MILAN - Italy versus Wales

The big one had arrived and it was off to Milan - officially pronounced Meeelan. Five of us set out from the Jewel of the Valley at 2pm on Friday. Having properjobs we couldn't get away days earier. By the time we left the Pearl the Dial M posse were on te train back from Bergamo. As we left we knew that the club's erstwhile Secretary (Pughy), would be waiting at the bar of the Hotel with a beer for us. The only problem we had now would be with our ticket bookings. Myself, Dan, Noddy (who’d be dubbed The Major later that night by a drunken North Walian), Spike and my ‘Paul Hunt’ lookalike brother hit Heathrow at 5pm knowing that we had 2 hours of Calsberg supping before flight time. A shake of the head at the check-in desk alerted me to the fact that my online booking was turning into shit. Without flight tickets the weekend was going to be a tad shorter than I'd antticipated - I hit the ticket desk and seek out someone sensible. His names David (a good Welsh name) and five minutes before the gate is shut - and we are forced to return to Wales, I have five boarding passes in my mits. Relief is not the word!! In the 90 minutes it took to sort this out, our plight has made it on to the train from Bergamo to Milan and Pughy is full of words of discomfort whilst I can hear Hulby roaring with laughter in the background at my misfortune - fuckers I thought.

We hit the bar and sink a swift one in less than two minutes. It’s straight onto the plane, where within half an hour we realise there is no beer left on board. This just about sets the tone for the next few days. At Malpensa airport we go in search of a bus to the city, the search looks in vain until ‘Hunty’ spots a dragon at the back of a coach. Within seconds were aboard and hotel bound. Now the coach in costs 3 Euros to go 20 miles, yet the three miles from the station to the hotel costs us 20. Maths not being my strong point, I pay, tell the drive that I'll see him next Tuesday, greet the Sec and hit the bar. My round I proclaim and the 6 beers are mine. I’m 30 Euros lighter for the experience, a harsh lesson learnt.

Matchday starts with Pughy confesssing to spending much of the previous day on a Bergamo bus when the female driver forgot to tell him when he had reached the Atalanta Stadium and took him all the way from one end of the city to the other. At the bus station the sec was the only person still sitting on the bus and the driver was quite embarressed for him. The transport system in Milan is great, It’s clean, punctual, direct and most importantly in the case of us Welsh people FREE. Top Class! We’re off to town with some fears in the backs of our minds. We heard stories last night of how Newport and Swansea fans had formed a WWF tag team pact to run the mightly Bluebirds out of the central square. Talk of stabbings, arrests and a murder are not what you want to hear. Nevertheless, once were in the town the atmosphere is quite jovial. After a trip aroud the sites - the Cathedral, La Scala and some shops. Dan get’s himself an Atalanta shirt and Pughy bags one for Wingnut A McDonalds is consummed and our thoughts turn to some entertainment.

The shops are not my thing, but Female Beach Volley Ball is right up there at the top of the list. Cue the ladies!!! The Italian Open was in town and first up was France versus Germany. The french go off like a train, but the Germans just know that they are going to nick it on penalties again. And after an 11-6 half time lead the ‘Hot’ French girls blow it to the nasty looking girls from Munich. The demograph of the crowd would be mirrored at the San Siro later that evening - some how I knew that the second half would the key to the day. With all that sitting in the sun (drooling), the need for a beer hit us, so we hit a bar only to find that beer was banned in the city. But us Welsh are resilient people so we headed for the Castle - bypassing the museum and sculptures and sought out the hot dog vans. A Litre of Heineken for 3 Euros and the day was getting much better. I don’t know if the lager gave us a shot of courage, but Spike insisted we went up the 108 Metre high tower to get a good look at the city. I swear by the time the lift hit the top my legs were like jelly. A few pictures and a swift exit and it was back to the park for a sit under the trees. Bliss...... My thoughts turned to Weymouth.

