When I had the idea of going away with my friends for my birthday, the plan was to go to a city somewhere within the confines of continental Europe on the cheap not only to explore the destination, but also to watch a football match.
Some of the names bandied around were Eindhoven (PSV), Basel (FC Basel), Amsterdam (Ajax) and Marseille (Olympique de Marseille), but they were all quickly dismissed. Though, to be fair, they were up against a two-team city with a footballing pedigree revered by many and defensive steel in its DNA.
That city is Milan, home to AC and Internazionale – two rival clubs who both share the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium, or as it’s more commonly known, the San Siro. With two teams to choose from, the city’s usually gripped with football fever on a matchday, whether red or blue.
And that meant that by going at a weekend – the weekend before my birthday – we were virtually guaranteed football.
Or so I thought.
That was until someone pointed out that the fixture we had been eyeing – the Sunday 17 April clash current Serie A leaders Napoli visiting Inter at 14:00 – may not take place as originally organised. So then I did some research.
As it turns out, 18 of Inter’s 24 games so far this season have been played at a different time to the original schedule. In fact seven of those 18 rearranged games have come on completely different days – which would be a worst-case scenario – while the other 11 only changed the time, not the date, of their kick-offs.
That may come as little surprise with Inter being Italy’s second-most supported team, meaning that they are susceptible to calendar changes due to television and fan demand.
Continental football, a popular reason for fixture change, is not really to blame here, either. Inter, finishing eighth in Serie A last season, didn’t qualify for Europe, and of their 18 rearranged league games only of five those were against sides also playing in continental competition.
It doesn’t really make for good reading, in all honesty. Especially considering that Napoli are likely to be in the thick of the Serie A title race come that time, and Inter may well be competing for a Champions League spot. The likelihood is, is that the match will be moved.
But not to worry, as when there is a will there is a way.
If the Inter game does so happen to be rearranged to a date and time unsuitable for us, then there are two realistic alternatives.
The first would be to head west to Turin, taking a 90-minute train to go and see Juventus take on Palermo. Although it wouldn’t be the most convenient, Juventus have some of the league’s best players such as Gianluigi Buffon and Paul Pogba, and Paulo Dybala, and to get to watch them would be an experience in itself.
The second option is Bergamo – home of Atalanta – who are currently scheduled to play on that Sunday afternoon against AS Roma, another Italian club with a rich history.
Whatever happens, it underlines an important aspect of travel, and that is to be prepared. Some may prefer to live off-the-cuff, but there’s nothing wrong with planning ahead and having a contingency plan in place, especially when it is something as big as the centrepiece of your trip.