Football – the beautiful game: what does football mean to you and which memories will forever resound deep within?
The setting was Genoa vs Sampdoria in what was the 114th edition of the Derby della Lanterna; a game that split the northern port city of Genoa right down the middle, as it does twice a season.
As always, tension had been building for days. Banter was aplenty and predictions were being slung around like nobody’s business as March 11, 2017 fast approached.
All the usual cliches stood true. Serie A standings don’t matter and form goes out of the window.
Little did one British guy know that this game would soon signify his beloved Sampdoria’s first derby double in 57 years thanks to the mercurial Luis Muriel. What did it signify? Those famed bragging rights.
The stage was set, the pre-match drinks had been drunk in an uncountable manner and the Brit, a Serie A derby virgin, was about to say goodbye to his mates for the next 90 minutes or so, albeit overcome with jealousy as they headed into the Gradinata Sud while he trotted off toward the Tribuna.
Then arrived the first twist of fate, mainly thanks to his friend and her having perfected the art of persuasion, through whatever means necessary, coupled with 15 years or more of getting to know the staff members who work the turnstiles in the famous south stand.
The Brit was about to get right amongst it and boy was it a show he’d never forget. Flares, fireworks, banners and rapturous, non-stop chanting from the Sampdoria faithful almost made it seem like it wasn’t an away game for the Blucerchiati.
A spectacular, unforgettable off-field performance was more than enough compensation for a first half void of any real incident on the pitch, not that most of the Sampdoria faithful were even concentrating on the game.
Then came the second half. Muriel, the eventual match-winner hit the bar in the 51st minute as the stand almost erupted. Then came the moment that all Sampdoria fans had been calling for – the arrival of Patrik Schick in the 67th minute.
Schick had been in sparkling for Marco Giampoalo’s side and certainly changed the spectacle from a footballing point of view, dribbling and driving straight at his opposition as he continued to shine as one of the best youngsters in Europe, not that it even mattered to our overjoyed Brit.
Then came the moment. A few seconds never to be forgotten. The ones that make you realise why so many love football.
Muriel took advantage of a slack pass before running through on goal and slotting under Eugino Lamanna with ease in the 71st minute. Cue bedlam.
The remainder of the game was all about trying to squeeze every drop of breath from one’s lungs as ‘forza la Samp’ echoed around the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
The game ended 1-0 with Sampdoria victorious of Genoa for the second time that season, most recently achieved in 1960. It was a long time coming. The bragging rights went to the Blucerchiati and the Brit went on to celebrate the rest of the night (and next morning) with his fellow Samp-supporting friends.
The feelings. The emotion. The drama. The memories.
It was one of those days that proved football to be so much more than just a game. It’s a way of life.