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The anger of fans came to me in a more forceful way the next season when we managed tickets to the real thing - Inter versus Milan in a game that was official for the campionato. Both teams were high on the rankings along with Lazio, led by Giorgio Chinaglia, and with the aforementioned Juve team. The stadium was sold out and we were heading to the game in a large group from our school, about half of the kids were Milan fans and half were Inter fans.

We took the subway to the last stop, Lotto. We then decided to walk to the stadium instead of taking the bus. The girls that were with us (only three had come - ah, the pain of teenagers!) did not fancy getting on a crowded bus with plenty of "roaming hands" threatening their bottoms. So we walked - it was not a problem for us anyway - we were there early enough and our young legs thought nothing of the walk.

"Milan is going to win," said Mike to me, his Milan cap cockily tilted to one side on his head, a red-and-black scarf keeping him warm against the cool breeze that was blowing on another foggy Milanese Sunday in the fall.

"Now how can you say that, Mike - you know nothing about football," said Eric, not the one from before, but a taller German who lived in a marvellous penthouse with a view of the Duomo. His friend Enrico, a Brasilian, laughed at the suggestion that Milan would win. But Mike stuck to his guns.

"I know enough to know that Milan is playing great right now and Inter doesn't have the attack to score on Milan," said Mike somewhat defensively. Mike was a relatively new arrival in Italy, but had picked up the language and a love for football quickly. He and his brother Tex (guess where they were from) had fallen in with a group of Milanistas at the school - poor devils!

"Schnellinger is getting old and Albertosi is second rate - both Zoff and Bordon are better than him," said Eric, looking down imperiously at the shorter Mike.

"Eh, Americani, americani che fate qui?" (Hey, Americans! Americans! What are you doing here?) a group of surly older (must have been all of 20 or 21 while none of us was even 17) Milan ultras suddenly appeared in front of us. They had guessed from hearing our English mixed with Italian that we were not Italian and they didn't like the easy mixture of blue and red amongst our group. They also looked to very likely be communists, judging from their student attire, so an additional tension was in the air. The Vietnam War was in full swing and student demonstrations in Italy had been heated lately, mixed with labour protests and the background of strikes.

"Ma siamo da tutti nazioni," said Eric, a long time resident of Milano who knew the rules well. He let the ultras know that we were Americans and Italians and Brits and French and Brasilians and Germans. The American School had kids from 18 different countries in it from North and South America as well as Europe and the Middle East. At this time many rich foreigners sent their kids to our school so they could pick up English quickly.

When the Milan ultras heard Eric was a dual national German-Italian, they asked him if he liked Schnellinger. Eric responded enthusiastically that he was while we stifled giggles because Eric was dyed-in-the-wool Interista with a passionate hatred for Schnellinger, considering him a traitor, and worse - a Milan player. Fortunately Eric had no blue or red on that day - he fancied himself a sharp dresser and compared to the rest of us who were in the standard student uniform of that time - jeans and drab olive jackets, he was.

Another rossonero ultra came up to me and Mike and asked us what we thought of Nixon, then President of the United States. I answered that I didn't particularly care for him while Mike kept quiet, his halting Italian and his Republican party tendencies causing him to consider silence a wise choice in this situation.

"Ma, sai devi ucciderlo!" said the ultra, leaning into me and poking his finger in my chest. He was telling me I should kill him! I answered that that would accomplish nothing, I would only be arrested and the same things would go on (the Vietnam War, the bombings in Cambodia). I said that assasination was not the answer, political change was and that I was hoping to vote for a Democrat when I was old enough.

I could see he was winding up for a long speech about politics and the evils of the United States so I began to back away, apologizing and saying that the rest of my group was leaving (which they were as the girls started to complain that they were getting cold standing around.) He shook his head in disgust at my obviously ignorant views of the world and fired a parting shot.

"Inter di merda, Mazzola di merda, Stati Uniti di merda," he said as he flipped us the bird. (Inter is shite, Mazzola is shite, the United States is shite).

Mike couldn't take it any longer and returned the bird back to him, then turning it sideways and yelling in English "And this is for the horse you rode in on!" We disappeared around the corner and there was the stadium and also, even better, a lot of carabinieri (the Italian State Police). Some of them had riot gear on with shield and helmets and long batons, others were adjusting packs which obviously contained gas masks. It made you think - am I going to a game, or am I going to a battle?

A lot of the first and not too little of the latter was the answer to that question.

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