Life, as is often the case, had not been too kind to Alessandro Cominardi, aka Alex. Like all of us, Alex is a good lad, though. A really nice guy, and by no means stupid. A little inadequate for the time he’s living in, perhaps. After high school, and a clumsy attempt at university his father, who wanted him, at all costs, to settle down, had immediately forced him to get a steady job. So, by his thirties, all the dreams of his youth had rapidly drowned in the boredom of a dull and underpaid routine.
Along with a shy and uncertain temper, destiny had given an unprotesting Alex a minor position in the Villaggio Ferrari Post Office; a grumpy and thrifty wife he still has the misfortune to feel a sort of affection for; and a chronic lack of money. He finds himself in a desolate landscape, a barren wilderness where the sun, however high in the sky, is too sickly and weak to warm the land. But Alex doesn’t care. He carries on through his colourless life without complaining because he continues to cultivate his one real passion, which has the same hold on him as it did when he was a child: that of being a Brescia Calcio fan.
Don’t judge football fans unfairly, you highbrow people. Don’t despise them, don’t condemn them out of hand, just because you can’t understand their behaviour. I was with them and know them well. In among many normal people, I met some who were crazy, a few who were violent, and just one or two who were seriously deranged. However, they all spoke, and lived, and fought out of Love. And is not Love one of the forces that rule the world? Love is good, don’t you agree? So, please, just leave football fans the right to feel the power of Love.
Alex is in love with Brescia Calcio, and that should be respected. Alex goes to the Rigamonti stadium and, if he can, follows the team’s away matches. Alex reads the Monday sports page in the Giornale di Brescia, suffers real pain after their defeats, and rejoices moderately when they win. His condition of a Brescia Calcio fan has gradually developed into an existential philosophy: it can be said that the life of Brescia Calcio is his own life. In the minor events of the team, in its bland and rather unlucky existence throughout the seasons, in its constant oscillations between Serie A and Serie B, Alex seems to find evidence of his own bitterness. In other words, by loving Brescia he also pays a tentative and uncertain homage to himself. And in doing so, he feels an elective affinity, a sort of symbiotic relationship, which he desperately needs in order to get along in the desert of his world.
Even his wife Caterina who, incidentally, shamelessly tyrannises him, is well able to understand the situation. Even she who, because of her extreme greed, has slowly deprived him of every licit and illicit pleasure, would never ever dream of preventing him from following the team.
As soon as their marriage lost its initial spark, Caterina revealed her true nature: rarely was Alex allowed to rent a film or buy a book without her complaining and he could never go out for a pizza and a beer. If he was lucky she conceded brief, icy conjugal sex, which was consummated between cold bedclothes and accompanied by strange, apparently scornful, grunts. Caterina had scrimped on everything. Everything but football. Actually, had she not done so, she knew that Alex’s quiet desperation would eventually kill him. If that were to happen, she, having always been unemployed, would no longer receive the salary her husband brought home every month.
After years of away matches following Brescia around Italy, Alex had experienced numerous adventures, which he occasionally revealed to his true friends, and I, Riccardo Belleri, am honoured to be considered one of them. If we are at his place, and Caterina is around pretending to wash the dishes, but is actually listening with a grim expression on her face, Alex lowers his voice, shows no enthusiasm and cuts things short. If she is not in, or out of earshot, Alex is transformed: he raises and colours his tone, accelerates the rhythm of his words, and provides one image after the other. Forgetting his own shyness, he goes on and on in his torrential storytelling mode, bringing places, people, and memories together. Little by little his stories get bigger and bigger, slightly ungrammatical but irresistibly appealing. When Alex narrates a story in this way, he really lives a new life through his team; and, through the brave deeds of Brescia, he breaks free of his fears and gives meaning to his daily drudgery.
