Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Il Calcio Bolognese

Now, a year or so later, seems appropriate to describe my experience at my first Bolognese soccer game. Why do I say appropriate? Appropriate because it was nearly a year ago when I witnessed a defeated city get emotional when they lost their playoff game to Catania and were demoted to the Seria B and it was just 8 days ago when my social media blew up with all kinds of celebration and excitement by my fellow classmates marking the results of a 1:1 tie between Bologna and Pescara advancing Bologna back in to the esteemed Seria A. Che emozioni!

Some context: There are three professional series or divisions in Italy's football league system. Seria A is considered the first tier of the system and is composed of 20 teams. Seria A championship winners are automatically entered into the Champions League, which helps explain the difference between Seria A and Seria B. During the regular season matches are played and teams are awarded points for their results, 3 points for a victory, 1 point for a draw and zero points for a loss. And this is where it gets interesting... after the regular season, points are totaled and the bottom three clubs in Seria A are relegated to Seria B, these clubs are replaced by the top three ranking teams in the Seria B at the end of the season.

So leading up to my first Bolognese partita di calcio,  fans knew that Bologna would have to beat Catania in order for them to remain in the prestigious Seria A league. No pressure. And I am not sure if every Bologna FC game generally unfolds in the same manner the Bologna - Catania game did, but man, oh, man! What an experience!

I'll have to give some credit to my friend Alonso who asked if I'd be interested in attending the game with him and a few other classmates. The obvious answer was "yes!" and that was even prior to him informing me that the tickets would be GRATIS! I met Alonso and our other classmates prior to the start of the game near the Curva Burgarelli where I had been told to wait. I made the beautiful 2 mile walk to the stadium from my apartment casually and was obviously still the first one there, even with a timed 5 minute lateness pre-calculated on my part! In any case, one by one everyone arrived, in the end our group ended up being five people, Alonso, Alessando, Massimo and Sebastian plus myself, we were all classmates so I knew them well and knew it was going to be a fun and entertaining afternoon at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara.


To begin the adventure we headed around the other side of the stadium to a different entrance. Sebastian had our tickets ready for us all and e other boys came prepared with a couple of Peroni in a bag. They offered me one as we waited outside the door, what we were waiting for, I wasn't quite sure, so followed the crowd and chit chatted as we waited and drank our peronis outside the stadium. I soon figured out we were waiting for someone else too find us before we went in, and as soon as we had the whole crew we headed to mesh with the line of Bologna FC fans piling through the turnstiles. We apparently went through security, although I don't recall ever being searched or ever going through a metal detector, then we handed over our tickets and they handed us a Bologna FC flag in return. This was a big game. You could already tell by the mood of the line or mosh entering the stadium. 

We walked up to our seats, which in retrospect I don't think we're actually assigned. I believe our tickets were for a certain area of the stadium, similar to the bleacher section at Fenway Park, but the individual seats were a free for all. We sat down in our seats which were essentially concrete stairs, and I soaked in the atmosphere. It was overwhelming looking at the blue and red crowd dispersed throughout the stadium wielding flags, body paint, and signs. And I couldn't help but smile as I listened to the roar created by the collaborative banter of the thousands of Italian fans.

Conclusion #1 = Italian banter > English banter.

As the game commenced the state of the stadium only got better. Bologna was playing well enough to give its fans hope of remaining in the Seria A and the opposing team, Il Catania, was also giving the fans enough verbal ammo to make the stands quite an interesting place to be. With that being said, I am not quite sure how well I paid attention to the game, but the crowd was sure enough, enough entertainment for me!  Chants, songs and banter rose steadily from the stands, and more visibly... colored smoke and fireworks also started to rise from one section of the stadium.  When I noticed that, I thought to myself "Well that would never be allowed at Gillette!"  It seemed like anything could go in Lo Stadio Renato Dall'Ara, I was loving it.

What was most entertaining to me however was not the special effects emitted by the crowd, but the verbiage and typical Italian flare that was given to the game. I couldn't even understand half the cheers rising from the crowd, but I could tell there was passion in the voices of the people singing and also that they were willing to say almost anything to demoralize there opponent (not sure how I felt about some of the things coming out of people's mouths!). I knew that some American cheers at football games, hockey games and basketball games could be a little vulgar, but leave it to the Italians to take it to the next level!

