John Granese spends five days in Madrid, watching Inter defeat Bayern Munich 2-0
Ocean City Nor’easters president John Granese, one of the biggest Inter Milan fans you’ll find, couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see his favorite club play for the UEFA Champions League title. Also, check out video highlights of the match.
Ocean City Nor’easters president John Granese, one of the biggest Inter Milan fans you’ll find, couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see his favorite club play for the UEFA Champions League title.
So he hopped on a plane to Madrid, Spain and saw his beloved Inter Milan defeat Bayern Munich 2-0 at Bernabeu Stadium to win the championship.
Below is John’s recap of his trip:
Thursday, May 22
My wife and I left Ocean City to head to the airport in Philadelphia for a direct flight to Madrid, Spain. I, of course, was wearing my Inter Milan team jersey, and Nancy had a team scarf around her bag in support of the team. Arriving at the terminal, we found that we were not
alone in our support of the team. We found at least a dozen Inter fans all dressed, with team shirts, banners, flags, and posters. All of them had a story of how they had been a fan of the team all their life. Most were born in Italy and immigrated to this country many years
ago, and like myself, fell in love with the team as a young boy. This Champions League Final for me, was a game I had talked about and
dreamed about for many years, and I knew I just had to be there. At this point, there were no signs of any Munich fans in sight, the
"Inter’easters" were banding together. We all traded stories of our love of the team, and how we came about getting tickets. Some paid $500 a seat and another paid $5000! I even met two young men who won their tickets in the lottery. They were not even
soccer fans, but were on the blue and black bandwagon and were headed to Madrid for a great experience. Another couple said they follow the Champions League finals every year, and they get to see a great city in Europe and try to find tickets when they get there. Excitement was building as we headed to Spain for a 7-hour flight.
Friday, May 23
Arrival at 9:00 am: We check into the hotel right in the center of Madrid. We headed out to walk the streets. Madrid we found was a great
walking city, with many streets blocked off to traffic for pedestrian walking only. Eating and drinking establishments everywhere! We were greeted by Inter fans on the street and the chant was "FORZA INTER!" everywhere we went. As the day progressed, the streets were coming more and more alive with fans and their chanting and singing of team songs. By this time, we were starting to run out of steam, and decided to relax in our room and refresh before heading out the night’s events. We headed back out about 10:00 p.m., which is when this town comes to life and just doesn’t stop. Thousands of people all over the place at every taverna and tapas bar, and pubs (which were filled with German fans). We headed to the biggest plaza (Plaza Mayor) to eat and check out the goings on. This plaza is huge and was filled with all sorts of fans all dressed in team uniforms, flags tied around their necks, singing and chanting back and forth with each other. It was totally incredible the amount of people and the building of anticipation for the game. I spoke to so many fans, and all had their prediction of the score -- most of them predicting that Milito would score and mostly Balotelli or Sneijder. However, the coach Mourinho, was definitely at the core of most talk and controversy. We sat down to eat at midnight, and the place was still jumping (Madrid is know to be a city that wakes up at night). We walked the streets and at every plaza and main intersection fans were gathering and singing. We didn’t get to sleep until 3:00 a.m.
Saturday, May 24: Game Day
We woke up rather late -- the time change caught up with us. Outside of the hotel, the main street was filled with people, most of them in team shirts. Since the game didn’t start till 8:30 p.m. Madrid time, we decided to eat and tour the city a little more. The city was in a total gridlock with fans blocking streets, plazas and eating establishments. Our plan was to head over to the stadium around 5:00 p.m. However, taxis and buses and the overall feel of the downtown was really crazy -- the rush was on!!! We changed our plans and decided to head to stadium around 3:30 and take the Metro. We followed a group of Italian fans from Milan who knew their way on the Metro (The stadium is only 3 miles from our hotel). Of course we discussed the game and players the whole way over, everyone adding their comments about past games, players, and of course, the coach. When we arrived at the stadium area, the event had set up 2 Fan-parks. We went over to the Inter Camp, following a sea of Blue and Black strips. The park was filled with thousands of Inter fans, music playing, food stands set up, and shops set up selling official fan gear.
