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Hellas Verona-Milan Preview: Going to Hell…as


If you are not familiar with Milan history, you may think that Milan are simply meeting a newly promoted team on Saturday. But this match is so very much more than that. After an 11 year absence in Serie A, Hellas Verona are back, and so is a bitter rivalry. Verona fans will boastfully remind Milan fans how Milan lost two Scudetti at the Bentegodi. But this rivalry has a newer twist, too. Verona is the city Mario Balotelli was most often racially abused in last year by other teams fans when he wasn’t even in the stadium. And Hellas Verona fans notoriously put Juventus fans to shame when it comes to the racial abuse of players, so this matchup has all eyes on the Milan squad, the opposing fans, and the disciplinary committee. You could say that Milan are literally going to Hell…as.

Like fine art: "Hell in gialloblu," by Verona


After reading Tim Parks’ “A Season With Verona,” I gained a lot of respect for Verona fans. They are some of the most passionate, loyal, and dedicated fans in Serie A. Their singular Scudetto means more to them than many clubs who have many more titles. And contrary to popular belief, they are not just a bunch of uneducated thugs, either. But the darker side of their culture promotes racism as much as nationalism, or rather as part of their nationalism. Certainly this week the mayor of Verona has given them all justification if not permission to abuse, as he claimed that Balotelli is “very good at making himself unlikeable.” Not that anyone in Verona would need an excuse to abuse, despite his claims that “If someone acts like a cretin, he’ll be in the minority.” But that’s just it: in Verona, the definition of acting like a cretin is different than, say UEFA’s new guidelines on racism.

Still, the Bentgodi is always a fun place. Despite the “few” cretins, Gialloblu supporters are simply amazing, and the stadium is sold out for Saturday. And Verona fans are way better than their crosstown rivals, Chievo. If the fans can keep it together, and Balotelli and the others can keep it together, it should be a fantastic match in a packed stadium, with a newly laid hybrid pitch (similar to the San Siro’s), but with the added spark of such a great rivalry and history. One thing you can be certain of is that Verona fans never say die.

The Gods of Verona: The 1984-85 Scudetto winning squad

Verona have reinforced well after being promoted. In addition to their big target man, Luca Toni, they brought in Donati from Palermo, Agostini from Torino, Romulo from Fiorentina, and most recently Longo from Inter. “I butei” (“the boys”) will not be rolling over for us, and it would make them particularly proud to start Milan’s season off with a defeat. Coach Mandorlini may seem a little nuts (“mandorlini” are little almonds... sorry,) but the team looked good in the preseason and seem motivated to secure their place back in Serie A beyond this season.

Milan, on the other hand may be a little distracted by our Champions League qualification efforts, despite Allegri’s claim that they are focused on the trip to Verona. The down side is that in addition to the other injuries, De Jong picked up a knock on Tuesday and will likely not be available. The plus side is that Boateng is also carrying a slight injury and will likely not be available. That, and Sulley “The Killer” Muntari must atone one more match for his accosting a ref at the end of last season, forcing Allegri to find players other than his faves, Boateng and Muntari. It is possible that he could start Niang and Nocerino in their places, respectively. Or perhaps he is conjuring up a more diabolical plan, I never know with him.

One sight I don't want to see, I'd prefer he shush them with his goals

I want to believe that this game will be about the football. And I also would love it if there are zero instances of racial abuse of any kind. Not just because we need to be sure that Balotelli and others don’t lose their cool and get sent off, but because I always want it to be about the beautiful game. Though I am not Catholic, I will be invoking the Pope’s blessing upon Balotelli as he advised him personally not to react to the anger when they met ahead of Italy’s friendly earlier this month. It will be a baptism by fire, so to speak, to go to the Bentegodi with arguably the most diverse squad in Serie A and come away emotionally in one piece. Even better if we come away with the win. I want our boys to send a message to Verona… you may have cost us two Scudetti, but that won’t happen again, not on our watch. We may be going to Hell…as, but we are i Diavoli. Welcome back, Verona, we’ll see you in hell.


This post inspired by the music of Muse’s “Take a Bow”


Our next match is
Hellas Verona vs. Milan
Saturday, August 24 • 18:00 CEST (12noon EDT)
This match will be broadcast on BeIn Sport and RAI in the U.S.
Check here for stream links prior to kickoff