Despite living in the centre of England - twenty minutes away from one of the biggest airports in the country - it is impossible to fly direct to Turin from Birmingham Airport, and therefore my day started extremely early in the morning as I had to fly first to Frankfurt, and then on to Turin.
In spite of my lack of sleep, I dropped my bags off at the excellent 'Hotel Diplomatic' (a hotel I can thoroughly recommend for anyone planning a visit) near to Porta Susa train station and went off in order to purchase my ticket for the match on Sunday.
In the evening, I met up for a couple of beers with Steve Rose, again someone who regular readers of the blog will recognise for his excellent 'Maratona and Elsewhere' column. Our conversation was an almost surreal experience, as two English men stood at a bar in the centre of Turin, but had numerous conversations about Torino - including whether Danilo D'Ambrosio's suspension could effect Alessio Cerci's effectiveness against Atalanta (I don't want to give any spoilers away at this early stage, but it didn't).
The locals also seemed to be bemused by this, and we were twice interrupted by two somewhat inebriated gentlemen who looked to be delighted to have the opportunity to speak English with genuine English people. After I was beginning to feel the effects of the two beers (I told myself this was due to the lack of food and sleep, because the alternative is that I am the biggest lightweight in the world) so I said my goodbyes to Steve, and that we would meet up again at the Maratona on Sunday afternoon.
On Friday morning I made another trip to the Stadio Olimpico in order to visit the Museo Dello Sport, that I believe was only opened in November. The entry price of €14 granted me entry to the museum - that had exhibits from all across the Italian sporting scene - and also allowed me to tour the stadium. I have been on a number of stadium tours before (most notably at the San Siro), but this tour was made to feel much more personal as it was just myself and the tour guide.
Therefore whilst the tour was much shorter than others I have been on, it meant that only the essential areas of the stadium were covered (at the Eintracht Frankfurt stadium tour, we were forced into seeing the car parks of both the players and the officials for some strange reason). When walking round the stadium, the tour guide (I unfortunately never found out her name) mentioned that she had taken another English Torino fan around the Olimpico a few of weeks ago. As fate would have it, just before leaving the stadium I bumped into that fan - Christopher Peet, a retired Granata fan from Stafford who travelled over from England for every Torino home game.
|Tour Guide, Christopher, and Myself.|
Whilst I have twice attended Torino matches at the Stadio Olimpico, this was my debut in the Curva Maratona - and despite initially having reservations regarding the type of view I could expect, the atmosphere (and view) was even better than I had hoped. It also enabled my to join in with one of the most famous traditions at Italian stadia, where the announcer shouts out the first name of the each player in the starting line up, and in unison, the fans shout his surname. Whilst this has been attempted to be replicated in English stadiums, it doesn't really work - so therefore even before the match had started, it was great to partake in this tradition.
On the pitch, Torino finally got a deserved breakthrough just before half time, as Alessio Cerci magnificently finished off a clinical counter attack. Despite continuing to dominate, fifteen minutes before full time, Atalanta equalised through German Denis' penalty. Although at the time I was convinced that Jean-Francois Gillet had not made contact with Marko Livaja, replays would later show that the Croatian striker had been touched, and that the referee had made the correct decision.
In the dying moments, when I had almost given up hope of ending my trip by witnessing a Torino victory - Matteo Darmian delivered a cross from the right hand side, Jonathas went for the ball and got absolutely nowhere near it, but it fell to fellow substitute Valter Birsa who calmly volleyed into the net. Like everyone else around me, I went ballistic, and started hugging people who two hours previously had been total strangers - but at that moment in time, it seemed to be the only way to react.
So finally I was able to see Torino actually win a match, and also end any lingering doubts that there may have been that I was actually jinxing my adopted team. I was also able to witness another tradition of the Italian game, as the players gathered together and saluted the fans who had supported them for the ninety minutes.
So there you have it, a rather long winded account of my four night trip to Turin, and one that I will certainly be repeating in the future. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who I encountered on my trip (there are far too many to name) and who helped make it such a memorable trip.