It is a very sunny Sunday that welcomes me to Prato Centrale once I get off the regional train. A place I remembered quite differently: on a cold, rainy Saturday in February, six or seven years ago, when I visited the Lungobisenzio for the first time. Those were the times of Serie C and above all of very complicated tickets to buy for abstruse security reasons. In addition to the completely different weather, the road between the station and the stadium, one attached to the other, was closed so I had to take a ride of almost three kilometers to reach the plant. And once I got there, in addition to finding myself wet from head to toe, they were dismantling the ticket printer and Prato-Teramo was played without my presence.
After all this time, things immediately look much different and more beautiful. I immediately notice that the road that connects the station and the stadium is open. There Railway curve – the name already suggests it – it’s a stone’s throw from the tracks and I can already see a lot of life from the outside. Two beautiful murals and lots of people enjoying a few pre-match beers suggest that today will be one of those football Sundays that I adore. This time I don’t even have to buy a ticket, I find the accreditation ready and I enter the bleachers of the Central Stand of the Lungobisenzio. The only slightly out of tune note is that I can’t keep the accreditation, they collect it from me at the entrance and I’ll have to go home without a ticket, which for me is always a precious heirloom for my collection.
Inside the Stadium, almost three quarters of an hour before the kick-off, there are still not many people. This gives me time to take a walk and above all to visit the Bar under the Grandstand. As a tourist and football fan who comes from Switzerland, I am always fascinated by these Bars that look like normal Bars. Only a few scarves and stickers help to understand that you are in a football stadium, then when a gentleman, a scarf and a blue and white cap ordinance, order «two haffè», I can definitively project myself into the imminent, in the beautiful Tuscany where a football match is about to start.
Gradually, the stadium begins to fill up and I must admit that I am particularly impressed by the presence of the guests. From Switzerland it’s not always possible to understand how things go in a square, but it didn’t even take me too much effort to find information about them, a sign that tradition and previous esteem had already accumulated over the years. However, I don’t like knowing everything before leaving, I like being surprised. I knew that in Sant’Angelo Lodigiano there was something in terms of supporters, but the “Barasini” actually manage to surprise me. And not by a little.
Meanwhile, I also notice more and more presences in the local Curva and in the Tribuna. Il Prato, after years of agony in Serie C, seems to have found its momentary dimension in Serie D. Led by an apparently reliable president, or with whom at least the square lives a less conflicting and wearing relationship than that with the family Toccafondi, perhaps the main reason why the sequel is back.
I’m aware that I’ve already written many lines before the match even begins, but it doesn’t matter: it’s the impressions that count in this type of match and I have to candidly admit that what happens on the pitch is not the main reason for my visit. Far from it, I like visiting historical squares of Italian football which, albeit minor, have had their say on certain occasions. Among these there is also Prato, a club whose birth dates back to the distant 1908 and which – to my great surprise, given that I know a little of minor football in Italy – has never had to refound itself since then due to bankruptcies, reorganisations or other more or less inauspicious circumstances.
As the kick-off approaches, I note with pleasure that attendance is increasing by the minute, both among locals and guests. It is known that the Away Sector does not have a bar but that whoever manages the Bar under the Tribune is also able to serve the fans who have come from Sant’Angelo: they place a trolley from the supermarket near the gate that divides the Tribune and the Away Sector and from there they sell the beer pouring it into plastic cups between the grates of the gate. This seems to appeal a lot to visiting fans who take advantage of this offer in large numbers. This doesn’t help me understand exactly how many there are, but it doesn’t matter, because as the match approaches, they begin to gather behind the “Barasini Ovunque” banner and the – very small – “Be wary” patch.
On a chromatic level, however, it is the local fans that stand out. Although the Curve is not full at all, they set up a choreography. Somehow it seems to depict the cornflower which is the emblem of Prato, but I’m not so sure. Topped off by a banner – as simple as it is significant – with the words “I live for you” which greets the start of the game together with white, blue and some yellow cards. I’m honest, I didn’t expect it, but this is part of the already budgeted “Wanting to be surprised” package. However, the Pratese fans seem to have found themselves in a great way; the two banners of wild chaos e Ultras but also two very old men placed on the lowest railing in the sector.
Among the guests I don’t notice much color, if not a large flag with writing I assume in dialect. This does not detract from their performance: they are very compact, they have a great desire to cheer and they show it and immediately notice it. The choruses and clapping are performed in the best possible way, and even if outnumbered, they manage to have their say. I note, among other things, the complete indifference between the opposing factions: in this group of Serie D, where there aren’t many organized fans, I have the impression that both fans were in a certain sense happy to finally find someone from the other side. Which obviously doesn’t apply to the Prato-Pistoiese match or vice versa, most likely the most tense of the entire group.
The minutes go by and even on the pitch the game proves to be beautiful and interesting. It is stingy with big peaks on a technical level, however it is undeniable how much the two teams are committed to trying to make up for it. Paradoxically, Sant’Angelo seems to have the upper hand, which is worse off in the standings, but despite some good opportunities, the visiting players are unable to inflate the net. There was a goal, however, scored by Prato a quarter of an hour from the end, to the great joy of the local fans. If they were already singing well before, thanks to the advantage, the volume rises further and it doesn’t really seem like they’re in Serie D. The match therefore ends with that score: having to go back to the extreme north-east of Switzerland, I have to leave the stadium in a hurry, but Prato and the Lungobisenzio they made me forget today the very bad experience of many years ago and returning home is much easier.