I’ve just spent an incredibly enjoyable three days in Milan with my wife and some friends following Spurs and seeing the sights. It was an incredible mini-break. A trip to the San Siro is something of a pilgrimage for any football fan, and the ground’s location in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities made it a must for an extended trip, and one which presented us with an ideal opportunity for a mini-break.
All told, there were about 16 of us out there, most in the same hotel, with everyone arriving throughout Tuesday. We spent Wednesday morning walking the city centre and visiting the Duomo. It really is a stunning, beautiful building (see below) and we spent some time walking around inside and on the marble roof, taking in the exquisite detail and the stunning views over the city on a clear, bright autumn day.
As we walked the avenues and parks and browsed the boutiques, it seemed that every second person was a Spurs fan. We had a lovely meal in a rooftop restaurant overlooking the square and continued our journey up in to the lovely municipal gardens to the north of the main square. The atmosphere was friendly and all was going well.
We’d decided to get to the stadium early to take it all in, and also because some of us had to collect tickets, while others still had to buy them. The story of an incredible game will by now be well known, with Gareth Bale hauling the team back to a respectable 4-3 defeat after a shocking, amateurish start in which we shipped three goals in the opening 15 minutes. But there’s some instructive information about getting to the game itself.
We know Spurs had received 7,500 applications and that the Italians had only allocated 5,000 tickets. And it was clear there were many more Spurs fans there than that. We’d heard Sky Sports was estimating 16,000 were in the city. Most of us had got our tickets direct from the club, having qualified as season ticket holders with enough loyalty points. As it turned out, we got by far the worst deal. We knew people who had blagged corporate tickets. Others had applied via the English language section of the Inter website and got tickets in the orange zone. My wife and her friend walked up to the gate, asked for tickets and got a pair three rows from the pitch in the bottom tier. Everyone who went by a route other than the official club application one got a better view in a better part of the ground with better facilities than we did.
The ‘official’ away allocation were stuck in the very top tier, behind a mesh fence with minimal facilities and inadequate toilets. Our view is show below.
It was fantastic being in a magnificent support – the chants of “we’re gonna win 5-4” when we went 4-0 down and “3-0 in the second half” were particular highlights. But with at least 25,000 empty seats we could’ve been accommodated safely in a better part of the stadium. We were told tickets would be checked against passports. They weren’t. We were told no tickets would be available on the day. They were. We were told English fans would not be allowed inside the home sections, They were – I reckon there were at least 12,000 Spurs fans in the ground and only 5,000 were in the official away section.
We were kept in for 40 minutes after the game, and then taken a circuitous route out around the entire ground and through a coach park where coaches were driving through the crowds and leaving via the same exit – an accident waiting to happen. It took us 4 hours to make the 35 minute journey back into town. We met our friends who had been in the home sections. They had a great view and they got home easily and quickly. They even said shots of vodka were being sold inside the ground, despite the supposed alcohol ban. And everything was very friendly.
I daresay Spurs were only telling us what they had been told, but if we play at the San Siro again, or any of the other big stadiums, I won’t be applying via the club. It was a great night, despite the defeat, and a great trip. But getting second class treatment as a long-time season ticket holder when anyone can just turn up and get first class sends a pretty clear signal.
The Champions league is proving a complex beast. And not just to the Spurs defence.