Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Forza Roma!!

I am responsible for planning and implementing at least one event a month that fosters community building here on campus. Usually this involves night tours of Rome, weekend getaways, girls' nights out, and soccer games. Without a doubt, students' favorite event has been the soccer game. So far I've been to two Roma games and while they have been a fun cultural experience, nothing prepared me for the game we went to two weeks ago. Oh.My.Stars.

It was challenging finding a date that worked in our schedule and Roma's schedule. Really the only date that worked was last week. I wish we could have gone to a game earlier in the semester, but then again...maybe not.

Roma played Bayern-Munich and from what I've been told Roma lost to them in their last 2 meetings. So, this was a big game for Roma. We arrived at the tram stop near Piazza del Popolo and were stunned to see it so crowded. I had no idea how we would all manage to get on the tram. Well, we didn't make the first one, but the second one seemed like it for us. Have you ever seen news footage of mobs of people pushing against one another, straining to get into a store or out of a stadium? This is what it was like trying to get on to the tram. We were being shoved from behind and I was a bit nervous because there were two small children in front of me. I was worried they would get trampled! I did what I could, but the end result was me being shoved forcefully from behind onto the tram only to fall to one knee. Scary stuff!!

Finally, the tram moved and we made our way towards Stadio Olimpico. Upon our arrival we followed the crowd that was moving towards the stadium. As we made our way around the stadium towards our section, I noticed a group of police officers escorting a rowdy group of people dressed in red and white, singing loudly for all to hear. Hmmm...that's interesting. We kept on and suddenly found ourselves in the midst of the crowd. Germans. We were surrounded by the Bayern-Munich fans! Oh my. I tried to lead our group out of the mob, but was stopped by a police officer. I told him that I had tickets in the curva nord. He looked at me and my students behind me with suspicion. "Tedesco?" he asked in Italian. He was asking me if I was German! "No! Forza Roma!" I replied in Italian--No! C'mon Roma! He laughed and gestured for us to move to his left. We finally broke free from the crowd and made our way to the entrance. As we waited in line to get through the gates, a police officer motioned for one of my students to approach the fence where he asked her if she was German. Seriously? Are we wearing the German flag somewhere on our bodies?

Finally, we made it through the line and each went through the turnstiles. I waited on the other side for my students and Lynda only to be informed that one of my students was having difficulty getting in. I wasn't sure what to do and as I was deciding I was approached by a female officer. "German?" she asked me. NO! For the 100th time, I am not German. I am an American! I am a Roma fan! This, however, was not my response. I kindly replied that I was an American. "Ok," she said and then proceeded to help my student get through security. Whew!

Finally! We climbed the stairs into the stadium and to our section. Holy moly! We were down where the action was...with all of the craziness!! The game had just started and, as always, the Roma fans were going nuts with their chanting and song singing. To the right of us down a ways was the German fan section. Every now and then a Roma fan would yell something to the Germans.

The first half passed rather quickly with Bayern-Munich scoring two goals. Rome was not happy. The atmosphere in the stadium at the start of the second half was electric. People were excited and chanting. Goal Roma! The crowd goes wild. Goal Roma! The crowd goes nuts! Goal Roma! The crowd goes INSANE!!! Grown men were practically crying as they threw their arms around one another, singing, chanting, and doing whatever else one does as an Italian male....that being obscene and rude gestures directed at the opposing team's fans.

Soon enough the clock wound down and....Roma won!!!! It was an amazing comeback and grown men did start to cry! My students were grabbed by others around them and hugged. Suddenly, the entire stadium broke out into singing: Grazie Roma!! My students, myself, and Lynda got into it--though she thought they were singing Lazio Roma, which would never happen cause Roma and Lazio are bitter rivals--we were waving our scarves, raising our hands, and singing at the top of our lungs.

Honestly, it was an incredible night and I will never forget it. The mood of the stadium was unlike anything else I've ever experienced....it was alive, vibrant, and contagious. One of the best experiences in Rome...no doubt. Forza Roma!!!

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