All my life, I dreamed of watching Juventus.
I began supporting the Old Lady since I was young. My cousins are related to Alessandro Del Piero in Italy and once I discovered that, I immediately put on a Juventus kit. It was incredible knowing that my family were so close to one of the best Italian footballers of my generation.
I’m unabashed to say that some seasons I did not watch them all the time. It is difficult living in Canada to watch European football. The matches are on in the afternoon instead of the evening, so work and school come into play. It did not take away from that they are my favourite club. Heck, they even played the Champions League final on my birthday, and it was one of the best performances I have seen from Juventus. They were unlucky to lose 3-1. Over the past seven to eight years or so, I have done an excellent job following Juventus. I learned about streaming, and it makes life much easier.
Once I scheduled my England trip to study for a semester in Cheltenham, I messaged my cousin Cristiano to get tickets for the Udinese vs Juventus match in March. My mom’s side of the family are in Friuli and this match is not far away. So, by the time March 5th came around, I woke up that morning in disbelief that this moment is actually happening.
I began my vlog video on my phone, describing the two teams. It is great that you can be an away supporter and sit wherever you want in the stadium. Juventus fans all across the north part of Italy can get to Udine a lot easier than Turin. In England, it differs significantly, as you can be escorted out of the stadium if you are an away fan caught sitting with the home supporters; especially in a derby.
Cristiano and I waited outside the gates for over an hour in the rain. When they finally opened, and let fans in, we entered the arena only to see an explosion of colourful seats all around. You can feel the intensity in the arena already, as the Juventus and Udine Curva’s (Ultra fans) began shouting at each other. The match was far from the start, and already it felt like a cup fixture.
Some of the players came out as well. Leonardo Bonucci and Stephan Lichtsteiner drew a crowd. I got on TV in the pregame waving around the Canadian flag I had brought with me. That was something special, showing Italian football fans I travelled that distance to watch my club.
The best part of the pre-game was seeing Gianluigi Buffon warm up. A football legend and one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, was warming up in front of me. It was exhilarating knowing he was less than 50 yards away. I hoped that I would get the chance to meet him. It did not come true of course, however it was an honour watching him play.
When the match began, it was everything you see on TV except for the fact that my cousin and I had amazing seats near the Juventus Curva and close to the pitch. Udinese fans revealed a large flag expanded right across a group of fans in the middle of the Arena and understandably so, it was awesome.
The atmosphere was fuelled with excitement and great energy. Udinese were the better side I must admit. All of the fans were shouting and screaming at almost every play, some were calling out the players’ names.
When Udinese took the lead in the first half, I knew Juventus were going to come back; or at least I hoped they would. I hoped they would not lose or else that would have been horrible for the first and possibly only, Serie A football match I’ll see. The entire team were stale on the ball, lacking movment on either end of the pitch. Mandzukic was playing left wing, and I thought to myself a player of his style does not suit it, what was he doing out there?
Juventus had a lot more to give. Something was preventing the Bianconeri from an optimal performance. Whether it was the fact that Udinese always seem to come out and fight hard against Juventus, or the team were not communicating properly. Allegri was clearly frustrated on the touchline.
Dybala and Higuain were not at their best. However, Dybala’s delivery in the second half right in front of the section I was sitting in, soared through the air to find a streaking Bonucci in the penalty area. The Italian International, and of my favourite centre backs in the world, punched in the equaliser. Head Coach Luigi Del Neri of Udinese, was ejected from the match after aggressively appealing the play. He believed the goal was a foul. Buffon made an incredible save off of a corner kick shortly after, and suddenly, Juventus came to life.
The crowd got louder on our end, and I got goosebumps all down my arms. I’ve only experienced the Juventus curva from my laptop, watching videos online. Higuain and Pjanic had some quality chances but could not capitalize. The match ended 1-1.
All I can say about my entire time there; was I could not thank my cousin enough for fulfilling my dream. I probably will not get this chance ever again to come and watch my team play. I was filled with emotion the entire game during the match, egging on my team during corner kicks and during the plays.
That is Juventus I must admit. When they face teams that are down in the table, they do not always play the greatest. But when they play teams such as Milan, Inter or Napoli, La Vecchia Signora are on another planet.
It was a pleasure to witness some of the best footballers in the world grace the pitch. Seeing huge names such as Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Gianluigi Buffon, Claudio Marchisio and many more from the Juventus and Udinese side. It is not something anyone can say in Canada; making this experience that much more unique.
A football match atmosphere is at the pinnacle of sports venues. Its character rises above American Football, Baseball, Hockey and Basketball. Nothing compares.
I can’t wait to see what they do in Champions League. I really pray to god they win for Gianluigi Buffon’s sake. He has been unlucky in the past two finals he’s been a part of, and I really hope they win it all. Something tells me, they can, and they are being overlooked because of the other big clubs in the competition like Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Juventus are even rumoured to be in talks with Alexis Sanchez. If that happens, we will have one of the most dangerous front three’s in all of Europe. That should surely be in the conversation with Barcelona’s and Real Madrid’s attack.
I hope to see them again someday, hopefully in the near future. The Champions League final is in Cardiff which is really close to Cheltenham. If they make it, I’ll do my best to try and get a ticket. Until then, we’ll wait and see.