Late Saturday night, we got a call from our friends Sergio and Milena asking if we’d like to go to the stadium with their family on Sunday to watch Perugia vs. Gubbio. Hell yes.
Perugia’s team use to be great. In fact, they even went to the championship once after an undefeated season (a long, long time ago.) They’ve since been demoted from series A to series C but hope to someday make a comeback and play the big boys from Milan, Turin, Rome and Naples. Still, this is soccer and we’re in Italy, and the support for the home team was wild. We didn’t care if it was a lil’ kickers league. It felt good to participate.
The red and white crowd was screaming victory chants as we arrived, and flags were flying. This was an especially important game for Perugia because they hadn’t played Gubbio in over 20 years. And since they are neighboring cities, it was time to demonstrate some dominance. We listened to our friend describe how certain rivalries evolved between cities around Perugia: over the millennium, Umbrian city-states have been defeating and conquering each other, often with terribly grave consequences. Even though the battles are over, the stories are retold and taught in the classrooms. Apparently, the scars are especially vulnerable on Sunday afternoons. He said that the citizens are still fighting the old wars. While the cities of Gubbio and Perugia weren’t particularly combative, they still have some might to assert. “Just wait till Perugia plays Arezzo!” he said. (Apparently, they had some big disagreements during the Middle Ages.)
We arrived early, and after passing through the ticket gate we found our seat. I think we had the worst view in the whole stadium.
When the game started, our friends encouraged us to move to the aisle and sit on the steps. There were no ushers telling us to move, no concern of fire safety. There weren’t a lot of rules.
It is quite a bit different from the fancy sports arenas back home. The concessions consist of bottled water, bags of Ritz crackers, coffee and focaccia. Apparently, you can get your coffee spiked if you want, but nobody seems to be drinking or eating. It’s all about the game. There is no score board and no Jumbotron showing close-ups of the plays. We couldn’t even find a timer to know how many minutes were left. So we watched and cheered and counted down on our cell phones.
Within seconds of half-time, Perugia stole the ball dribbling it downfield before swiftly kicking it past the diving goalkeeper and into the net. The celebration that ensued was incredible. Tiny pieces of everyone’s program went flying through the air as confetti. Needless to say, the half-time break was festive.
Perugia scored a second goal towards the end of the game. And victory was theirs. We celebrated afterwards with gelato and beers at a nearby park.