Being an Interista Down Under
The Guiseppe Meazza Stadium, Milan. Sunday the 7th of October. Internazionale are the visitors at their home ground to bitter city rivals AC Milan. The ultras from both the Curva Nord and Curva Sud have perfectly choreographed routines to cheer on their respective sides. They are loud, proud and extremely volatile towards supporters of the opposing club. For other fans packing the stadium, the air is electric. Despite not being a sellout, the pre-match atmosphere is lively and boisterous. Flags, banners and jerseys shout out to the entire world that each fan is there for and whom they wish to see decimated after the next 90 minutes. There are few places in the world right now that are as alive as this one.
Travel 13,650 kilometres to a small, quiet pocket of the world. Perth, Western Australia. It’s 2:45 in the morning and you can’t even hear the wind outside. It’s dead still, dead quiet. The promise of daybreak is still hours away, and yet, there is one house out in the suburbs of this city where the day has already begun, only due to the events happening on the other side of the world.
Being a supporter of a football club is something special. You are part of a community, nay, a society, where you share camaraderie, the joy of winning, the pain of losing and the emptiness of a draw with every single other supporter. However, this must be nothing compared to being a supporter of a club from THE CITY YOU LIVE IN. It must be something special, having a shared bond of heritage with that club. Almost all professional football clubs in Europe have a deep history. Some have a shorter history than others, but are no less special. Some have cabinets full of silverware, but are still no greater than some others. The feeling of growing up in and living in the same city of the club you support must be a brilliant experience.
Then, if you’re not living in the same city, living in Europe, where you are able to travel to these games with much more ease. Where you have a greater knowledge of the club and their history because football is so engrained in European culture, that you cannot escape it, despite living in another country. This is still a great experience. Or so I’d imagine so.
Then, there is life in Australia, where Football means a completely different sport and where the word hooligan is synonymous with ‘soccer’. It’s a country that, despite having its own rich and deep history of the beautiful game, the game is kept under wraps by the mainstream media. It’s a country where teams such as Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona are the only teams worth a mention outside of its own domestic league (which is in its infancy, but still proving to be a great competition).
For a supporter of Internazionale, living in Australia can be a daily struggle. Even in an information age where social networks and instant media practices are prevalent, it is difficult to connect with many others who bare the same love for my club. Sure, in the time that I have used social networking to connect with other fans of Inter, I have been able to ‘meet’ other local supporters of the nerazzurri, and it’s fantastic, but it is still lacking the community feel.
It wasn’t until I found a twitter user named Don Nerazzurri, that I truly felt like part of this community of Inter supporters. Knowing that there were so many of us, physically unconnected from the great city of Milan, yet still with the same passion for the club, all with our own back stories of how we became supporters.
However, to be a football supporter, let alone an Inter supporter in Australia, can sometimes be a swim against the current. If you aren’t actively keeping up to date with what is going on, then you fall very far behind. You see, we aren’t immersed in news about football and our great club the way Italy and Europe is. We make the best of it. Starting up local groups like Inter Club Perth is one way. On a site like Facebook, it exists to connect Inter fans from my city, yet it is still not big enough or structured enough to warrant any plans in the near future for us to all get together. Yet, at the same time, just having a group like this, and knowing that there are other equally, if not more, passionate supporters in my own city is very reassuring.
My hope is that one day, and this will be very far away, football can become much bigger in my country. In the meantime, I believe it is an Inter fan’s duty to spread the word of our club. This is the reason why I wear my jersey with pride absolutely everywhere I go. Sure it makes my wife upset that I’m often wearing the same thing, or it might be inappropriate to wear on certain occasions, but for every person out there wearing a Milan jersey, or a Man Utd jersey, or a Real Madrid jersey, I’ll be there wearing the nerazzurri – because people deserve to know of the greatest club in the world and they surely deserve to know that other clubs exist beyond what the mainstream media throw in their faces as football ‘tokens’.
Then I think to myself, so many miles away, yet the reach of this club is so great that it made me a supporter. No, not just a supporter; someone who is dead passionate about the club and who lives and breathes their colours. The reach of a great club should never be underestimated. So I only hope that I can be equally as passionate about winning over other local football fans., as I am about my support, because if our great club can reach me thousands of miles away, then I can definitely reach those within my own city.
Being a fan of Inter in Australia has its negatives, but there are so many positives that we fail to see sometimes. Like as I mentioned earlier, the almost fresh slate that we have with fans of football that don’t yet have a club they are truly passionate about. It’s interesting when I’m out and I see people wearing jerseys of the big clubs in Europe. Three years ago I was coaching and Under 16’s side of a small club from the inner suburbs. The team was struggling, undermanned and under-skilled. Yet the boys loved their football. They loved the game. Yet none of them really supported any clubs, at least not with any real interest anyway. We had one young man who was quite tall. He was of average ability, nothing to write home about, but he loved the game. He always wore a Barcelona jersey. I remember asking him so many questions about the club, questions that he couldn’t answer. I used to try to discuss with him what was happening at the club during the transfer window – he seemed to be very unaware of what was going on, even who was currently on the roster apart from Messi and Xavi.
This is the kind of football fan that I can win over in my own country. Without much of a connection to a club that is only supported part-time, it is easy to show the greatness of Inter Milan, a club with such a history, such character and emotion. What attracted me to Inter in the first place was the overall charm of the club and its character. This is something that the best marketing campaign in the world simply cannot achieve. Inter’s history and people make it what it is; a great club.
So now begins a personal journey of mine – expand Inter Club Perth, win over the undecided football fans, and paint my city in Black and Blue.
Follow Simon on Twitter – @SiCar