Sampdoria, for me had one of my all time favourite football shirts back in the early 90’s. Remember the classic asics strip with ‘ERG’ sponsor’ adorned by the likes of Mancini, Vialli and Vierchawod?
That initial affinity with the kit and players like Mancini probably played a part in me picking this particular fixture. A Ryan Air bargain return flight for £50, out to Genoa and back via Milan also played its part. Eighteen days into the New Year and four of us were heading off for Sampdoria v Fiorentina.
Flying into Genoa provided an interesting descent – the airport is located right next to the sea on an artificial peninsula and you get great views over the city as you touch down. On this particular day the wind was up and there was a lot of turbulence on our approach. My poor dad – who had come along for his Serie A debut – had a touch of the Dennis Bergkamp’s about him – he hated flying, and I suppose this provided the equivalent of a white knuckle ride of a landing for him!
On solid ground, we jumped straight into a cab, and got speaking to the driver who luckily for us spoke good English and had an interest in football. He kindly diverted our journey to the hotel via the ‘Sampdoria Point’ (or club shop) in the city centre to enable us to pick up tickets for the match. Apparently there are limited match day ticket sales at the stadium itself so you are advised to purchase them in advance from the various Sampdoria points located in the city.
With tickets sorted earlier than expected, we checked into the hotel and then had a wander round the city. A bit of background information for you, Genoa is the capital of Liguria and is the 6th largest city in Italy. It forms the southern part of the Milan – Turin – Genoa industrial triangle of north western Italy and has a massive port area which hosts shipyards and ferry terminals.
The main features of central Genoa are the ‘Piazza de Ferrari’ and the ‘St Lawrence Cathedral’ which provides me with my cultural photo offering for this post!
After our walking tour of Genoa – it was time to indulge in a culture of a different kind – Italian cafe culture (or bars as I prefer to call it). The rest of the afternoon was spent drinking beers and playing cards.
After a fair few pints we left the city centre and headed out to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris about an hour before kickoff. After another beer in a small bar outside the ground we made our way into the stands. As we walked up the stairs and out into the tribune we were puzzled as to why the ground seemed so empty and it was only 30 minutes before kickoff? It turned out that the 7.45pm kickoff was the English equivalent and had we bothered to check our tickets we would have realised it actually kicked off at 8.45pm! You could call it inexperience or naivety, but I prefer to blame it on the number of pints we drunk before kickoff!
Getting into the ground early was probably a blessing in disguise as it enabled us to sober up a bit, and it was fascinating seeing the Samp Ultras who were located in the ‘Grandinata Sud’ (south stand) warming up for the game. The Sampdoria tifo was impressive as the teams walked out for kickoff – a combination of flags, banners, a few flares and some seriously loud chanting!
Check out the youtube clip below taken on my mobile phone at the time:
The game was superb – and all four goals came in an exciting first half – two of them top class strikes. Sampdoria opened the scoring with an overhead kick by Palombo in the 11th minute, however Fiorentina responded quickly and equalised through a Luca Toni header on 16’. Samp scored another cracker through Tonetto (on 24’) who fired in a 30 yarder into the bottom corner; and then followed this up with a third from Flachi (on 34’). 3-1 at half time, and this was how the score line would finish up at full time.
The travelling Viola!….
The most memorable part of the game for me (apart from those two quality goals) was the Sampdoria Ultras. Considering large parts of the stadium were half empty they collectively created an unbelievable atmosphere and didn’t stop singing for the entire 90 minutes. I was blown away by the passion shown by those supporters that night. Maybe the 3-1 score line influenced that slightly, but I’d never witnessed support like that before.
Forza Sampdoria and Grandi la Sud!