Is there a country in the world
less deserving of a fantastic football team than Italy?
Well, yes, there's one beginning with 'E' and it's not Eritrea.
But for two hours in Milan, our hosts shared top billing with the worst football fans in the world. Make no mistake, this was the worst display of sustained hooliganism this fan has witnessed in more than 600 matches. No doubt there was some Billy Bollocks from Bryntirion who misbehaved and not every Welsh fan is an angel. But I and others can attest is that Welsh fans were on the end of disgraceful treatment.
And this is why:
1 In the tier above the Welsh fans behind the goal, the Italian national anthem was accompanied by scores of fans giving the fascist salute. After the partisans shot Mussolini in the countryside maybe they chose to hang his body in Milan's Piazzale Loreto. Maybe this was to make a particular point to people in the city.
2 Many fans present were spat upon, or hit by bottles of water, juice and urine thrown from up to a hundred feet above.
3 In an unique display of piggery, Italian rapscallions were seen to stick their own fingers down their throats to induce vomiting. Needless to say the bile didn't end up in the Italian upper section, but in our section.
4 The police generally took a step back (though others may tell you different) and weren't especially unfriendly. But this meant they ignored naughty Italians inside and outside the ground. At the end I saw one fan spit over the balcony towards us. He stood next to a policeman who pushed him but made no attempt to arrest him.
5 Your correspondent, his sister and a pal were among scores of people chased outside the ground by a gang of Italian hoodlums. The sound of shattering glass followed us down the street. My pal Phil was only ten yards from a hooligan wielding a metal bar. If this idiot had struck Phil he would have been attacking an Englishman who is the father of three Italian children and who has worked in Milan for the past five years. Fortunately we were able to escape from the scene without injury.
6 Not so fortunate was the 15-year-old son of Maesteg acquaintance. On his first Wales trip he went to the loo outside the ground where he was struck over the head with a bottle. Luckily this did not draw blood. He was also punched. His father, on trying to intervene to protect his son, was then coshed by an Italian copper, but not seriously hurt. He says he saw fans wielding knives. The 15-year-old, and dad, missed the game as he needed hospital treatment.
7 Another friend's wife was hit by a coin which drew blood from her face. Plasma pouring from the wound she endured a frightening period in which she was not sure how serious her injury was. Medical staff at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium cleaned up her face to discover a small cut on her face which, again fortuitously, could have been much worse.
8 If British fans had behaved as the Italians did in a British ground police would have had good cause, and rock-solid legal case, for arresting literally hundreds of people. This is fact. If you were to make Nazi salutes and throw objects at, say, Rotherham's ground, you wouldn't expect to see out the entire game. You would be nicked. You would probably be on CCTV. Case closed.
Though this might read like an anti-Italian tirade, it is not. It is not sour grapes. Anyone who has seen more than four Wales away matches has almost certainly seen us get embarrassingly stuffed. We don't do sour grapes otherwise we would be permanently sour. This is what happened.
In fact can I just point out that many locals were friendly, if a bit overdressed (and smug)?
And if you're, female, blonde with long hair and aged 20-35 please get in touch as I'd be quite happy to marry you. Bought the ring already. If you're one of the girls who wears thigh-high boots on a night out, I'll throw in a honeymoon to Rio (you'll have to keep the boots on 24 hours a day, mind).
All the above I either witnessed or was told by people who are trustworthy and have no axe to grind with Italians. I know they are not hooligans. I didn't see the self-induced vomiting but was told separately of it by three people, who do not know each other, at different times during the weekend. I certainly believed it happened.
All this fan can offer is a snapshot. Speak to anyone coming back from Milan and you'll no doubt have several more stories to stir into the pot. Some nastier, some blaming the police - perhaps rightly perhaps wrongly, I can't make much of judgement on that one. But I can say I didn't witness a single Welsh fan being aggressive without having being provoked or intimidated or chased.
What hurts is that many fans on this trip were watching Wales abroad for the first time. They ranged from two-year-olds to an 85-year-old taken to Milan after recently learning that he has terminal cancer. For the first time that I can remember there were more than 20 women on the trip. Many of these people will not go again, that's for sure.
