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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Valencia CF - Inter Milan 0-0

Valencia CF - Inter Milan 0-0

I was let in on the secret of how this elimination round of the UEFA Champions League works. Two clubs play each other away and at home and the winner is decided either by wins or goal differentials. Valencia tied Inter Milan in Milan two weeks ago with a score of 2-2. This means that for last night’s game Milan had to either win or score at least two goals in another draw. If the game had ended in a 2-2 draw, then it would go into an over-time. If the over-time did not decide a winner then there would be a penalty shoot-out.

Barcelona needed to score at least two goals and beat Liverpool to advance to the quarter finals. They won 1-0 and were forced out of the tournament. Real Madrid plays Bayern Munich tonight in Germany.

Luckily I knew this before the game began last night or my stress level would have been even higher. It was pretty crazy around the stadium last night as you would imagine. There was an army of police on hand complete with a horse brigade. Last week the Coach for the Sevilla club was hit by a bottle someone had thrown from the stands so it isn’t like Spanish football is immune from the violence that has erupted elsewhere. I also learned that the reason for the small crowd in Milan two weeks ago for the first match between these teams was because Milan was only permitted to let in 35,000 fans. This was a precautionary measure because of fan violence in Italy.

The crowd hanging out in the Plaza del Valencia CF was well-behaved. There were perhaps 400 people all singing and screaming at the televisions. At times it seemed that this mob was making more noise than the crowd inside the stadium. It was a very harmless group for the most part. I was, however, keeping an eye on the dozen skinheads standing directly in front of me. A television reporter from Channel 9 was interrupted during his filming when the skinheads started chanting “periodista, terrorista” but that was about as rowdy as they got. Even skinheads respect Spanish football.

At the very end of the game a tussle broke out on the field between the players. It was getting a bit ugly and all I said to myself, “This is how a huge riot probably starts,” but the only aggression was on the field. I watched the game recap in a bar down the block and everyone got a big laugh watching one of the Valencia trainers running away from a Milan player. He’ll have to live with the shame for a long time. Remember, if you are going to do something incredibly cowardly, don’t do it in front of 53,000 and TV cameras.

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