The guests they are the first to come out of locker rooms. They line up in single file, then slowly advance towards the field. One step after another, a sigh behind the other. With cleats that hit hard against the floor and the head trying to imagine what awaits them out there. Whistles raining down from the stands. And a hail of insults in one tongue foreign. The men in white shirts trample the green grass of the Sempione Velodrome and raise their heads towards the bleachers. That’s when that sound sticks to their ears. They are not whistles, but hands clapping against each other. By the thousands. It is a long, sincere, heartfelt applause. Some player thanks, someone else reciprocates. Almost everyone is moved. Because to make that friendly in Milan special between Italy e Austria it is mainly the date written on the report. It is played on January 15, 1922.
Not even three years have passed since Treaty of Saint-Germain. The wound is still open. And it will be for a long time. With that armed peace theAustria had ceded to the Kingdom of Italy the Trentino Alto Adige and its territories in Friuli e Istria. Then, a few months later, the Treaty of Rapallo it had tightened the terms of surrender. The monarchy of the boot had the right, among other things, also to Trieste, Gorizia and Gradisca. The winners had decided. And the losers had to adapt. It was the end of a one year long nightmare war unaccountable. And now the old enemies find themselves facing each other. The shirts instead of the uniforms, the shoes instead of boots, the ball instead of bullets. For a second on that green lawn a horrifying past swirls. Trench warfare and the shoulders of Cadorna, the men who run beyond enemy lines and bullets whistling and sticking into the flesh, the twelve battles of theIsonzo, the filthy rags of War of Giuseppe Ungaretti, weapons that kill, or even worse, mutilate. And again the battle of Caporetto, the accusations of mutiny, the blood and the retreat with the heart in the throat, for eighty kilometers. Back to Monte Grappa, back to the Piave. Then the resistance. Stubborn, insane, desperate. An anonymous hand decides to turn it into motto. Indeed, in warning.
In Sant’Andrea di Barbarana there is one casupola eaten in bites by the war. The left half collapsed under the bombs. The one on the right is still standing, stubborn like a flower emerging from the rubble. Someone decides to write a message on it with paint: “All heroes! Or the Piave or all coupled! “. The certain defeat that turns into the hope of victory. At first shy, then determined, cheeky. The Piave murmurs, the enemy is not defeated, but is weakened. Now on that green lawn of the Velodromo two peoples remember for a moment the harm they have done, the lives they have extinguished, i trauma that they have imposed. And they decide to move on. The fifteen thousand who managed to buy the tickets despite the insane prices they clap their hands at those they previously considered enemies. It’s a reaction that leaves everyone blown away. Especially the Austrians. They introduced themselves to Milano representing a different state. He no longer has the imperial banners yellow and black, but white and red. And he’s grappling with a whole new problem. Because after the end of the war, Italy and Austria met another opponent. More invisible, but sneaky nonetheless. Is called inflation.
He scourges everyone. Who has a income fixed. Who does not know how to combine lunch with dinner. In the Bel Paese, prices rise almost three times. Beyond the Alps about eleven. The end of the war becomes the premise for a new war. Far in time, but still impossible to dodge. Nobody in those days seems to notice, because there is a desperate need for lightness, to convince oneself that the normality it is not a utopia. They had shown it two nights earlier, when the Austrian team arrived in Milan. They had gone to greet her in fifty. Federal summits, confederal summits, simple fans. Someone insists on taking the suitcase of Hugo Meisl, coach of Austria, and take her to the hotel where the official reception takes place. It is a very restricted ceremony. A few speeches, many smiles. Meisl seems confident. “We are animated towards you by the best feelings of courtesy: we ask for courtesy “. They will get it. On match day on Velodromo it is full to the last place. Indeed, the seats are not enough.
The organizers find a creative solution: two rows of numbered chairs are placed on the lawn. There are journalists and sportsmen. But also politicians, like the honorable Benni and Zaniboni. The gates are closed around 1.30pm. Only that five Azzurri I’m late. They haven’t shown up yet. And getting them in is quite laborious. So when at 14 Austria takes the field of Italy there is not even a shadow. Men in white shirts and shorts neri keep warming up. They pass the ball, try some shots on goal. Then after a quarter of an hour the Azzurri appear from the tunnel. The Velodrome explodes in another applause. Even more intense, even longer. The captains of the two teams exchange smiles, bouquets of flowers and pennants, shake hands. The first half ends 2-1 for Italy. Mark Moscardini, then Santamaria cancels the own goal of From Old. In the second half the Azzurri stretch thanks to another goal from Moscardini. It is done. There National managed to beat one of the strongest teams in the world. Or so it seems. At 65 ‘ Chef shorten the distances, then ten minutes later Fischer nails the result at 3-3. This time there are no winners or losers. The stands of the Velodrome suddenly fall silent. It is as if they are asking the two teams to continue playing. Then a fan gets up and takes the exit. The others follow him. One after the other. No hurry. They bring with them the bitterness for a nuanced success. And the satisfaction for having smiled at what until some time before they called the enemy.