World Heritage Sighted

Coppa Italia, 1st Round – AC Pisa 1909 v ASD Termoli Calcio 1920                                       
Sunday, 4th August 2013, 6pm
Arena Garibaldi
Entrance €11, No Programme
Distance 951 miles, Attendance “2300 circa” (official website)

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It is said that the end of every journey should bring both enlightenment and knowledge. Pleasant leisurely breakfast aside, mine had kicked off with a disappointingly/amusingly/frustratingly (delete as applicable) sweaty tour of the closed antique market stalls of Sarzana (the market stalls weren’t antique but eight hours hence, they were expected to be stocked with a few aged trinkets). From such absent-minded pre-planning, in this dominating heat, things really could only get better.
Taking stock over a coffee in a breathless piazza, we waited for the time, to depart of our allotted lunch reservation, nearby at the bustling Trattoria La Scaletta.
The familiar short drive led to an equally familiar scene. The car park was heaving, and terrace crammed, with merrily animated diners at this legendary home of some fantastic rabbit dishes. A low maintenance, family friendly experience, with welcoming charm and a great menu (though perhaps not the best for the vegetarians of this world, or the next), as pre-match meals go, La Scaletta serves up a marvellous feast. The one thing it couldn’t serve up was much of a refreshing breeze.
Leaving equally stuffed and hot, I made my escape from la famiglia and headed for the toll roads south, through a country whose language is more than somewhat foreign to me.
Being more at home with Italy’s northerly neighbours, what I lacked in Southern Mediterranean linguistic skills, I certainly made up in enthusiasm (and hand gestures). Both had got me safely through more distant lands, so I anticipated only minor flaws on this trip. The one thing I hadn’t considered was the enormity of over-coming the distance from driver’s seat to biglietto – with or without open window – in a large right-wheel drive vehicle sat at continental toll booths.
Eventually getting back in, I smiled and waved in helpless fashion at the lengthening queue behind me then – with both air-con and Chas’n’Dave blasting me into an agreeable trance – I was on my way at last (though naturally I hadn’t thought through how I was going to pay at the other end). As the London boys tripped through the reasons to holiday in Margate, I headed for a day down Pisa for all the football fa-mi-ly.
It’s customary at these times to give a potted history of the locality in which I find myself but, this was Pisa. Granted one may be unfamiliar with the Bapistry, Camposanto and, Duomo – the three other inhabitants of the Piazza dei Miracoli – however if you have no idea of the wonky bell tower I truly pity for your soul.
Pulling into the tourist car park on Via Pietrasantina was utter joy. Plenty of spaces all free of charge to cars, ten minutes’ walk to the stadium (before I took a wrong turn) and an hour plus to kick-off; what could go wrong?
130804 C1 R1 Pisa v Termoli (12)b130804 C1 R1 Pisa v Termoli (14)As I wandered up and down Via Piave time and again, the poliziotto who’d given me directions must’ve have thought me mad, or foreign, or both. Every time I got to one end, a new stranger would send me back with conflicting advice. Granted – as I had forgotten every Italian word in my body – requests for assistance were hard for some to understand but, with a lengthening queue being checked for tickets and ID at the ground and, the Solo Pisa shop claiming to have sold out, I knew these were desperate times.
The resulting desperate measures – with by now a mere twenty-five minutes to spare – saw me stroll purposefully (ignorantly) to the front of the now immense ticket/ID queue and, speak in frantic gestures to the security guard, “I need a biglietto.”
“You have documents?” came a kind response. Without thinking of course I answered, “Yes” boldly, without any real knowledge of what documents I was supposed to have had and then, he signalled me in; no ID check, no bag inspection, no bottle top police. Before he could change his mind I ducked under the barrier and hurried determinedly towards the two windows which most resembled ticket booths. One was lined with chest-pumping ultras bothered after a six hour journey (and one of their number frantically having troubling entering); the other a much longer mixed bag of gentler looking locals (I assumed).
Avoiding the obvious attraction of the visitors’ yellow and red colours, I made a mental note to visit Termoli later in my “Fellow Yellow” season, joined the longer queue and waited… as the vital moments ticked away I began to fret of missing kick-off, not getting a programme, finding my seat, all of the above. Clearly there are only so many times one can check one’s watch before finally finding what the hold-up was at our booth.
Behind the window was a kindly gentleman almost as old as the club’s fabric; the kind of wonderful volunteer that every club cannot do without. For some time – through furrowed brow – he patiently stared at a gesturing me, before coming to terms the comparatively modern computer keyboard, my driving licence, and this foreigner uttering garbled Italiodeutschish (don’t ask) in response to his perfect Tuscan dialect. Whatever was said we eventually reached a confused settlement and, I entered the ground just in time to see the full line-up of new season’s heroes hailed by their adoring crowd. BRAVO!!!

