As a kid I was not that interested in sport, I preferred books and later computers, so sporting events in the 80s and early 90s mostly passed me by. I knew that the Sky Blues had won the FA Cup in 1987 but I spent most of that match playing with polystyrene aeroplanes on my parent’s stairs. Something then changed around 1994.
Firstly I discovered Sensible Soccer, perhaps the greatest football game ever made.
Playing with my dad, he would choose recently crowned (but soon to be disgraced) European Champions Marseille. Looking for a suitable opponent he suggested the beaten finalists. A certain Italian team founded in 1899 by an Englishman , the team of Maldini and Van Basten, the Diavolo, Associazione Calcio Milan.
I’m English, I’ve only been to Italy a few times and I’ve seen Huddersfield play more times than my own team (mainly because I’ve never been to see a live match… Which in some people’s book is an essential part of being a fan). Yet rather than following my local hometown football team (Bedworth United) or nearest “big” club (Coventry City), my allegiances lie further afield. I support AC Milan, Forza Rossoneri.
Around the time I was getting into football the English Premier League was formed, and saw the move of live matches from terrestrial TV to Sky. As we didn’t have satellite TV it meant that I was deprived of watching English football with the exception of the Saturday night highlights from Match of the Day. I needed some other outlet to watch the sport I was developing a liking for.
Thanks then to Channel 4 and its Sunday afternoon schedule. Nestled between obscure world sports and a movie from the 50s was Football Italia. Showing a live match from Series A it meant that at least once a week I could watch a full match from what was at the time the best league in Europe. At the time one team was on more than any, thanks to players such as Baresi and Boban they were enjoying great success, AC Milan. It helped that I knew these players, I had spent many hours running their tiny avatars around on a computer screen. Now I could see Donadoni in real life.
Along with the weekly game (to be watched during Sunday dinner) there was the always fantastic Gazzetta Football Italia on a Saturday morning. Just after Kabaddi and before the American Football highlights this rounded up all the past weeks action in an hour’s worth of highlights, interviews and Italian pastries. Hosted by the excellent James Richardson this was my weekend wakeup for many years, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever been able to since.
So as well as football computer games (which then include Championship Manager Italia – and the following spreadsheet soccer game addiction) and the TV show it helped that ITV had the newly branded UEFA Champions league on a Wednesday night. At the time English clubs were still banned from playing after the Heysel tragedy so this was still not and era of “the comeback in Barcelona” or “the miracle in Istanbul”. Instead it would show the top teams in Europe with nary a mention of an English team, it was bliss. During that season my newly acquired team reached the final to play, what was considered at the time, “greatest team ever in history because ITV says so”…a certain Barcelona FC.
What happened next confirmed the reason I came to support AC Milan. I was hooked.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Buffalo Nickel.”