[Sampdoria Fans in the “Gradinata Sud” – photo pinched from lucadea…]
The Bon Scott Blog spluttered to life late last week. It’s a weird project for me. On the one hand I am relishing my relative ignorance of the subject, so that I can be the student in an enormous worldwide classroom in which my teachers are Bon’s fans. And on the other hand, immersing myself in the subject is no academic exercise – it involves hours of listening to AC/DC tracks at high volume, which tends to change a man somewhat…
I remember, years ago, in highschool, I was an exchange student in Italy. The city I stayed in, Genova, has two soccer teams, “Genoa” and “Sampdoria”. Kids at the local school I attended would always try to sway me one way or the other, competing to secure my allegiance to one of their beloved teams. But how could I choose between the two? I had never previously heard of either team, let alone see them play. I wasn’t really even into sport all that much. The decision seemed entirely arbitrary.
Eventually the choice was made for me. One of my friends, Andrea, dragged me to a Sampdoria game. He bought me a team scarf and a warm can of Heineken from a stall outside the stadium. Andrea was a member of the ultra fanatical Sampdorians and had a season ticket for a spot right behind the goalposts, where the most ardent supporters watch every match. Standing tall on the moulded plastic seats… stomping and shouting… learning the chants, which not only filled the air with sound but also penetrated my chest and churned my guts… letting my body go limp as the fans surged toward the cyclone mesh fence separating us from the elite athletes on the pitch… hollering with genuine pain and incredulity at the referee’s decisions and making that very Italian gesture of hands held together as if in prayer (meaning “how can this be happening??”)… screaming with unadulterated joy as Sampdoria scored its first goal… turning and hugging the man next to me… staggering jubilant and exhausted into the streets outside the stadium, discussing particular kicks and tackles, defensive strategies, umpiring decisions, what ifs… During those two hours I was conscripted into a community which took my loyalty for granted.
After the match, Andrea and his buddies were proud and somewhat boastful to have won me over from the rival Genoans. It was coercive, but I didn’t care. I was sold. I had been through a communal experience which was as moving, bodily, as it was satisfying intellectually. I had something to belong to. I had songs to sing. I had an easily identifiable enemy. I was a fan. It was that simple.