By the time I’d finished my drink Merthyr were 2-0 down and as Pughy put it “Good Night Vienna”. Talk turned to David Blaine’s next feat of endurance - Giving him a season ticket at the Park was suggested. A stroll back to the hotel for a quick change would take our minds off things. Pughy was doing the stats at the stadium for the Western Mail and was meeting Mark Bloom at the Cathedral, so we were down to five. No sooner had he gone the phone went and news of a ‘Tez goal lifted the spirits. I was the only one who had hopes of an equaliser and my faith was rewarded as we got to the hotel, Simon Heal had scored in the 93rd minute, I was really up for the big one now. After a trip to the supermarket for some after match refreshments, we got the ‘free’ bus to the stadium. Darkness was drawing in and the mood had changed.

If I was looking for trouble I didn’t expect it in the form of a 60 year old woman, but the saucy old bat decided she’d try and lift my wallet from my shorts. Now I don't condone hitting women, especially pensioners, but I make exceptions when she's got her hands around my beer money. A beginners guide to basic Welsh vocabulary followed, plus a quick right hand that Joe Calzaghe would have been proud of and my new mafia friend gave a shrug of the shoulders and stumbled off to find her next potential client. I made a note to myself to check for horses heads in bed later that night. The San Siro is regarded as one of the world’s finest grounds, but I’m sure the away end must have more than the one gate and the one staircase, that all 8,000 Welsh fans had to use. This ground is a potentail death trap, make no bones about it. If we were fearful about getting in to the ground, the following three hours lived up to all the pre match billing. Off the field we were all penned in below the Italian fans and the Azzurri took great delight in throwing bottles at us, generally spitting and a few relieved themselves over the balcony - What a welcome!!!. The police looked on and did nothing. To add to the problems there was no stewarding at all, allocated seats went by the wayside and the less friendly elements of the Welsh following were baying for blood. A commotion over seating starts up next to me some bloke insists we’re all in his seats - it’s a blotto Dai Webb, he joins the gang, his equally drunk batman Tony follows and tales of the day are swapped.

On the field Wales took the game to the home side and for 35 minutes looked like getting three points let alone the one we would have all settled for. Mark Delaney partnered Page in defence and the Villa man played brilliantly. Koumas slotted into Midfield as Simon Davies had to cover for Delaney at full back. Johnny Harts upfront was imense and an upset looked likely. It was only in the last ten minutes of the half was it apparent that the home side had a touch of class. The second half started much the same a the first had ended with Italy in full comand and the torrent of missiles getting more numerous. From 64 - 80 minutes Italy scored 4 times. Inzahghi took a superb hat trick within nine minutes and Del Piero capped a fine display with a penalty his performance thoroughly deserved. Somewhere between the 2nd and 4th all hell broke loose and some of the Welsh boys decided to take on the riot police. The ugly scenes that followed got the blood rushing and we nearly pissed ourselves when we saw members of Merthyr's Travel Club legging it up the staircase away from the epicentre of the violence.


A full hour after the game and we left the stadium to find that we’re all miles from the city centre and hotels area, the lack of transport is not funny. The last bus is a 12.45am, the stop is outside what looks like a large mental hospital and we wait for it by talking to a Romanian vagrant about Georgi Hagi - we get the feeling this is going to be another near yet so far adventure. Formations and players for today’s game were discussed. What position should Simon Heal be playing? Does Typey look like Gary Speed? Is Dowlais bigger than Luxembourg? Dan forgets The Major’s nickname and calls him the Colonel - he get’s that nickname all for himself. We get back to the hotel by 1.30, knowing that we’re up at 6am to get to the airport.

After what seems like a minute of sleep were in the Taxi - the drivers opeing gambit is “Inzaghi”, my reply is "F*!% OFF", so the remainder of the journey is in a tense silence. We amuse our selves in the airport by taunting my brother as the rest of us had been upgraded to Business class, things had improved from the outward bound flight. Whilst at Heathrow we try some Jackass type foolery on the travelators. By lunchtime I’m in Baverstocks having dinner with the family and the whole experience is a distant memory. Now who’s for a play off game in Istanbul????

Dr Obnoxious

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