Calcio Como v US Pistoiese: Lega Pro A
Saturday 11th March 2017, Stadio Guiseppe Sinigaglia
“When the desire to do something transcends reason or logic, the lines between passion and insanity become blurred and decreasingly distinguishable”. I am, of course, quoting myself. Those were the words that echoed in my head as I tried to fix my saddle at 0230 on a Saturday morning, three hours after going to bed. However, those thoughts were vocalised in my garage, in a moment of introspection and self-realisation as “just what the fuck am I doing?”
I was fumbling about with my bicycle, which had been in hibernation, in order to cycle 12km to my work, where I could securely lock up my bike. From there, I would hire one of the Brussels city-bikes, and continue my journey to Gare du Midi, in order to take the 0400 bus to Charleroi Airport for a 0620 flight to Milano Bergamo, where a shuttle bus would whisk me to Milan. I would hang around for a couple of hours before taking the train north to Como, to watch Third Division Italian football being played between two teams I had barely heard of, before rushing back to Milan for a schedule requiring extreme punctuality, planning and innate navigation. All parts, except taking a taxi instead of cycling, would be assiduously adhered to throughout this epic day.
On the other hand, I could have got up at a sensible time, taken the local bus to Brussels Airport about 0900 for a (more expensive) flight to Milan and either a) spent a relaxing day as a tourist in a cosmopolitan modern city or b) had a leisurely lunch in Milan before taking an earlier train to Genoa for the Derby Della Lanterna, allowing time for a wander around the sights and dinner near the ground watching the atmosphere build up. Sound nice, eh? Of course, being either ‘passionate’ about groundhopping or just a bit masochistic, I chose the exhausting option to squeeze in the match in Como. And, for all the hassle and the tiredness, it turned out to be a magnificent decision.
Getting There and Tickets
Using Milan as a hub, Como is reachable in just over half an hour or just over an hour by rail, depending on which train you take. Tickets are bookable in advance at Trenitalia.it and can be printed off but, at 4.80€, any savings from pre-booking will be negligible. My train there left from Milano Porta Garibaldi but my return train arrived at Milano Centrale. The two stations are about 15 minutes walk (or two Metro stops) from each other but one is like a marble tribute to the Renaissance whereas the other is more like a bus shelter in Paisley.
Tickets for the match can be bought online from listicket.it but it’s easy to walk up and buy the ticket just before entry. Passport or National ID cards are, as usual, required even when buying on the day, and even at this level, the ticket and documents are compared to verify that you are indeed the correct ticket holder.
Tourism is clearly a major employer in Como and it’s easy to see why. This is the kind of place where photos are taken and words like ‘idyllic’ or ‘paradise’ are superimposed. Although the town is not huge, it certainly has enough to keep you amused for a weekend, between the narrow streets, promenade area, funicular or lake cruises. I was only here for a few hours, including the match, so a stroll to the stadium to pick up the ticket, a wander around the old town and a spot of lunch were my collective achievements pre-match. I did imagine myself living there – it is the kind of place you’d like to wake up in and wander around.
It was beautiful weather, around 18°C, in Como and I was kitted out for a cloudless early morning start in Belgium, and the heat combined with the tiredness to deplete my energy rapidly. A pint of generic lager and a margherita (for a combined price of 9€) set me right and I meandered off to the ground via the joyous passageways and piazzi, being careful to avoid the unpredictable scooters, one of which was sideways in the middle of the road with its rider sadly still. Having nothing to offer to improve this situation, I scurried along to the ground, a little moved by the events and crescendo of sirens.
Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia
The stadium reaffirms many preconceptions and stereotypes regarding modern-day Italian engineering and quality. The stadium is quirky and oozes character but also looks like it would struggle to withstand any kind of force or adverse weather event. Only three of the four tribunes were open on the day as the lakeside stand looks like it has been condemned some time ago. The absence of scaffolding suggests that it is simply hanging around, waiting to die like an ailing pet whose owners cannot have it ‘put down’. And, as nostalgic and romantic as that stand is, surely the club should euthanize it and build something fit for purpose, as all this is doing now is providing photographic material for people like me, acting as a wind break for the players and serving as an assault course for pigeons.
Just about all of the fans were located, alongside me, in the Curva Como. The entry fee was 12€, and it was worth it simply to admire the view from the top of the stand with a beer on a sunny day. After entering the ground, there was a toilet block, whose smell could be weaponised, a few metres away from a little stall selling hot dogs and drinks. There were no prices anywhere, so I paid the 3€, which may or may not have included a foreigner levy, for a can of Peroni. The vendor was rather disgruntled when I handed over a 20€ note and, to be fair, he had amassed about as much change as the ‘busker’ on Argyle Street, in Glasgow, who used to just smack a spoon off of the pavement outside Woolworth’s. So, after shouting a few friends round, he cobbled together my change and off I went to admire the view. The sun was intense and I was worried I’d get a Vitamin D overdose, not to mention falling asleep.
The fans to my right tried their best to generate some atmosphere and there were about 250 who sang away for most of the match. However, this civilised paradise of a town is not fertile breeding ground for Ultras vocalizing their persecution. It was all rather pleasant and child friendly. There are not set seats, although the steps are numbered, and a higher vantage point does offer a better view. The depth of the steps facilitates slouching in a way that modern stadia just couldn’t possibly.
Como v Pistoiese
The match itself was intensely dreary. The pace was fairly slow but the accuracy of the final pass was abysmal, leading to a dearth of goalmouth action and incident. Goalless at half-time, with little of note to report, I found myself fantasising again about living in this area, close to Milan, the Mountains, beautiful weather etc. However, I do think I’d find myself taking regular journeys to the San Siro if the quality of football in Como was like this every week.
In the second half, an oasis of skill punctuated the desert of mediocrity and Como took the lead. There was no way another goal was likely – the game was that turgid. However, the experience of the stadium and the town was almost definitely worth the trip.
I could have happily spent a few hours more in Como after the match, but another match beckoned in Genoa later in the evening so I left the stadium early, looking back at the flimsiness of the half-full stand I had been in with a little relief, and chaffed my way to the train station, which is less than ten minutes away, for my chariot to Milan.
Verdict: An interesting old stadium in a stunning setting, so close to Milan, that it has to be worth a visit. Could easily be dovetailed with a romantic getaway….
- Quality of match: **
- Stadium character: ****.5
- Stadium atmosphere: **
- Hospitality: ***
- Ease of access: ****
- Things to do around the stadium: ****
- Overall: ***.5