Some time ago, he told us of his best adventure: an away match in Trieste in the early Nineties, when Brescia played Lazio. I am now going to try to tell you this adventure, but I am sure I won’t be able to reproduce my friend’s narrative voice. Anyway, once again I invite you all to put aside your prejudices and listen to Alex’s story:
«…and what about our journey to Trieste to see Brescia play Lazio? I no longer remember what had happened, some fracas with Atalanta fans outside Riga, perhaps. Anyway, our home ground had been banned, and y’all know how important it is for our team to play with the support of their fans when they’re struggling to survive in Serie A. That’s why we had to go there.
On that Sunday you weren’t there, Riccardo: a business trip, I guess. You’ve never heard this story. There were myself, and Alberto after the breakup with Carla, the Investigator, and Barollo.
Now, lads, you may say: “Barollo? Who? That Barollo? The Brescia player?”.
No, not Barollo the player. Our Barollo was a bartender. Now he doesn’t come to the stadium any more, but those who have seen him even once could never forget him. He was a real thug, and he definitely didn’t look like the real Barollo. He was as chubby and angry as Barollo the player was thin and self-controlled. He had started playing futsal with us from the month of November of the year before, and in that very November Brescia had signed Barollo. That’s why we had begun to call him Barollo as well, only by his surname, even if his real name was Franco. Just like the player, our friend was a November trade, a trade to fix up the team, if you get the idea. Just a guy to use for half a season and then to throw away. However, months went by and our Barollo kept on playing futsal with us, never skipping a single match. Just like Barollo the player did with Brescia. In short, nobody wanted them, and the two Barollos were always there.
I’ve already told you that Barollo worked at the Hotel Ambasciatori bar, and used to tell us that he often met Gino, the team president, at the bar. Every time he tried to ask him for some news about the transfer campaign, Gino, silent and secretive, drank his cocktail without saying a word. He didn’t even look at him. So Barollo got mad at Gino’s silence, but there was no way he could hit him with the ice crusher, or at the very least drench him with water from the soda syphon, as he would have liked to do, because Gino was the team president, and the team president is sacred.
The Investigator, however, was a real private eye by profession. He looked like Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry films. He had the build, no question about that. Broad-shouldered, athletic body, dark hair with a fringe and a goatee beard. What airs he always put on, with his secret agent attitude, with his black Ray-Ban sunglasses on even at night, like the Blues Brothers! And he always asked a lot of questions:
“What’s your job? Where are you from? D’you know this? D’you know that?”.
Mamma mia! Such a pain in the ass! But he went on and on. Until you thought to yourself: “Enough! Enough! Enough! Who sent me this guy? I can’t stand him any more!”.
And the Investigator too said he knew Gino. Actually, it was rumoured that he worked for him.
“Hey!”, myself and Alberto sometimes asked each other: “How can everybody know the president except us two blockheads?”.
«…and to think that we weren’t even so sure we would go that Sunday. Are we or aren’t we going to Trieste? In our dithering, Caterina had pestered me all morning long: “To Trieste? From Brescia? You must be crazy! You’re not going to go with them, are you?”, she kept on saying. “Don’t you know how much it will cost? Are you sure your friends will pay for petrol?”.
Actually, I didn’t even know which car we would leave with. I simply had to meet Antonio and the Investigator at 10 am, and go with them to Barollo’s, just to see what we were to do. But after we had reached Barollo’s apartment in Chiesanuova, we had soon discovered that it was not the right time to get there. It was not because Barollo, in spite of the white and blue scarf he had on, looked more like a Sampdoria than a Brescia fan. In fact, besides the white and the blue he wore, he was also black with rage and red like a beetroot. Almost out of breath, he was rudely railing against a certain Gigio, a guy only he knew, deafening the whole street. Some people, puzzled, were already appearing at their windows
This Gigio was supposed to provide his car for the journey, but on that Sunday he had mysteriously bailed, and had left the rest of us hopelessly stranded:
“Gigio, the bastard! The fucking son of a bitch! The dirty bastard!”, Barollo shouted. “How can we go to Trieste, now?”.
Then, when he saw us coming, he looked at me with murderous eyes, furious with rage: “You have your car here, right?”, he said, like a Gestapo officer.
“Y-yes…”, I muttered.
“Good! So you too are coming with us,”, he ordered. “I have one more terrace ticket left. You take us to Trieste, and I’ll let you watch the Brescia match for free! Is that all right by you?”.
