Lazio 2 v 2 Inter Milan (11.03.2000)
After growing up with Gazetta Football Italia on channel 4 throughout the 90’s its no real surprise that Italy would be my first ‘planned’ European football destination. A mixed group of six of us – a combination of ‘uni’ and ‘home’ friends made the trip over to Rome for Lazio’s home game against Inter. Whilst the WAGS in the party were content at the thought of visiting Rome as a sightseeing / shopping excursion, the four lads in the party were solely focused on the big game at the Stadio Olimpico.
We managed to purchase six tickets in advance of the game via Lazio’s online ‘biglietti’ service. The only challenge was to locate the ‘internet tickets’ sales window somewhere outside the stadium. The Stadio Olimpico is located in the northern suburbs of the city, next to the River Tiber, and not particularly easy to reach by public transport, and is best reached via a taxi from the city centre.
The taxi dropped us off at the ‘Curva Sud’ end of the stadium – the end that would usually house the AS Roma ultras. Luckily for us it was also where the matchday tickets sales windows were located. With none of us having a grasp of Italian we were relieved to see the words ‘internet biglietti’ displayed in one of the ticket windows! A few moments later we were proudly in possession of six tickets for the match, and now had plenty of time to soak up the pre match build up.
Part of that build up was to see us have a chance meeting with legendary Gazetta Football Italia presenter James Richardson who was covering the match for Channel 4. A nice fella, he happily spent 5 minutes or so chatting to us about his life in Italy and posing for photos.
Lazio’s squad during the 1999/00 season reflected the wealth in the Italian game at the time and was full of household names including Alen Boksic, Marcelo Salas, Roberto Mancini, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Alessandro Nesta, Diego Simeone, Pavel Nedved and Juan Veron. Similarly Inter’s squad was equally impressive – Peruzzi, Zanetti, Blanc, Ronaldo, Baggio, Seedorf, Zamarano, Recoba, Vieri. No surprise that in the 90’s Serie A was widely recognised as “the best league in the world”.
The Stadio Olimpico holds 80,000, and considering it has an athletics track around the pitch the volume of noise generated by the crowd was really impressive. Normally an athletics track at a football match would dilute the atmosphere and signal the start of a soul-less experience. Not so at the Stadio Olimpico. The game itself was an open attacking game and Inter took the lead through Alvaro Recoba in the 19th minute and looked to have wrapped up all 3 points when Di Biagio made it two nil in the 79th minute. But a late rally from Lazio with goals from two of their lesser known names, Inzaghi (82”) and Pancaro (87”) saw the place go mental! The atmosphere inside the Stadio Olimpico was incredible and the adrenalin I experienced here was like nothing else i had ever seen or experienced in England.
I remember watching the re-run on the channel 4 highlights and Peter Brackley’s excited commentary….“Pan-car-oooooooo”….as the equaliser went in. A goosepimple moment.