AC Milan v Inter Milan, Wednesday 18th January 2023, 9pm

It must be Super Cup season as following on from the Spanish version the previous week the Milan teams were in town for their turn. It looks as if the Italian competition still maintains the traditional format of League Champions v Cup Winners although they are not averse to taking the fixture around the globe with previous matches having taken place in the US, China, Qatar and even Libya.

It was easy enough to get a ticket online for a game that didn’t sell out, although I thought that the 51,000 attendance in the 65,000 capacity King Fahd stadium was a decent turn-out.

With a crowd of that size it was busy outside and there were plenty of scarf and flag sellers. It was a chilly evening and so a scarf wouldn’t have gone amiss, but I was reluctant to wear the colours of a team that weren’t the Boro. I’ve done it occasionally; I remember buying an Egaleo scarf on the way into our UEFA Cup game in Athens and I bought a North Ferriby beanie last year at a game where the temperature felt sub-zero, but they’ve never seen the light of day again.

I gambled incorrectly on the way to my gate and walked almost a complete lap of the ground before finding my entrance for a section behind the goal. I was on the corner, in the Inter end. AC had what they had labelled ‘Curva Sud’ behind the opposite goal, but I’ve no idea if it really was the south.

Some of the fans actually seemed Italian whilst others just copied the gestures. If I’d had to express a preference for either of the teams, I’d probably have gone for Inter on the basis that they were Gianluca Festa’s club and I remember him turning out for them at the Riverside before we signed him. We’ve often had blue and black stripes as our away kit too, so that was also in their favour.

The bloke on the PA was fired up and in the manner of a sub-Buffer ring announcer, informed us that “Ladies and Gentlemen, you are part of the show”. We’d been given wristbands on the way in which I had assumed were to identify the section that we were in. They actually contained a flashing light that we were encouraged to wave whenever activated. Mine soon made its way to the floor.

Inter went one up after ten minutes, causing everyone around me to go apeshit. The ref headed over to the touchline for what I thought was a VAR check, but he was actually delivering the ball that the goal had been scored with to someone who put it in a Perspex box for people to have their photos taken with it. The modern game. Modern life.

The same thing happened after Inter’s second goal. The ball that merited saving for posterity was the one with which Inter added a third towards the end as Martinez scored a peach with the outside of his foot.

Confident that I’d get a taxi this time, I waited until the end and soon found a ride back into town. The driver was from Yemen and spoke little English. I tried to conduct a conversation of sorts with a mention of Prince Naseem, but he clearly was not a boxing aficionado.

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