Behind the Scenes at the Old Lady of Italian Football

La Vecchia Segnora (The Old Lady) is the nickname by which Juventus Football Club is commonly known.  One of Italy’s oldest––and most successful––clubs, there is nothing old at all about its ground, the Allianz Stadium.

Construction of the stadium was completed in 2011, and it was built on the site of the former stadium, the Stadio delle Alpi.  The stadium is to be known as the Allianz Stadium for six seasons from July 2017 to June 2023, due to a sponsorship deal with German financial services giant Allianz.

I was lucky enough to visit the Allianz Stadium on the eve of Juventus’ first-leg Champions League tie against Spurs.  Purchase of an online ticket to the Juventus Museum, an early morning bus ride for the 40-minute journey from Porta Susa in the centre of Turin to the stadium itself––take the #72 bus from Corso Bolzano; alight at Stadio Alpi stop––to ensure arrival before the gates open at 10.30AM, and then a brief queue at the priority booking window, and I managed to secure for myself a guided tour of the stadium.

400 juventus ticket

“Tutti parlano italiano?”

I didn’t like to confess to not speaking a word of it, particularly since everyone else on the tour clearly did, so I remained silent.  In truth, I was not so interested in the spoken explanations, as much as I was to gain a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the ground.

The tour began by passing through the lavish corporate hospitality suites, before gaining first sight of the pitch itself.  The clear blue sky of a beautiful winter day overhead, contrasting with the fine green lines of a perfectly manicured pitch; the crisp white seats and long shadows of the stadium supports; the design of yellow stars and black-and-white footballers: it was a magnificent arena for sport.  I noticed miniature TV screens in the backs of the seats in the director’s box.  The club president had an even grander seat.  I wouldn’t have been surprised to see that it had its own built-in back-massage and foot spa.

400 juventus stadium

The players’ own facilities were none too shabby either.  We were led through a spacious physiotherapy, treatment and bathing room, to the players’ changing room.  This was a relatively more claustrophobic space, low-ceilinged and austere, but each player had his own named seat and private locker: I looked along the row of familiar names: Gonzalo Higuaín; Mario Mandžukić; Giorgio Chiellini; Gianluigi Buffon’s area at the far end of the room.

400 juventus changing room

Next up was the media suite; the area where the players give their post-match interviews; the lecture-theatre sized room where the manager holds his press conferences.  And then, through double doors bedecked with Champions League logos and we were pitch-side, within touching distance of the hallowed turf; a turf, which was being painstakingly cropped by a bevy of industrial-sized lawnmowers and their attendant handlers.  Throughout, the Italian guide gave out facts and figures; recited stats and scores, not a word of which I comprehended, but it mattered not a jot.

400 juventus lawnmowers

There is a universality to football, which is not restricted by any language.

© Donnie Blake

Donnie_Blake-at-Juventus

Donnie Blake makes himself at home in the Juventus changing room.

Check out Donnie Blake’s novel Artie Yard and a Very English Pickle (World Cup Detective series #1) now available in paperback from Amazon.

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