini and Facchetti. There
was a heavy mist around heightened by the flares
that were intermittently being set off in the
stands. Milan in the fall -- waves of gray in the
But nowhere near as bad as the Cagliari game the
year before when the officials debated whether to
play the game at all. Heavy fog made viewing the
contest from beyond the fourth row of the lower
stands an exercise in psychic powers. And the
Milanese fog had a taste to it -- sulfur dioxide.
This "cat's feet" had chemical claws.
A roar brought me back to reality.........
Jair had beat two men with a serpentine run down
the far side and unleashed a perfect cross that
ended with Facchetti just missing the far post
with a solidly struck header that had Albertosi
Sixty thousand throats cried out in agony.
Eyes were covered as the disbelief at the missing
of the golden opportunity sunk in. A smoke bomb
had been thrown on the field after Mazzola had
gone down, and now was clouding the field in front
of Albertosi. Mazzola himself kicked it off to the
side where some Carbinieri poked at with batons
before covering it with a tarp. The first smoke
bomb of the game, it would not be the last.
End of part three.....