The funny thing was hundreds of younger fans were all sleeping all over the grounds. We found out that a lot of the Italian fans had driven from Milan, a 15-hour drive, and most had no rooms and were just crashing on the park grounds awaiting the big event. The singing was getting louder and louder as the fans made their way down the avenue to the stadium. Security was really strong, and the German fans were headed down their avenue all singing and chanting from a different direction, many dressed in traditional bavarian costumes. The stadium was great and held around 80,000 fans, the pitch was perfect. A sea of red and white on one side, and blue and black on the other. Pre-game events, on the big screen showing highlights of both teams and the history of the cup. I found out that Inter fans (about 200 of them) set up the huge banners. It took them 16 hours, and they were the most spectacular display of fan banners ever orchestrated. The chanting in the stadium was fantastic, each team’s fans singing, standing and waving flags.
I met a father and son from Connecticut, (Inter fans) who said they had been to a Super Bowl, and the pre-game events were basically the same, however, the passion and true love of team and show of emotion was way off the scale here in Madrid and couldn’t even compare the two. Our seats were on the top level, but we were there, and the view of the pitch was great. The Inter fans had waited a long time for this moment and driven many hours. The international fans like myself had come so far, we were a generation of fans who had immagrated to the U.S. as little boys when Inter had last been to the finals and had stayed loyal to the team all our lives, we had a great feeling.. and not a word of possible defeat was mentioned!!
The game itself was very exciting and being there live, for me, was a life long dream. I yelled and sang and screamed, and we all hugged each other when Milito scored. The fans remained after the game and sang and sang and waited as players came around the field with the cup raised above their heads, even the German fans never left the stadium out of respect for their team. Many players brought their families onto the field, and there were at least 40 children of the players all running and dancing. The Inter fans did not move, I’m not sure how long they stayed, but we decided after an hour to follow the crowds and head back to fan-park where the celebration was getting underway. We headed back into Madrid center and found the Plaza del Sol was filled with thousands of cheering Inter fans. All were jumping and singing and crying tears of joy. But I must say, the German fans were first class, and they were still singing and chanting their team songs too. They were hugging the Inter fans and taking photos and videos, we did not see one confrontation. It was all for the love of the game and respect of their team. We retired at about 3:00 a.m., fans still gathering and singing in every plaza. I doubt that they ever went to sleep.
Sunday, May 25
Toured downtown Madrid in an open air bus then walked and walked. So many fans still wearing their team shirts, many still singing yelling "Forza Inter!" It was a total love fest for all who loved Inter and had waited for so many years. Really enjoyed downtown
Madrid -- beautiful city, very social, always felt safe no matter what area we ventured into. Tapas...Sangria...Jamon’...Art....and love
of their team "Real Madrid." I can speak quite a bit of Spanish, so it was nice to converse with taxi drivers or waiters about the
Champions League being in their city. All were quite in love with the Italians (for beating their fiercest rivals Barcelona). Many said the city would have been upside down and destroyed if Barcelona had won and their fans had invaded the city. It would be their worst nightmare to have their greatest foes invading their city. Thank God for Inter and their outspoken coach, they said, who would now leave Inter to lead Real Madrid and hopefully bring their team to the Champions league Final. (good luck........)
Monday, May 26
Woke early, and decided to give my collection of Inter jerseys a rest. We headed back to the stadium to get official gear for myself and my son. I thought the city would have slowed down a bit and many fans had left, but was surprised to see the amount of people in this city and many fans still touring the town, all still wearing their team jerseys and banners. Decided we would tour museums, however, when we got there we learned that they’re closed on Mondays! So we ended up just walking through park areas and small plazas to eat and drink. Went to a great taverna with a flamingo show, such passion and love of dance. Great time. It was pure Madrid. Really enjoyed it, all the plazas and bars were filled with so many people. Did I forget to mention how many people were there?!!!
It was a great experience. Fantastic city to host a Final, so full of life and love of the game. Stand out players for me: Milito, Sneijder, Zanetti ... and the quiet force in this game... Eto’o. For me this was bigger than the Italian national team winning the World Cup. Down side? The talk about Mourinho and his poor timing about leaving the team and going to Real Madrid.
Attending a championship game, being a life long fan of a team who has waited decades to get to a Final, and then winning. Great time! My wife and I enjoyed every minute of it and couldn’t believe we were there.
Ole’ Ole’ Ole’ Ole’ Inter--Inter!!!!!