Francesco Sarchi is feeling the ‘derby fever’ ahead of an enthralling semi-final tie against his side’s eternal rivals. Here’s more from our Champions Journalist fan reporter
A few days ago I turned on the TV while having lunch and the news was on. “Derby fever is starting!” said the presenter. To me, nothing can be more wrong than that. To paraphrase Sylvester Stallone in First Blood: “Nothing is starting. Nothing! You just don't turn it on!” Every football fan knows that rivalries don’t just stop and start around matchdays – they’re everlasting.
The Milan derby is always more than a football match and it’s something I would never miss, even when the result ends up being too hard to deal with. The city of Milano is finally under the European football spotlight once again. Sure, neither club was expected to be here this season but let me remind you that this is the only city that’s home to two Champions League winners. In the past 20 years, Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan and José Mourinho’s Inter have been two of the best sides to grace a football pitch. We’re not lucky: we thoroughly deserve to be here. And whoever wins this semi-final won’t be in the final to merely make up the numbers.
I really love the atmosphere that precedes these Milan derbies; there’s fear and hope in the air across the city. Friends and family are suddenly divided by their differing faiths, with jokes about the rival side flying about. Balconies, windows, cars and scooters all over the city are adorned with flags and stickers of both clubs, as supporters proudly display their loyalty.
As for the match itself, everyone turns up to the San Siro draped in their scarves, shirts and hats, proudly brandishing their flags at the stadium. Blue, black, yellow, red, white and black again; all the colours swirl together endlessly to create a Milanese football rainbow (despite the limited colours) to embrace the greatest derby in football.
Coming to the main event, I vividly remember the Champions League derbies in 2003 and 2005 and believe me, since 17 March, after the draw was made in Nyon, I started having flashbacks and nightmares about those years. I was 14 for the derby in 2003 and 16 for the next, and my teenage years were rather unpleasantly marked by those matches. I just hope that my thirties as a Nerazzurro will be significantly better…
We all know that even if there’s a 1% possibility of a Milan derby in the Champions League, it will happen. As we say in Italy: “Good luck is blind, but bad luck can see perfectly.”