Y’all know how hard it is to come up with a plausible excuse before a towering chubby, jellylike ton of a man like Barollo, quivering and nervous. There’s little you can do when you have to face those crazy eyes. Therefore, even though I was already beginning to think of what Caterina would say on my return home, I replied:
After all, I didn’t really care. I had just filled up my tank at the self-service petrol station, and I really wanted to see the match. Of course I was going. No doubt I was going to Trieste. In short, the four of us left in my green Renault Clio, may God bless her!
I was driving. Beside me, from the passenger’s seat, the Investigator had started to scrutinize us all from behind his Ray-Ban glasses as usual:
“Who are you? What’s your job? What do you do for a living? How much do you earn?”
Please, help! He was free to talk, but we all knew, had we tried to ask him the same questions, the Investigator would reply with the utmost care and prudence.
Alberto, lost in his thoughts, was behind me. Barollo was next to him, just a little more relaxed than before, but still in his eruptive phase. Barollo who, after getting into the car, had spread out his white and blue scarf with the white V on it behind the rear windscreen. He told us that everyone we overtook on the motorway had to see the colours of our team.
«…and after 300 kilometres in my Clio we got to Trieste. At the toll gates the riot police were armed to the teeth, with growling guard dogs on the leash. They watched us closely for a long time from under their blue helmets but said nothing either to me or to Alberto, because we had put our nice-guy looks on full display; not a word to the Investigator, who had obviously been classified as a member of the security forces; not even to Barollo who, when he was awake, used to sneer like Jack Nicholson in the axe scene from The Shining. Luckily enough, he was sleeping at the time, just like an angel, so to speak.
It was too early for the kick-off. Alberto and I wanted to go to the city centre, while Barollo and the Investigator were just looking for a bar. So when they sat down, ordered some sandwiches and a pint of beer, and started to relieve their tension with loud belches, the two of us, our appetite
killed by the sight of them, went away for a walk.
Beautiful Trieste. Unity of Italy Square, the Habsburg buildings, the Roman theatre, the Orthodox church with its pale blue domes. Albert and I rattled off our meagre high school notions to each other: the Molo Audace1, Umberto Saba and his poems about football, Italo Svevo2, and James Joyce giving him English lessons. And the light blue Adriatic Sea shimmering before us in the early afternoon sunshine. A sleepy late spring Sunday. Hot. Nobody around.
“On such a day,” we said, “God only knows if the people from here are really interested in this match. They are probably all at the seaside. It’s a good thing that there will be about eight thousand Brescia fans at the stadium”.
Suddenly we spotted a group of sky blue shirts coming straight at us. The Lazio fans! What a fright we got, like two frightened chickens! Then, when they got closer, we realized they were ordinary people, just like us: two or three men in their forties, and some couples; in short, wishy-washy football fans. When we finally crossed paths, we all feigned toughness and mutual contempt, but each of us knew it was only a ritual. Deep down in our hearts we were all glad.
Anyway, it was almost time: “Come on, guys!” we said, going back to our two friends, half-asleep at the bar table: “Let’s go to the stadium”.
«…as soon as we saw it, we all stood gaping:
“What a stadium the Nereo Rocco is, guys! What a stadium! I wonder if they will ever build such a stadium for us, in Brescia!”.
We had seen it in the distance, almost emerging out of the blue. As we got out of my Clio, we started to run towards it, completely mesmerized. On one side the old, awesome, rosso-alabardato3 Grezar stadium. On the other, believe it or not, the Risiera di San Sabba, the Nazi concentration camp memorial. And in the middle, there it was, the Nereo Rocco stadium, waiting for us beyond the square.
“What a stadium, guys! What a stadium!”, we repeated.
From that moment on, we all went into the Football Trance. Each of us vaguely began to sense the Football Fan Metamorphosis taking place deep inside him. And each felt that, for the next two hours, Alex, Alberto, the Investigator, and Barollo would not be there, with their own personal lives and daily miseries. From that moment on, we would have been only four of the magical, compacted eight thousand Brescia fans, following their team’s away match in Trieste. So, come on, magical Brescia! Tomorrow there will be time to think about everything else!
