The famous city may host fashion royalty, but for me a weekend trip to Milan means anything but shopping for designer clothes. Honestly, I’d rather watch paint peel. Two days away from London, and I planned to visit the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral), San Siro Stadium tour, AC & Inter Milan Club Museum, Mondo Milan, Casa Milan and round it all off with the Milan derby.
The tour of the stadium gave me an opportunity to re-live the magic of Italia 90. I was among the global audience on 8th June who had marvelled at the building and introduction of this major football arena to planet football. The opening game of that memorable World Cup saw one of the biggest shocks in football history as the minnows of Cameroon beat Diego Maradona and World Cup holders Argentina 1-0, thanks to a springing salmon act from Francois Omam-Biyick and a Hallowe’en howler from Nery Pumpido. Fast forward two days – and the next moments of footy magic have been etched in my memory banks for 26 years. It was the skipper Lothar Matthäus and his two firecrackers on the evening of 10th June as West Germany hammered Yugoslavia 4-1 to nail down their position as tournament favourites – they were simply out of this world.
The structure of the stadium was designed by the engineer Alberto Cugini and the architect Ulisse Stacchini. The grand arena was built to host Milan matches, but in 1947-1948 it became the home of Inter as well. In 1980 the famous stadium was named “Giuseppe Meazza” in honour of the Italian hero who, during an illustrious career which included two World Cup wins, played for both clubs.
In the run up to Italia 90 the city of Milan chose to renovate rather than rebuild. Architects Giancarlo Ragazzi and Henry Hoffer and the engineer Leo Finzi chose to construct a third level, and eleven new cylindrical towers in reinforced concrete that contained a number of facilities were built. The spiralling concrete pillars were another childhood fascination and although we weren’t allowed access on the day of our visit I was able to climb right to the top the next day to watch the first Milan derby of 2016.
The tour itself is independently led, although very polite club guides are scattered around if there are any questions or queries. The Museum has the privilege of being the first in Italian football to be located within a football ground. This experience is the first stop on the tour and visitors are greeted with wax models of Ruud Gullit, Paolo Maldini, Lothar Matthäus and Javier Zanetti. There are trophies galore and historical shirts on display, including the shirt of Giacinto Facchetti, one of the all ime great full backs. Further on, you come face to face with the San Siro twin towers of Franco Baresi and Giuseppe Bergomi – two of Italian football’s greatest defenders. Those not in the know may wonder why this museum is such a compact and small scale operation when taking into consideration the burgeoning history of these two superpower clubs. There’s no need to fret as there is the Mondo Milan Museum at Casa Milan – a much grander and modern display of the footballing wealth of the city rivals.
There is a walk past the TV interview area, a wall lined with sponsors’ logos dotted across. There is no access to the press room. The changing rooms are very different in comparison. Milan has the customised sports chairs, while Inter has plain benches with modern decor. In all the tour can be completed within 30-45 minutes, although there is no time limit unless there is an emergency evacuation or the official closing time is nearing.
Visitors can step out into the arena and pitch side. This is a chained off corner at the Inter end of the stadium. The space is compact and could become quite congested when there are large groups of visitors.
I loved the experience at La Scala del Calcio. It is something I have dreamt of doing since Italia 90. I suppose there is a requirement for modernising to bring the grand old theatre up to speed, but there’s no doubting the standing and rank of the San Siro as one of the most renowned football arenas in the world. My thoughts were cemented the night after, at the Milan derby. Although we had terrible seats, I can say, hand on heart, that it is by far the most electrifying crowd experience I have witnessed at a football ground. It was all non-stop frenzy from start to finish as I took my place among 80,000 fellow fans.
It is an experience I would repeat at the drop of a hat and do over and over again.
•For more information, go to: www.sansiro.net
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