For the first preliminary round of the Conference League, at the “San Marino Stadium” the formation of La Fiorita, third classified in the last San Marino championship, faces the Moldavians of Zimbru Chisinau, in turn third in their national championship. Like every year, when the preliminary rounds of the Europa League or Conference League are drawn, there is always a certain expectation for us lovers of the ultras world in the area, in the hope of being able to see at work and photograph some European fans whose teams hardly get to the next stages of international competitions.
Sometimes the benevolent urn offers great supporters, other times real unknowns, teams of which it is unknown whether they have organized supporters in tow. As in the case of tonight, in which I go to the stadium with that margin of doubt and the only previous awareness of being able to spend a pleasant evening looking at altitude for some relief from the torrid heat of mid-July. A few minutes before the start of the match, the welcome surprise: distinctly some chants arrive from outside and the visiting yellow-green fans enter the stadium grandstand. Compared to other matches I had already attended in the past, this evening a single grandstand of the former “Stadio Olimpico” will be open, the one with the largest capacity, where both the local public, mostly relatives or friends of San Marino players, and the visiting public are accommodated.
Since San Marino is a non-professional league, their team is allowed to register some professional players, so La Fiorita, in order to raise its technical level, has counted among its ranks some old acquaintances of Italian football from those who had played between Serie C and D in nearby Rimini, where coach Thomas Manfredini had also passed, who managed to convince his old Atalanta teammate German Denis to take charge of the attack on this occasion.
The nicest surprise, however, concerns the Moldavian fans, who arrive with their representation patches initially attached to the poorly visible window of the sector, then after some negotiations with the stewards and staff of their club, they get to hang them directly inside the field. Another nice curtain because they do not have adhesive tape, initially they use their own adhesives to attach them, then among field workers and ambulance workers they make up for some paper tape for bandages, which in any case performs its function very well given the small size of patches and flags, including one with the colors of Ukraine, very close to their borders. As soon as they enter the stands, guests are noted for both a good presence and active participation. There are more than fifty of them, all rigorously standing and bare-chested for the entire span of the ninety minutes, while someone remains slightly more secluded to exclusively enjoy the sporting contest.
The second happy note of the evening is purely football, given that on the green rectangle the two teams face off and even if the ball of the game is mostly in the hands of the guests, the hosts do not disappoint expectations and even take the lead with Casolla, another former Rimini player. The unfavorable result didn’t knock down the Moldavian ultras in the stands, who never stop cheering on the yellow-green team. Difficult to interpret their choirs, however the rhythms are very similar to the classic songs that are heard in the local curves, while the language of the clapping is certainly universal, many, beautiful and involved, with the rhythm that is marked by a boy who, in the absence of a drum, slaps a seat in the sector.
Only in the second half did the away team find the goal of a deserved draw, even more deserved the joy of its fans, who in any case took on this not very close away match on a midweek day, made logistically less simple due to the choice of some companies to interrupt flights to and from Chisinau again due to the aforementioned war in Ukraine. A demonstration of attachment and passion which, however, at the final whistle is not rewarded by other markings.
The final draw satisfies La Fiorita more, the visiting players still go under the sector to say hello and thank them for their support, just as the San Marino players do by applauding their fans. Chances of passing the round are all still open in view of the return match, in a week’s time in Moldova where, however, the home factor and the push from the crowd will be much more decisive, even if Manfredini’s boys will be able to face this important match with nothing to lose, as they did today, and play it all until the last minute. Sometimes, even in football, a little surprise can always happen.