So You All Wanna Go to Europe?
Date: Thursday 14th April 2005All the talk is of UEFA Cup or even Champions League football for BWFC next season. We all want to go, whether it is Italy's finest or Moldovan bums. But is it what it really seems - all sun and Sangria? For years, I dreamed of watching BWFC in Europe. Oh ye of little faith - thought it would never happen. So when the mighty Wales played Italy away last year, I had to seize the opportunity. The venue was withheld for months, making plane tickets a pure gamble. Finally, Milan and the magnificent San Siro was announced as the venue, and Wales would get a total of 8,000 tickets. I got mine, and a bargain plane ticket, so I was ready to go. I never dreamed of anything other than a cultural adventure and football feast, when my mate, a Man Utd fan (I know....but he is still a mate), warned me of his last few visits to Italy. The scenes he described made 1980’s Burnden Park seem like a nursery playground. I took this with a pinch of salt. Welsh fans surely wouldn’t be hated like the English, the police would have sorted out any trouble after what had happened in the encounters he had described. I drove from my Gloucester home to Heathrow early on Saturday morning. The flight with Alitalia was pretty good. I arrived in Milan, a sunny Milan, and made my way to the City Centre. After a quick bowl of pasta, I headed for a bar. All of them were closed. I began to panic, there were few hours to go until the game, and I needed beer. I decided to ask some of the locals. “No beer today, bad fans, no riot” came the reply in broken English. I sought out some Welsh fans, easy to find. They informed me of a 24 hour alcohol ban due to the British hooligans being in town. I made my way to the main square. It was a sight to behold, it was red, most of the 8,000 Welsh fans were here, dancing in the sun to the sounds provided by BBC Cymru. Rumours were circulating of the Italian Ultras, the Cardiff mob, and even Chelsea troublemakers. There was no sign of trouble here, but I needed beer. I headed off down the back streets. Before long, I saw the two greatest words of the weekend, BAR and OPEN. After a few ales with Italians and Welsh, I headed off to my hotel, and then to the San Siro to soak in the atmosphere. The main bar by the stadium was open, so I drank a few more beers before entering the huge but dated stadium. Over the course of the next 2 hours, the ground filled, almost to capacity. The 8000 welsh were not all in, but the away end was full. For no apparent reason, the police had decided to leave a 50 seat wide segregation on one side of the away end. This included a large section of seats that had been sold. Many fans would be sitting in the aisle (the first flaunting of UEFA rulings). The Welsh fans made do, and the game approached with some great national singing. Then, it all started..... From the corner, Nathan Blake and Robbie Earnshaw came onto the pitch. The Italian morons came to life with monkey noises that almost drowned out the Welsh singing. The atmosphere had turned. Within minutes, the Italians in the overhanging tier above had begun shouting abuse. The imaginative chant was “Galles F*ck Off”. This was accompanied by gestures of having sex with sheep. It was quite amusing. Then, as kick off approached, the first missiles were thrown. First it was spit and flem, dirty but harmless. Then came the more sinister lit cigarettes. The Welsh began to gesture back. I was now in a powderkeg. Then came more of the same, and coins, loads of them. A man behind was bleeding, kids were crying, this was getting really nasty. The police with shields and batons came and stood in front of the Welsh. Parents and Italian speakers remonstrated with the police to do something, and arrest the scum. They laughed and pushed the Welsh back. Then came bottles. Some smashed, others were launched as weighted bottles of coke. A man behind was knocked down by a blow to the head. Open bottles full of urine came next. This was disgusting. I felt a spray across my back. I was thankful it wasn’t a more solid object. More police came, still no reaction. This continued throughout he game, increasing with each of the 5 conceded goals (thanks defenders). Finally the game ended. The Italian thugs did not disperse. The missiles continued. One old Welshman went too far with his complaints to the police. He was hit with a baton. That started a 5 minute riot, with Welsh on the opposite side to me, ripping up seats and throwing them at the retreating police. More fans charged the disgraceful police force. The Welsh were then kept behind for over an hour while the Police top dog came and did a parade, shaking hands with the pigs who had watched the disgraceful scenes. The Welsh hurled abuse and a few choice objects at the police once more. After finally being allowed out, we were marched round the stadium, and back to the city. And Italians who were hanging around were given a swift beating. Eventually, I broke from the convoy to reach my hotel. The next morning, the Italian press spoke of the hooligans from Britain. I felt sick (not just from cheap Italian lager). If any of the racism, coin throwing, police abuse had occurred in any UK stadium, we would now be looking at a European ban and talking about how BWFC were robbed of European football. This shambles happened years ago to Man Utd fans, and nothing has changed. UEFA rejected the Welsh FA when they protested. Turkey, Italy, Spain, Holland to name just a few all have serious problems when hosting any team from the UK yet nothing is said and even less is done. So, by all means, celebrate when BWFC qualify, and enjoy your city break. But be prepared for the animals in the stands, and in the uniforms who are meant to protect.