Conclusion #2 - Italians are quite crafty with their insults and expressing disappointment in there team. 

At some instances during the game I would actually get confused at who the beautifully crafted rants were geared towards. They were all music to my ears, Italian has that effect, but as the game continued and Catania fought back with a goal making the score a draw (which would still put Bologna out of Seria A) I couldn't tell whether the rants were still aimed at il Catania or whether the lack in scoring goals had shifted the fans frustration toward its own team! I consider the latter option highly likely because I too have found myself rather upset when the Patriots might be about to lose it (this past Super Bowl for example, luckily even with my doubts we came out with a win!). 



Some of the things I heard at the game can only be written in Italian and I'll leave you to do the research on the meanings.

One of my favorites is "Daje! Daje!" this is probably the most appropriate cheer heard at the game and also the most common. It essentially means, "Go! Go!" or "Common!" Daje, Bologna!

Other expressions heard included your typical Vaffanculo and dai cazzo!

One of the chants I was barely able to make out the words to sang Ver-gogna-t-evi! And I am positive many others were sung that my ear couldn't make out and I was too embarrassed to ask my classmates what they possibly could be singing. Some other "playful" banter heard included porco dio alla madonna and fai cagare!

Depending on who was playing better, I felt as though most of the expressions could be used interchangeably against both teams, but that's left up for debate. I'd like to think they most of them were directed at the opponent, but chissa!?

In between the chants, the singing and the swearing fireworks, smoke, horn blowing and noise making filled the stadium. It was hard to believe that such pyrotecnics were allowed inside the stadium, and then it makes you wonder what the real point of the security check at the gates was if they were going to let smoke bombs and fireworks in anyhow... Oh the logic behind it all! This chaos was just purely entertaining to me, there seemed to be no better venue than a soccer game to enjoy the greatest of Italy and all of it's quirks... and I haven't even begun to explain the greatest of Italy within the stadium's walls.

It only took a couple of minutes before the group decided it was time for a birra. I volunteered to make the venture with Alonso since I didn't want him to offer to buy me yet another drink, especially after he and the boys already gave me drinks waiting in line! So up to the kiosk we went... to my surprise there was NO line, and the kiosk seemed more like the concession stand we ran out our high school football games and not much like I had expected of a Seria A soccer team. This was no Gillette or Fenway offering, the choices were simple, beer, wine, coca cola and a couple of choices for snacks. What the real game changer was, was the price of the beer. I ended up paying 3 euros for my beer at that Bologna Seria A game, less than half than what would have been spent on a worse tasting beer at Fenway park. I considered this AMAZING. And to top the food and drink portion of this post, you won't believe what happened later during the game.

Half time comes and we relax, get another beer and chat freely. This is when it gets really good... Unbeknownst to me the Bolognese do a special half time snack that is so typical of a Bolognese event, I nearly died when I saw it. Although, I really should have expected it and thought nothing of it. At half time the little dinky concession kiosks were handing out trays with focaccia, parmigiana, and tiny cubes of mortadella... FOR FREE! The crutch of Bolognese society, Mortadella & Parmigiana, life could not get any better.

Conclusion #3: Bolognese do it better. What can beat free half time Mortadella and Parmigiana? #winning

There was nothing else I could have wished to experience that day at the game, besides a win for Bologna. It was sad to leave the stadium feeling defeated by a southern team with the rest of my Bolognese friends, even though it wasn't even a loss, but even so, a tie meant down to Seria B, and that felt the worst. Despite the low outcome, I learned and experienced so much in such a short period of time, I couldn't complain. Bologna would fight through the following year in Seria B to regain it's position in the Seria A and when that news blew up on facebook and instagram 8 days ago, I couldn't help but become a little sad wishing I could've been back in the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara to see Bologna reclaim it's title and to witness the city erupt with pride, passion and devotion.

Who knew you could gain so much from witnessing a simple Catania-Bologna game ending in a draw!?