Off we ran across the square, threading our way through the crowd. We went past the small groups of fans lingering near the gates. We slowed down, first to a walking pace, then almost stopping, finally standing in a long line. We showed our tickets to the stewards and, keeping very still and silent, let the big cops, who wore blue helmets and anti-riot uniforms, search us. After that, for the last time we looked nervously at the German Shepherds on the leashes of the Carabinieri4 at the gate and in we went together!
And off we ran again towards the outdoor stairs, beginning to get the usual smells and noises coming up from the ground floor. We quickly went up the ramps towards the narrow passageways, while the white and blue tide – white and blue scarves, and flags, and banners, and yells – was slowly flowing, and getting higher, and swelling with us. We slid through the access tunnel, and we were suddenly blinded. And again, off we ran in the darkness, full of sweaty people. At that very moment, we distinctly heard the roar of the crowd, rumbling louder and louder. And, finally, we dashed along the last few meters in the half-light, until the white opening of the entrance to the pitch appeared before us.
When we emerged into the gorgeous glory of the Trieste sun, we closed our eyes for a second, almost blinded by the light. Then we opened our eyes and looked around and shouted to each other for the third time:
“What a stadium the Nereo Rocco is! Guys, what a stadium! A far cry from our Riga!”.
The outside was beautiful, but the inside was even more stunning! There was no athletics track, the stands were extremely high and bursting with fans. What a wonderful view over the pitch! And once again we felt as happy as if we were in a dream, because we were going to watch Brescia, our team, and we saw before us the fabulous, familiar, colourful scene which can be appreciated only by those who are really acquainted with it: black crowd, green pitch, blue sky!
«…well, as they say, the Lazio players were no match for us. Too beautiful was the day, too great the enthusiasm, too unswerving our lads, and too hungry for points. Not even Brazil would have stood up to them, on that day in Trieste. The Lazio players certainly couldn’t, so shy and tentative were they. They didn’t even wear their usual sky blue uniforms, but were dressed in bright canary-yellow jerseys. Lazio played against us with the usual end-of-season reluctance, typical of the Italian teams at the end of the long tournament, so ready to surrender without trying. Only Beppe Signori’s blonde hair glowed on the pitch every now and then, but our defenders always tackled him without letting him touch a single ball, and broke away in pure Franz Beckenbauer style. And the other Lazio players, after losing the ball, seemed to say to our lads:
“Please, gentlemen, over to you! The ball is at your disposal. Please, play it as you like. And remember that today we are letting you score as many goals as you want with no opposition. Just because, should we need your kind help for the next year, we are sure we will be able to count on your gratitude”.
In terms of football language, the Lazio players were polite and respectful! And to think that, being such a brilliant team, Brescia didn’t even need any favours from Lazio. Yes! On that day at the Nereo Rocco in Trieste the White and Blues were like world champions, before eight thousand proud and cheerful Brescia fans. Rarely had we seen such an unshakable bond between the fans and Mircea Lucescu’s team. Mircea, who used to put on airs, because he considered himself a football authority; Mircea who, when he coached the Romania national team, had been the first Rumanian manager ever to defeat Italy in Bucharest. And he really mouthed off when he had to justify himself and Brescia’s bad performance. Do you remember, Riccardo? The sport reporters asked him:
“What’s been going on, Mr. Lucescu? What’s the reason for this defeat? To what do you attribute such an unimpressive performance?”.
And Mircea Lucescu replied:
“The ref’s decisions were not very good today”.
“Our best players were injured and had to be substituted. That’s why the team was penalized today”.
“It’s been raining all the week, and the pitch conditions were absolutely abysmal today. That’s why the team could not display their excellent technique”.
“The Powers That Be don’t like Brescia”.
The Powers That Be, my foot! He never admitted his own faults. He would almost blame the other team’s ball boys for our defeats. Anyway, he was a great manager, and in his best days in Brescia he was worshipped almost as much as St. Faustino, the city’s patron saint.
