Certain views of San Siro – the flights of steps descending imperiously towards the pitch, the overlapping rows heaving with supporters, the shining green of the grass – convey the impression that everything, in this place, helps create a sense of vertigo, both majestic and captivating. It is something which is back, amplified and inebriant, each time that Inter and Milan meet in one of the most spectacular derbies of the international football: then vertigo becomes electricity, and the surrounding atmosphere – the straightforward inventiveness of the two supporter groups behind the goal post, the engaging rhythm of the applauses, the way in which a goal is followed by the spectators’ booming reaction, at first dull outbreak, then ecstatic lapping – before which nobody cannot but remain dazed.
It is an history of sports-related passion and beauty to which Pirelli has matched its own brand, since when – in 1995 – it chose to appear on the Inter shirts. Thus Pirelli has associated its own image to the strongest footballers of the World, from Ronaldo to Vieri, from Milito to Ibrahimovic, from Zanetti to Icardi, all of them protagonists of epical matches versus opponents just as globally important, like Maldini, Shevchenko, Pirlo, Kaká. It is the unique marvel of the Madonnina derby, nowhere in Europe can you observe a similar situation, where two rivals boast equal prestige and equal importance: either because there is a sports and financial gap (Barcelona, Munich, Liverpool) or because the focus is not around only two clubs (London) or because the rivalry on equal terms is in its infancy and not firm (Manchester, to some extent Madrid). The tradition of the derby of Milan is, for itself, an irresistible appeal for fans, in every part of the world, and is somehow similar to Pirelli’s tradition of excellence.
The derbies of the last season seconded the idea of a balanced rivalry, dedicated to show and emotions. In the first leg, in November 2016, Milan was ahead twice with Suso, with in the middle Candreva’s provisory equalizer. Then, during the stoppage-time, Inter took a corner kick: there, in the heart of the penalty area, a sequence of Homeric duels broke out, the black and azure shirts attacked frantically towards the goal post, the red and black ones limited their assault, as if they were brandishing shields against unsheathed swords. All around, the public standing, the gaze fixed on the parabola of the ball, which was travelling quick over Murillo’s head and then, as a spinning top, reached Perisic’s left foot for the easiest goal ever. Five months later, in the second leg, the same action happened again, this time the other way around, with Zapata’s goad to repeat circumstances and result.
That derby, played in April 2017, has represented an important passing of the baton: it was the first time that the two clubs were both held by foreign ownerships, testifying to an horizon, sporting and economical, which thinks – and has a potential – well beyond the city boundaries. However the derby of Milan has this: if the contrast between muturèta – the Inter supporters, who used to go to the stadium by motorcycle – and tramvèe – the Milan supporters, less well-off and therefore forced to use the public transport – belongs to a distant past, a very strong identity is still here to mark the sense of belonging, to one or the other club. Inter’s history, on the other hand, starts from a disagreement inside Milan: facing the prohibition to enlist foreign players in the team, some executives decided to leave the black and red club and found a new one, which in the name – Internazionale – would state its own policy style. The identity is therefore that of its name, of its faith, overtly different from the rival’s: without, however, ever drifting off into a situation that has nothing to do with the matches, as it happens, for example, in Glasgow. Everything is limited to the pitch, to the feats and defeats, of a centuries-old challenge: the first Milan vs. Inter was played on 10 January 1909, and was won by the first ones 3 to 2.
Supremacy is and remains an important concept in the dualism between the two clubs: the slogan “We are Milan” is really said in turn by the supporters of both clubs, testifying to a continuous bickering and chasing each other – in an often and mainly teasing tone, as many choreographies has recalled over the years. San Siro is therefore the space of confrontation, first dialectic, then sporting, where history passes before our eyes – and we ourselves, who are there to admire it, are a part of it.