Inter vs Udinese: My San Siro Experience
The San Siro is one of the grandest theaters of World football. Its architecture is simply iconic, like a massive oil rig set in suburban Milan. It is historic, having opened in 1927, and is the home of two Global footballing giants - AC Milan and Internazionale. The stadium is massive with a seating capacity of almost 80,000, making it the largest in Italy and 6th largest in Europe. It has played host to some of the most dramatic and memorable games of football, and watching a game here is on every football fan’s bucket list.
Our view from the heavens at the San Siro (We were a lot closer to the action than it appears in this wide-angled GoPro shot).
With the San Siro being only five hours away, from Geneva (where I am studying abroad), and with one of the Milan teams playing at home every weekend, it was only a matter of time before I made a trip down there. The stars aligned for Inter’s clash with Udinese on 18th February 2023 and I was able to snag tickets for a student-friendly €15.
After a panic-stricken train ride back from Lake Como on matchday (I thought I had not bought the tickets after reading an email that said my payment had not gone through), my friend Jameson and I reached our hostel and made plans for a last-minute dash to the box office. Luckily, I decided to check my other email account and found the tickets there, so we were able to take a more relaxed stroll to the stadium.
The route took us along this long wall (enclosing a horseracing track) and it was covered in graffiti and murals. Many of them were football related – tributes to former Milan/Italy legends and famous victories. As we got closer to the stadium, we found a food truck and got a quick pre-game snack. I got myself an Inter scarf from one of the many vendors outside the stadium for just €10. There was a very interesting selection of scarves, including one with Bart Simpson pissing on an AC Milan badge, but I stuck with a relatively simple design.
We took our time outside the stadium and by the time we decided to go in (15 minutes before kick-off) the line outside our gate was massive. With about 5 mins left, we got through, but we still had the long winding, yet iconic, spiral staircases of the San Siro to ascend. When we eventually reached our seats, which were in the very last row of the Tribuna Rosso (Red Stand), the match was already 45 seconds in.
The struggle to get into the San Siro was real, but it only meant we had more time to look up in awe at this magnificent footballing edifice.
Sitting in the highest row, by the half-line, gave us an excellent bird’s eye view of the game. Having sat behind the goal in all the games I have attended so far in Europe, this was a pleasant change as I was able to see everything that was happening on the pitch. In our section, the seats were so close to each other that we were packed together like sardines. I was shoulder to shoulder with the person on either side of me and there was no leg room whatsoever (not that I cared). Our stand was extremely steep and the rows in front of us felt like they were directly beneath us. Looking up, I felt I could almost touch the roof of the stadium and the catwalk was just above our eye line. The stand to our left was occupied by the Inter Ultras (the Curva Nord), while the Udinese supporters were given a section high up in the opposite end .
During the first half, it was all Inter. They completely dominated proceedings and Udinese were content with sitting back and defending. Romelu Lukaku, despite his struggles at Chelsea and with Belgium in the World Cup, was extremely successful in his hold-up striker role at Inter. The midfielders would constantly target him with their longballs, which he would settle, thereby establishing a more advanced position for Inter to start their attacks. Lukaku continued to be a nuisance for the Udinese defenders and in the 15th minute his cutback to Edin Džeko caused chaos in the Udinese box and led to an Inter penalty. Lukaku stepped up to take it, but his penalty was tame and was saved by Marco Silvestri, the Udinese keeper. The Inter fans immediately began chanting Lukaku’s name to show their unconditional support for him, and after seeing that I could kind of understand Lukaku’s controversial comments in that infamous interview at Chelsea. Fortunately for the Belgian, Silvestri stepped off his line too early so Inter were handed a re-take. This time, Lukaku buried his penalty into the bottom right corner and the Nerazzurri took an early 1 – 0 lead.
Later, in the 42nd minute, Lukaku continued to be in the limelight but this time for the wrong reasons. His giveaway in midfield sparked a devastating Udinese counterattack, which concluded with Sandi Lovric scoring the equalizer. While Udinese did have some opportunities, this goal came so late in the first half and so much against the run of play that the San Siro was momentarily in shock.
The Curva Nord (Inter's Ultras) were bouncing all game long. Rather than cursing at players when they make a mistake, the Curva Nord sing their names to urge them on - a great sight to see at the football.
At half-time, we decided to stay near our seats and not really explore the stadium because we had to descend so many steps and the concourses were packed. I took the time to reflect on the first half and these were my thoughts - The noise and atmosphere in the San Siro is something I will never forget. Even though this was a standard league game against a mid-table Serie A opponent, the attendance was a whopping 71,248. There was plenty of noise coming from the Curva Nord, and it was quite loud even where we sat. The popular songs would often catch on with fans in other stands and the noise would be breathtaking. Whenever there was an officiating decision that the inter fans did not like, the whistling was deafening, and the noise rose up the stadium until it reached us. Seeing this, I could not even imagine what the San Siro would have been like four days later when Inter hosted Porto in the Champions League.
During the second half, Inter continued to pile on the pressure. An impressive exchange of passes between Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Federico Dimarco in the Udinese box led to Inter’s first big chance of the second half, but Silvestri was equal to Mkhitaryan’s thumping drive. A few minutes later Džeko had a great opportunity, after Udinese’s defender Rodrigo Becão was caught in possession, but Slivestri made another crucial save to keep the game level.
At midpoint of the second half, the game opened up as both teams were searching for the go-ahead goal. In the 72nd minute, Udinese had a great opportunity when Isaac Success led a four against two counterattack. To the disappointment of his teammates, he chose to take it himself and his shot was blocked by a retreating Denzel Dumfries. The very next minute, Inter made Udinese pay for their missed opportunity through Mkhitaryan’s well taken volley from the edge of the box.
While celebrating this goal, the guy sitting next to me spilled his beer on my jacket which sparked a great conversation. Turns out that he is from Nantes and is therefore an FC Nantes supporter. The Inter game was the culmination of his trip that included watching Nantes draw 1 – 1 with Juventus in Turin, and skiing in the Italian Alps. When his friends came to hand him another beer, they saw me filming on my GoPro and began singing Nantes chants at the top of their voice. It was such a great time, and it was nice to see other tourist fans.
In the 88th minute, World Cup Winner Lautaro Martínez (who had come on for Lukaku) found himself bearing down on the Udinese goal with the chance to seal the game. However, he tried to chip the keeper and ended up putting it over the crossbar - a disappointing end to a promising attack. Just a minute later, he was through on goal yet again with the opportunity to redeem himself. This time, the Argentine smashed home into the top corner and wheeled off to celebrate in front of the Curva Nord. Udinese could not muster up another equalizer and the game ended 3 – 1 in favor of the Nerazzurri.
As we left the San Siro, everyone was in high spirits which was great to see. Several fans were still singing at the top of their lost voice on their way out. Walking down the San Siro spirals, when in no hurry, was a vibe. You could see thousands of fans descending the adjacent spirals which made for quite the optical illusion. I think this was definitely one of my favorite football experiences in Europe so far, because the atmosphere lived up to the hype. Given the weight of the fixture, there was not much of a pyro show or tifo display in the Curva Nord . But, just the manner in which the songs rang through the San Siro was mind-blowing in itself.
On another note, the San Siro is set to host the opening ceremony of the 2026 Winter Olympics, but plans have been made for it to be demolished and rebuilt (in an ambitious and modern fashion) after that. So, if you have the San Siro experience on your bucket list, make sure you try and get out there in the next three years before the San Siro, as we know it, is no more.
My friend Jameson (left) and I (right) posing for yet another low resolution post-game picture - this one will have a special place in the memory books.