«…and the fans were cheering every single Brescia player, on that day. Even Nello Cusin, the dreadful goalie. And Paolo Negro and Massimo Paganin, the young defenders. And grumpy Marco Rossi. And Stefano Bistecca5 Bonometti, the sweeper. And Luciano De Paola, the over-experienced midfielder, who spoke the language of Angels in terms of football tactics, though even today, as a football pundit on Teletutto, hasn’t still come to terms with the Italian language. And Marco Schenardi on the right side, who wasn’t yet a Vicenza player. And Sergio Domini, the Magnificent.
And, last but not least, the Rumanian trio: the first, the right winger, was Ioan Ovidiu Sabau, l’Uomo Bionico6, who was followed to every venue by the white and blue banner with the word Sabautati on it. It didn’t take us long to realize that it had been brought to the Nereo Rocco as well. That cryptic banner had really haunted us, really drove us crazy! Every time we read it, we could never ever understand its meaning:
“And who the fuck are these Sabautati?”.
But on that wonderful Trieste afternoon I, Alex Cominardi, before any of the other Brescia fans, was inspired to read Sabautati aloud with French pronunciation. So Sabau became Sabo and suddenly everything was clear.
“Hey, guys!”, I said to the others, pointing to the banner with a smile: “Do you know who the Sabautati are? They are the Sabotati7! The Sabau’s Sabotati!”.
And everyone patted me on the back and showered me with congratulations! Even Alberto seemed glad, even though his girlfriend Carla was leaving him. He told me:
“Great! You’re great, Alex! No-one can beat you! You’re really the smartest of us all! The Sabotati! You are a genius! I would’ve never thought of that one”.
This was enough for me to understand that on that day everything was suddenly finding its own place, as if that was the best of all possible worlds.
«…and in Trieste some massive rounds of applause also went to good Florin Raducioiu, our centre-forward, the second of the Rumanians. In that season he definitely hit his best stride: in total he scored 13 goals, which is not bad for Serie A. This was unbelievable, judging by his previous matches in Italian football: at first in the Italia 90 FIFA World Cup, when everybody realized he was making a great effort on the pitch, not for his own national team but in the hope that some Western European teams might sign him, and finally give him a lot of money, freeing him from Real Socialism. Then with A.S. Bari, when he couldn’t get anything right. Then with Hellas Verona F.C., when, after dribbling past swarms of defenders at an incredible rate, he got so close to the goal line, that he would have needed just a single touch to score. But he was so confused by his own frenzy that, nine times out of ten, he kicked the ball wide. And all Italy laughed at him!
And lastly, the third Rumanian, the best of them all: Gheorghe Gica Hagi, the midfield Artist, one of the best players ever – when he felt like it – seen in Brescia. The Riga North Stand fans used to chant the Ufo Robot8 song to him, shouting in one voice at the end of the refrain: “Hagi gol! Haaagi goool!” with an extremely impressive echo effect. Gica the Master, Gica the Maradona of the Carpathians, a man born of the same lineage as the Immense, together with the Leonessa9 veterans Egidio Salvi and Gigi De Paoli, and even with Roberto Baggio, the Divine! Gica Hagi, who also had a faithful pro-Rumania following with the Hagitati banner, that is to say the Agitati – and in this case the meaning was clear because there were no pronunciation difficulties.
«…and the Rumanians definitely made the grade and changed the match: after the first half of mutual caution, the Bionic Man, Barollo’s favourite, rushed into a move on the right side, at first avoiding his opponent’s tackle and then dribbling past two other accommodating Lazio players. When he reached the box, he struck a diagonal blast, which went past the timid attempt at a save by Fernando Orsi, Luca Marchegiani’s substitute. Strangely enough, Lazio had not even fielded their regular goalie. When the ball crossed the line, Barollo, excited about the goal, exploded and rushed down the stands, a cross between a big white pudding and a charging buffalo. In his hand he held his small black Bakelite radio, from which he was never separated during the matches at the stadium. He occasionally used to listen to it or, more often, to shake it ominously at refs. When he reached ground level, bouncing around at the risk of falling down, he finally hung on to the fence enclosing the pitch, and chanted his unsophisticated song of triumph in a crackly voice to Ioan Ovidiu Sabau, aka Nellu. And, to tell the truth, we did not stand still either– no! no! no! –, but rushed happily down after Barollo, howling like savages. That probably aroused the suspicions of a Carabinieri patrol. At their sergeant’s order, from that moment on they started to watch us closely for the rest of the match, as if we were terrorists ready for a bomb attack.