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With only La Tribuna accessible today, both open curvas and the equally open far side stood barren. In our stand, the away fans were hemmed into the left hand side of the upper tier (€11), whereas the Pisans used both lower tier (mixed seating and standing area, at €6) and the remaining unrestricted seating above. Having paid the full whack, I had only one thing on my mind and legged it up to the press area to shoot a few frames off through the greenhouse-like screens to the rear.
130804 C1 R1 Pisa v Termoli (23)bIn the stillness of the shade at the top of the stand, the heat was almost unbearable; one only wonders how the players coped out on the pitch. Sweating off the pounds before us, both teams wore away kit; Pisans in fetching red; Termoli in white (with yellow, red and black trim). There was a change of ends before Pisa kicked-off and, soon found themselves in total control of the game.
Three early fruitless Michael Cia corners were soon followed – during a rare Termoli attack – by a superb timely interception from Gianluca Sampietro. Whilst the away team unconfidently hoofed the ball forward, Pisa tried to control their passing on the inconsistent surface. It was fairly frantic pace throughout with Pisa controlling the opening period and Termoli getting equal time on the ball in the second.
Up front the main threat of any kind came from Pisa trio, Aiman Napoli, Luca Strizzolo and Cia but, mix-ups in the final third made the game look a little more like Conference South than Cup hopefuls. Even after Carmine Guglielmi’s name went in the book, the other more physical (and theatrical) side of the contest was similarly testing for all.

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Off the pitch I’m not sure what the away support was singing – despite some very admirable banners – but down below, PISA! PISA! PISA! yelled the encouraging home fans before, running through a few favourites and then, laying into Livorno with a couple of rather amusingly abrupt ditties (well we all learn the swear words first don’t we). Before us all, even though Napoli lost out in a one-on-one with visiting keeper Alberto Patania, the longer the game went on the only likely outcome was that Pisa would score, maybe.

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At the back, Jevrem Kosnic marshalled the defence well – dealing with all the high balls Termoli threw their way – and Maurizio Puliesi protected his goal mouth as if magnetised to the ball. The only trouble was, the Nerazzurri were having all the luck but none of the end product; even when Sampietro’s in-swinging corner was deftly headed goalwards, Patania miraculously kept the ball out.
As Yankee Doodle Dandy (Italian dub mix) optimistically rang out, urging Pisa on, the game continued like de-ja-vu. A Paolo Rozzio mistake let in Sergio De Tommaso who promptly fell over, somehow winning a free-kick, was booked for messing around with it, and which eventually got deflected out for a unsuccessful corner. Pisa also wasted a few chances when better crosses would’ve helped and Cia shot just over prior to the break, then – as we steamed nicely on gas mark 6 in the stands – an opening finally came.

130804 C1 R1 Pisa v Termoli (24)  130804 C1 R1 Pisa v Termoli (40)  130804 C1 R1 Pisa v Termoli (63)  130804 C1 R1 Pisa v Termoli (54)

In a swift flash of rosso, Napoli twisted and deftly glided through the field, offering a great opening for the winger Cia. The first thunderbolt shot was well blocked but, the ensuing cross was sliced home at the far post, by under pressure Bruno Martella. It was really nothing more than Pisa deserved having dominated for so long.
???????????????????????????????The final incident of the half saw Francesco Favasuli cleverly turn and curl a shot, almost doubling the lead, only to watch his effort cannon of the cross bar. He rightfully looked disappointed but in truth, the one who should have felt hard done by was Sampietro. All game long the defensive midfielder had studious gone about his task with such calm and grace I was beginning to think he might be related to Franco Baresi (or Marco Cassetti at the very least). Whatever else I took from this game, the pleasure at watching Sampietro’s tackling, careful control and distribution made all the sweating in the stands much more bearable.
Less impressive was the halftime queue for a drink. It came in three kinds; beer, full fat coke and orange Fanta. All ice cold, canned and poured into paper cups if you could just get through the throng and speak Italian (which eventually I did but the coke went down so quick it never touched the sides).
As the second period kick-off, I was back in a seat admiring the adopted British fashion and wording on banners. The game restarted as it had finished with the Nerazzurri on top but with fewer chances this period. Strizzolo had a couple of block efforts before curler a much better one just over. Massimo Lucarelli was finding more space down the right and playing some nice one-twos with Strizzolo and, Cia saw his corner volleyed badly wide but it was still better than I could do.
130804 C1 R1 Pisa v Termoli (32)bSoon the subs started appearing, turning the tide towards Termoli. With the chances evening up, home coach (and possible extra in Life Of Brian) Dino Pagliari sent on the towering Rachid Arma. The fans responded well and so did the team. With crosses flying in Arma’s height was clearly the weapon of choice now though when he did get a shot in, it was sadly just wide. The home support applauded all the same.
As the game petered out Pisa were struggling at the back; even I could see Favasuli’s passes before he made them so Termoli had no trouble but, when the shots came in they seemed little more than consolations from the visitors. This, the first game of the season, was always Pisa’s day.
It was a day when the black-blues reintroduced themselves to each other; a day to meet with friends again, meet new players and try out new songs. It was a relaxing day to brush off the cobwebs and reinvigorate l’amore for football again. With Pisa safely through to meet* Siena in the next round, I closed the car door, started the engine and listened as Chas’n’Dave trilled of Blue Heavens.
Before long I was gliding up the toll road again, with Paul Weller’s Studio 150 as my soundtrack. At the end my lovely family awaited but for now – as I past the vineyards, terracotta tiles and dominating marble mountains – I tried (and failed) to work out why the Coppa Italia had to be seeded and pre-dawn before a ball had even been kicked, and most importantly how many of the other 980 World Heritage Sites were visible from football stadia.

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One day, I knew I’d be both knowledgeable and enlightened about all this however – like the lean of the Campanile – for now; I remained happily ignorant in my blissful world heritage calcio trance.
This entry was posted in 2013-2014, Coppa Italia and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to World Heritage Sighted

  1. putajumperon says:

    Having been contacted by one Termoli fan, it’s only fair to link his site here http://curvamarcoguida.wordpress.com/

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