Then as it was, then again it will be
And though the course may change sometimes
Rivers always reach the sea
The river reached Madrid; the river reached Cologne.
Close your eyes and think about how many things have changed and how many stayed the same in your life.
I was still in high school, in my hometown Mola di Bari, Italy. I had great friends; I was finally belonging somewhere. I was happy to be in class because home was a mess. I had just earnt my driving licence and destroyed two cars in a crash.
My brother was a smiley little fella, just turned 6. I could dribble him. I could chip the ball over his head and score. Now he is taller than me and he laughs at how much I suck at football.
My first love, the Scuderia, was fighting for the championship with Fernando Alonso, a driver that I hated until he won his first GP with our car.
I had a great girlfriend.
Had no money, had no sense of family left but a new sense of existing, and life was good.
Inter hosted the first leg of the 2010 UEFA Champions League Semi Final and defeated the greatest team in the sport at that time, the mighty Barcelona.
I remember with a smile the circumstances of that match. The Spanish team was forced to reach Milano on a bus, because some volcano erupted in Iceland and its ashes disrupted the air traffic.
Inter won that game 3-1. That game started with them scoring the first goal. Then, the leitmotiv of the game changed and became: C’è solo l’Inter. There was only Inter on the pitch. And we repeated our performance in Barcelona in the second leg, defending in 10. Losing 1-0. The sweat, natural sweating when you play against Xavi, Iniesta and Messi, was hosed down by the sprinkles that some funny Spanish bloke turned on to kick us out from the Camp Nou. He didn’t understand. We were not celebrating the great feat of defeating Barcelona. We were celebrating, for many of us it was the first and only, the access to the Final of the Champions League. The most prestigious football clubs’ competition.
It was an unbelievable emotion, but not an unbelievable scenario. Inter was killing it since 2005. We were witnessing a new golden era in Inter history. Between 2005 and that Catalan night, we had already celebrated 4 leagues, 2 national cups and 4 national super cups. We were a winning team. We knew we could. We were aware of it. And we believed, oh yes, that we could lift the Champions League.
Ten years later, I’m on the other side of the world: Sydney, Australia. Unemployed. Uni student. I’m back at not belonging, despite I’ve met good people and made few friends. I’m richer than I was ten years ago. I have my car and a bike. Scuderia isn’t fighting for victories, never mind championships. Life is good, even if I’m single. Any cute female interista in the area keen to apply?
And the circumstances in which we played the Semi Final of the UEFA Europa League 2020 are, again, extraordinary: we play on neutral ground, in Germany, behind closed doors because the world is trying to recovering from a pandemic that has taken away over 773000 lives worldwide; taken away jobs, careers, businesses, hopes and dreams; and it is forcing us to staying in our homes, and social distancing.
Perhaps we are that unlucky, and extraordinary, team that wins when the world is experiencing novelties, strangeness, changes. The Donald Duck of football, as Italian comic artists have described us on the pages of the weekly Topolino. Maybe is karma, maybe is life balancing itself. Maybe the superior force that governs the Universe make us Inter supporters suffer every season, but then it repays us with plenty of interest when things are really going bad. To raise our spirits. To bring joy to one’s neighbour.
And be honest to yourself: could you really believe this scenario? Could you compare your feelings of today to the feelings of that April 28, 2010? Can you look yourself at the mirror and saying: we are in the Final? After a season like this? After 8 years of draught? Of managers come and gone, some after as little as 5 official games? Of players that were undeserving of our colours? Can you believe we are in the Final this year, after the season we had? After the last few weeks? After “a Juventino on our bench, preseason without a striker, Lukaku is not worth 85 million, Dzeko renewed with Roma, we won’t win with Barella from Cagliari and Sensi from Sassuolo, Lautaro to Barcelona, Conte to leave” and other nonsense from the 2019/2020 season?
We are in the Final of Europa League. This is not 2010. This is not 1998. Not 1997. And not an extreme football scenario as 1994.
This is more like 1991. Gulf War. German Independence. End of Apartheid. End of Soviet Union. End of Yugoslavia. Michael Schumacher debut.
And Inter lifting its first UEFA Cup. That has since changed name in UEFA Europa League. And Inter is yet to win it.