Then, after 20 more minutes in the second half, another fine move by our lads below the Brescia fans’ stand wound up the match. Marco Rossi rushed along the left side, got to the byline and crossed the ball high and fast towards the centre of the box. Raducioiu moved towards the goalpost in order to clear the box from his marker, and Hagi, completely alone, dashed into the area before the goal and made it 2-0 with a terrific header! Mamma mia! What a goal! The Nereo Rocco exploded like a volcano! And again we, like four brothers, were overjoyed like crazy, while I – thanks to the mysterious power of the passion of the football fan – found myself in the arms of the Investigator, the same deceptive guy who, with his strange wys, had spoiled my whole outward journey to Trieste.
«…but, like lovers in good old films, just before saying goodbye, we whispered to each other: “Our love was too good to last. And now it’s over”. Actually, we didn’t say those very words, but we all knew that yes, it was really over. As soon as the ref had blown the final triple whistle, the Trieste sun began to set. And our brief feeling of solidarity set with it: in short, we were turning into four separate and distant guys, the usual everyday guys. Before long, inside my Clio, stuck in traffic with the cars of other Brescia fans, we left the Nereo Rocco and started our return journey.
But, contrary to what we were thinking, the day had been too great to end this way: something else had to happen. After a few kilometres along the motorway, we stopped at a service station for gas. We got out of the car, still in a slight state of confusion, and suddenly found ourselves immersed in the orange light of the setting sun, which is usually an omen of some peculiar phenomenon.
“Strange”, said Alberto: “not even one fan in this service station”. And it was quite so. Not even the attendant was there. Or, if he was, he seemed to be just a shadow: and not even one car in the long line of cars to Brescia had stopped. Were we all alone? No. Suddenly a metallic black Mercedes Benz drew up to the gas pump behind us, and a little man in a formal suit got out. He was dumpy, his face was full of wrinkles and he wore gold-rimmed glasses. He was balding a little, but he wore his hair down on the back of his head. It had just been dyed a fake blonde, with an almost honey hue to it. The little man stared at us for just a moment with sharp, dark eyes and then, from behind his glass, somewhat wary, he reluctantly asked:
“So, guys, did you like the match?”.
Barollo and the Investigator began to tremble.
“It’s Gino!”, they whispered. And then, in the magic silence of the evening, they went over to him. Alberto, and myself, a bit more uncertain, didn’t move. Now we too had met the president, at last! We had seen him so many times in pictures, never in person. Gino and us! What a strange encounter: it was as if a god had descended on earth to show himself to mortals. We were looking at him and were feeling glad but, inexplicably, a bit disappointed too.
Meanwhile, Barollo couldn’t control himself. Emotion, which had been rekindled by the unexpected meeting, made him crackle like a machine gun:
“A big win, Gino! Now we are saved from relegation, huh? And what are you going to do, now? Will you take the team to qualify for the UEFA Europe League? Who are you going to sign? And to sell? Come on, Gino, please tell us what’s new!”.
Five questions and two assertions in a row. Too much for anybody, let alone for Gino. It was clear that the president was annoyed by Barollo’s curiosity, and by his mistake of calling him by name and of being too familiar with him. Gino looked at him with a scowl on his face and didn’t bother to reply. Then, turning to the Investigator, he told him angrily:
“Ah, you’re here too? Come with me for just a minute, please!”.
