Inter 1 v 0 Ajax (25.09.2002)
Day two of our champions league double header and we were heading back to Milan on the train. Unaware at the time, but we were about to receive our first penalty fare whilst in possession of a valid ticket! Sounds confusing, but In Italy (and probably many other European countries) you are supposed to ‘validate’ your ticket before you board the train. This is done by inserting your ticket into a small ‘yellow’ reader machine that is located near your platform entrance. Despite being bright yellow, when you’re not looking out for it, it’s easily missed.
With our heads firmly engrained into the ‘English way’ of train travel and no barriers to negotiate we confidently boarded the train. Mid way through the journey the inspector passes through the train – and has an absolute field day trying to communicate to us about the aforementioned procedure. Blatantly unaware of the crime we had committed, we tried to stand our ground, waved our purchased tickets at the inspector and tried to explain that we were innocent tourists that had fallen victim to a ‘foreign’ procedure. The inspector clearly wasnt in a generous mood and a few moments’ later three penalty fare tickets were issued and that was the end of that.
Once back in Milan we set off to the San Siro about 3 hours before kickoff in a quest for match tickets. We needn’t have panicked as tout tickets were readily available and we managed to pick up 3 seats together at approx 50 euros a piece. Bargain we thought. With hours to spare we set up camp next to one of the many Italian style burger vans enjoying a few cold beers and a host of bread based snacks that were being served. We got chatting to a group of Ajax fans that had literally just got off the bus, after completing the 515 mile journey to Milan from Amsterdam by coach – taking them nearly 24 hours. They were heading straight back again after the final whistle – that’s proper commitment to the cause minus any luxury!
As we made our way up to our seats we were surprised we’d managed to pick up tickets that were positioned in the middle tier and on the half way line for the price we did. We were even more surprised when the actual seat numbers printed on our tickets didn’t even exist! The seat numbers on our tickets were too high for the row they were supposed to be positioned in – and if they had existed would have been in the press section. It was the second time in the day that we’d had ticketing issues! Somewhat baffled by the situation we waited in the aisle to see if any empty seats would remain as kickoff approached. As we waited we noticed that other people seemed to be faced with the same situation and after some gesticulating to the stewards we were all led off under the stands, through a few sidedoor’s unsure as to where we were being taken. Hopefully we weren’t being escorted out of the ground due to our dodgy tickets! Luckily we were re-positioned in the lower tier behind the goal in a section that had plenty of available seats just in time for kick off.
Ajax’s starting line up included the relatively unknown Zlatan Ibrahimovic – fast forward 10 years and he’s played for most of Europe’s top sides including Juventus, Inter, Barcelona and AC Milan. He won 8 consecutive league titles with each of these clubs starting from 2003/04 season with Ajax and ending in 2010/11 with AC Milan. Thats some record for a nomadic player – and he could extend that trend with his current side PSG as they battle it our for the Ligue 1 title this year!
Although the game wasn’t a sell out, there was a decent atmosphere inside the San Siro. The Inter ultras located in the middle tier above our heads always seem to put in a decent effort, and when a series of flares started hissing and flickering away above us, it was enough to take your eye off the game for moment or two – more in self protection just in case they ended up being tossed down on us innocent bystanders below! The Ajax travelling contingent was impressive too, and the ‘you tube’ clip below will give you a feel for the atmonspohere that night. As is often the case the game itself didnt live up to the fans efforts and was a fairly uneventful affair. The match settled by Hernan Crespo’s 75th minute strike.