We certainly did not deserve any of this. What also hurts is not so much the scoreline, which some of us were expecting, but details like the fact that so many Welsh fans made huge efforts to get to Milan. It was a game that was possibly the most eagerly anticipated in the nation's football history. People were asking me 12 month ago where it was going to be played. It was a question regular followers began to dread as no one had the answer. A win, I'm sure, would've assured qualification.
Then there's stuff like the Welsh fans from the supporters' charity Gol making a special match-day trip to a Monza hospital to make a donation to help children suffering from leukaemia. In return, some oik spits on you. All this makes you question why you bother to go at all.
And there's the match itself. For 50 minutes it was fantastic, overcharged atmosphere. You could almost feel your spinal cord pulsing with excitement. A great game, the best I'd seen us play abroad in 15 years. The goals came and the reality of the treatment some people were receiving started to hit home. Sometimes the adrenalin drowns your perception of what else is happening. Goalhanger Inzaghi struck and suddenly the focus became the horrible home fans. Ninety five per cent weren't all horrible at all of course but many in the tier above us, and dozens lurking outside, were.
The Welsh support in the face of all this was magnificent, genuinely awe-inspiring. Something that will live with me until I die and brings a frog to your throat. We were able to taunt the Italians with 'You're supposed to be at home' early on and most of the first-half singing brought disapproving whistles from lazy locals who could not be bothered to get behind their own side.
Then, the piece de resistance. Despite being 4-0 down, the last five minutes were an extraordinary, raging, passionate affirmation of what it means to be Welsh.
Eight thousand angry, disappointed and abused people conjured up a blistering sonic rebuke. Eight thousand Bryn Terfels would have struggled to match it. It was a metaphorical Fuck Off to the gesticulating ratbags and nauseating Nazis queueing up to lean over the balcony to wash us down with spittle and hate while we ogled their fashionista girlfriends (I'm serious about the marriage offer, signoritas).
We were then left to boil in our annoyance for 45 minutes in which life became so dull we started reading the labels on the bottles, kindly donated by those upstairs, just to improve our Italian. Did you know that Acqua Vera has a median spring source pH of 7.99?
In this cauldron of contempt, pain, pleasure, passion mingled to produce a bellyful of fiery defiance. I'd have to say that this was the finest Welsh fan response of all.
Tell you what, we all deserve a seat in the National Assembly.
Fan of the day:
Well this has to be my sister Sian - an away trip virgin. That means it was her first trip, OK? She'd probably beat me up if she wasn't and she deserves it after a weekend of irritations spent sharing a twin room. Hey, look, at least I didn't fart as much as I normally do.
Quote of the week:
'For some people, Milan can be the most depressing experience of their life.' That's my iron-bar defying mate Phil who broke the world record for 100 metres at midnight on Sunday. Not bad for a 40-year-old. He works in Milan, he should know. It doesn't apply to this happily married family man, but it somehow may sum up the experience of some visitors.
I love this bloke. But he was a penalty waiting to happen. A mutual friend assures me he was unhappy at playing at right-back against Azerbaijan in March. And they're crap. So why pick him there against one of the best teams in the world? Delaney should have been right back and Williams, if fit, centre half. But even then it would have been 2-0.
Given that Italians prefer to vomit at football matches and not nightclubs, the disco decor is pretty good in Milan as clubs splash the cash knowing the clientele will not leave a calling card. Especially at the Casablanca Club where they make up for the refusal to play The Clash with the ornate furnishings that would have Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen dribbling snot down his velvet lapels.
The leopardskin pouffes are on a par with Da Vinci's Last Supper on the wall at the church down the road. Only kidding, the pouffes are dead naff but I want one. Can someone tell me where I can buy one?
Just to reiterate. Bobbing Along salutes everyone who went. Your stoicism and your indefatigable pursuit of the pointless is akin to those stupid bearded people who always seem to be walking to the North Pole on crutches\backwards or some other silly gimmick.
We salute the air you breathe, your common humanity, the sacred fire in your belly and your reckless devotion to the cause.
This may well be the site's last away report as a line has to be drawn somewhere. If we win any play-off, that will be written up. If we lose the play-off, it won't be, as tragedy is best left to the ancient Greeks.
But whatever else happens . . .
Cadwch y ffydd.
Read Mark Ainsbury's account of
the game on the 1927 club site at: