The Italian Job
Peter Fraser picks his highlights from a fan's eye experience of following Man City in Turin.
Last Updated: 22/12/10 11:19am
A Shroud, Fiat and even Michael Caine (hence a face-smacking, groan-inducing article title) have made Turin famous over the years, but for me the northern Italian city will always be memorable after a once-in-a-lifetime experience following the fans of Manchester City.
When my phone rumbled into life last week with a call offering me the opportunity to travel to cover City's concluding Europa League Group A match against continental giants Juventus, it required approximately one nanosecond to decide between a search for a passport or declining because of a diary clash with the skysports.com Christmas party... 'Hold on a minute lads, I've got an idea!'
One Night in Turin, well actually two days as well, soaking up the atmosphere of City's diehard travelling support, watching live European football and grabbing a snapshot of the Italian lifestyle, with a couple of celebrities thrown in, was a fantastic experience. Here are my highlights from an unforgettable trip courtesy of Thomas Cook Sport.
Manchester City fans
I'm not alone in this, but the arrival of Sheikh Mansour's substantial wallet and the knock-on effects have, in my eyes, left City representing more of a recruitment agency than a club. It was therefore brilliantly refreshing and reassuring to mingle with fans in Turin's city centre ahead of, what it should be remembered was a dead-rubber match, to discover the passion, character, dedication and nostalgia of travelling supporters remains strong. Whether talking with City fan Tommy Muir at Stazione Porta Nuova or chatting with Roger Hinchcliffe, a blue since 1968, on Re Umberto there was never a mention of oil-inflated bank accounts.
Alessandro Del Piero
A genuine legend of the Beautiful Game and even at the age of 36 the Italian was still the best player on the pitch in the 1-1 draw between Juventus and City. Captain Del Piero showed all the finesse, deft touches and vision which has made him a footballing icon. The years may have caught up with him in the second half, but he had already set up Nicolo Giannetti for a simple finish past Shay Given and Juve's opening goal, while a pirouette turn that drew a foul from James Milner was also especially memorable. Not many Juventus fans ventured out on a bitterly cold night, however, those who were in the stadium singing, 'Un capitano c'è solo un capitano!' created an evocative atmosphere.
Some Might Say, ahem, this is a piece of shameless namedropping, but how often do you get to sit on a plane, the row in front of a bona fide rock star, when he is having a conversation about Sid Waddell? Waiting for baggage to arrive at Turin airport in the company of City fan Noel and his friend, Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian, was also a surreal experience and one that will never be forgotten.
Sadly, the famous Stadio delle Alpi is of course undergoing a renovation process ahead of next season, but the Stadio Olimpico di Torino provided a more than ample replacement. A sneaky look around the small but quaint stadium when City were going through a gentle training session on the morning of the match was an added bonus. The sun was just peeking over the top of the stands to melt a fierce frost that had rolled in from the Alps to create a beautiful sight. An attendance of less than 7,000 for the match in the evening was disappointing, but this was not the fault of City fans, who had travelled despite an almost meaningless match. The visiting blues made themselves heard with chants of, 'Mancini whooaa, Mancini whooaa, he came from Italy, to manage Man City.'
If you ever have the chance to visit Turin and are feeling a little flush, stay at the five-star Golden Palace hotel. Relaxing, luxurious and even prepared to order you a takeaway pizza when you roll in late and the restaurant and room service have called it a night. Also, if in town, visit the Arcadia restaurant in Galleria Subalpina.
Thomas Cook Sport is the official travel partner of Manchester City. For more information on European packages for Manchester City fans please visit www.thomascooksport.com or call 0844 800 9900.