The Investigator sprang forward, and the two of them, talking intensely, walked off a few meters away. Gino was imperious and the Investigator, a head taller then him, very fawning. They stayed away for over ten minutes. Myself, Alberto and Barollo stared at them, asking each other from time to time:
“What’s this? So it’s true that the Investigator knows him! So it’s true that he works for Gino! But doing what? Industrial espionage? Sports regulations violation? Extramarital affairs?”.
When they had finished speaking, Gino brought the Investigator back. He seemed more relaxed, and smiled at us – his worn skin stretched in small wrinkles around the eyes. Then he got into his Mercedes Benz and, before leaving, he beckoned to us from the window. Finally, handing his card to Alberto, he said:
“Thanks for coming to Trieste, guys. Next Monday please call this number at Brescia HQ and ask for the gift I will have ready for you”.
And he roared off.
Two days later, in the morning, I made a call to Via Bazoli for an appointment. I went there at 4 pm, and met a gorgeous girl who never smiled at me. Anyway, as soon as I mentioned Gino, she gave me an envelope with the Lioness printed on it. Inside I found four First Tier tickets for the following Sunday’s match: AC Milan-Brescia at San Siro stadium11 ! Believe it or not, even Gino had been good to us!
For the rest of the return journey we bombarded the Investigator with questions, as we wanted to know what he had to do with Gino. But believe me, Riccardo: it was no use: he didn’t say even a single word to us about it.
«…and after 300 more kilometres I was about to pay the toll at the Brescia Centro gate. The cops were there, too. They were studying every single move we made. Suddenly, while I was taking my wallet out of my pocket, a shiver shook me, running down my spine. The guys saw it, but I gave the toll-booth worker the money and pretended that nothing had happened. Later at the Sorrentino’s, before my Margherita pizza, I told them the reason I had been afraid:
“D’you know what? Earlier, at the tollgate, I realized I had left my documents at home – my driver’s licence and all the rest. I didn’t even have my ID with me. Nothing at all! Perhaps I left everything at home because I am absentminded, or perhaps because I was not so sure that I would be going today. Think about it! With so many cops around in Trieste, if they had asked for my papers I would have surely been detained there. And you probably wouldn’t have been able to watch the match, either. And then, how would we have been able to return to Brescia? Really, what good luck we had!”.
“You can say it was a fucking lucky break”, Barollo declaimed, being the thug he was, with his mouth full of bruschetta.
From behind his Ray-Bans, the Investigator just grinned, and drank his pint of beer without saying a word.
Later, while I was leaving him to go home, it was Alberto, despite his problems with Carla, who found the right words:
“It was not only good luck, Alex. The reality is that today has been The Perfect Day”».
Alberto couldn’t have made a better comment. Their day had been The Perfect Day, not because it was more exciting than any other away match day, or a greater win for Brescia. It had been perfect because Alex and his three friends, in just that short time span, had felt that life had treated them well, with not even one of those tricks it often plays.
Think about it, you learned people, and try to search in their story for a moral deeper than the one Alberto found. I dare you to do it, but I don’t believe you can. Maybe because you – and myself too, as learned as you are – can no longer feel the wonder of simple and decent things.
Or maybe because, if we still happen to come across them, we are so blind that we cannot see their real beauty any more.
English version edited by Roma O’Flaherty
1A 246-meter-long pier in the city centre. At the end of the First World War, the torpedo-boat destroyer Audace was the first ship of the Italian Navy to enter Trieste harbour, docking at this pier. To recall this event the pier was renamed Molo Audace.
2Both from Trieste, Umberto Saba (1883-1957) was a poet and Italo Svevo (1861-1928) a writer. Svevo met James Joyce in Trieste’s Berlitz School, where the Irish writer was an English teacher.
3Literally, “red-halberded”. US Triestina was Trieste’s glorious football club. Its badge is red with a white halberd in the centre.
4Italy’s national military police.
6The Bionic Man.
7The Sabotaged Fans.
8A TV anime series, very popular in Italy at the end of the Seventies.
9The Lioness is the symbol of Brescia Calcio.
11Officially known as Giuseppe Meazza Stadium, San Siro, located in Milan, is the home stadium of AC Milan and FC Internazionale Milano.