On the seventh day of TBIR Christmas – The best atmosphere

Let’s face it, none of us want to watch football in the sterile environment that sums up the experience that is far too common in England these days. The all seater stadium, lack of signing, banners and organised fan displays is the complete opposite to the marketing blurb that tells us that the Premier League is the best in the world. Apart from a few instances such as Crystal Palace’s Holmesdale Enders, the atmosphere in our grounds is not comparable with most of our European rivals.

In the past twelve months we have wandered far and wide across the world, sampling some of the best and most hostile atmospheres. Whilst there are plenty more examples of red hot atmospheres, these are the ones that we personally experienced. Last year the clear winners were Legia Warsaw and the wall of noise they put up every week at the Pepsi Arena. But the club and the ultras have fallen out this year, leading to a boycott of the home games. But we have found three teams/matches where you simply cannot be beaten.

3rd best atmosphere – St Pauli fans
8113694560_4c8d8ef2fd_bAmazingly we had never experienced a St Pauli game home or away until this year when we went and saw them play at Paderborn. Despite the game being at lunchtime on a Sunday, and a fair distance away from Hamburg, they sold out their end three times over. The noise they produced through the whole ninety minutes was outstanding, especially as the temperature in the ground probably topped 90 degrees. Whilst the St Pauli fans like to think of themselves as alternative, their support was nothing short of Premier League.

2nd best atmosphere – Roma v Lazio
6810266862_db85df58a3_bThis was a real difficult one to choose. Our top two were neck and neck in terms of passion, noise and colour. But our one disappointment for the Rome derby was the stadium wasn’t full. Both Curve’s were rammed though, and it was very difficult to know which end to look at when they were in full flow. Pyrotechnics galore, banners poking fun at the opposition and of course flags. Lots and lots of flags. Book your flights now, it is unmissable.

To get more flavour from the game head on over to our Flickr page.

The best atmosphere in 2012 – Partizan v Red Star Belgrade
7152833997_69c50a948d_bMore and more people are venturing to Serbia to experience this game, which is up there with the most atmospheric in the world. Despite the stadium being 99% open air, the noise is unbelievable, the banners huge and the flares, well, have a look for yourself. Even standing in the side stand you are engulfed in smoke as old me join in with the youngsters in lighting up to full effect. Despite Partizan already crowned as champions, Red Star didn’t want to be out done here and towards the end of the game started setting fire to the seats. Oh, and tickets cost about a pound if you are lucky enough to get one.

Want some more? Have a look at these snaps then.

Affamato come un lupo

Match fixing, doping, prostitutes and Silvio Berlusconi – just your average week in calcio. Italian football is dogged by controversy. But this weekend wasn’t just about Serie A and one of the biggest rivalries in Europe. It wasn’t even about B, C or even D. Oh no. We were going right to the heart of Italian football. In his excellent book, The Dark Heart of Italy, Tobias Jones comments that the Italian words for history and story are the same – storia. And that is what we aimed to find here in Rome – a story, starting in the Eccellenza Lazio, the regional league of the province and ending up in the modern-day Coliseum watching Derby Delle Capitale – The Eternal Derby.

By we I mean Danny Last (of course Danny Last – EFW may be no more but that doesn’t mean to say the fun of the away day in Europe has stopped too) and the legend that is Adam Lloyd. His rise from the control room at the Madejski Stadium to his villa overlooking the hills of Rome is pure Boys-Own stuff, but here he was welcoming the English adventurers into his new home with a plate of tortellini and a Peroni if you please. Champione.

Our plan of action for Big Match Eve (BME) was a wander around Grottaferrata (the city of books and Swinging capital of Rome allegedly), a glass of Frascati in Frascati and an afternoon of sightseeing around the capital with a splash of some retail therapy in the AS Roma store thrown in for some measure (Tottie soap for Mrs Last, Roma hand cream for CMF). Amazingly just two weeks previous Rome had shivered as temperatures plummeted and snow had fallen. This is a real rarity in the city and caused many a style-conscious Italian to stay at home for fear of people thinking it was dandruff settling on his shoulders. Yet here we were in shirt sleeves enjoying the sunshine whilst wandering the sights of one of the best cities on Earth.

After taking in the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and various other ancients wonders we headed back to the countryside for the biggest meal in the history of TBIR, involving just a mere five courses, two bottles of red and a Grappa to end it all off.  Our host, the love child of Gareth Chilcott and Willie Thorne, wished us well at the end of the evening with a genial “Fuck Off” and we went on our merry way back to Chez Lloyd (not to be confused with Cher Lloyd), peering in the windows of all the villas on the way to see if it was the home of the Roman Swingers Association. Alas it wasn’t.

Matchday arrived and Adam brought in our presents.  BME had given way to BMD (Big Match Day) and that was only marginally behind Christmas in terms of gift giving in the region of Lazio.  Our presents were Roma Magic Boxes.  Not only did we have some of the best seats in the house for the game, but we also now had our own Roma umbrella, Roma rucksack, strange Roma headband and a Roma scarf.    Before the big game we had a Plan. Our Plan (herewith called “The Plan”) was to head out to the countryside and take in a regional game as L’antipasto before the AS Roma v SS Lazio Il primo. And could there be a better place in the world to have the starter than a place where some of the big Italian nobs hang out sipping white wine – Frascati, just a 15 minute stroll down the road. Continue reading