"La prima volta non si scorda mai" – you will never forget the first time. However, I doubt that many Juventus fans will lock the first European game played at the Juventus Stadium in their memory banks.
The Italian champions hosted a UEFA Champions League match for the first time in over 1,000 days, but the 1-1 draw against FC Shakhtar Donetsk in their new stadium – an entertaining affair for neutrals – was not one to remember for Bianconeri supporters. In truth, they were closer to defeat than victory.
"Obviously we were hoping to win this one," defender Giorgio Chiellini told UEFA.com. "It was certainly not as well as we have played this season. Still, we earned a point and gained more experience, which will help us in the future. There is a long way to go in the group and we are still in a good position."
This was also my first visit to the Juventus Stadium. It was not full to the brim, but the experience was fantastic. The stadium is beautifully modern, a place where you do not only watch the game, but can also while away the hours in comfort.
It is a pleasure to look at the images of Juventus legends adorning the walls, to take pictures with mascots or smiling girls wearing the Juventus kit, to walk around the bars, shops and restaurants, or simply to search for your favourite players in the Hollywood-style 'walk of fame'.
I did hunt for two particular Juventus notables while counting down to kick-off: John Charles and Omar Sivori, my father's idols in the 1950s and 60s. I took a photo of both men in order to show him. I owe him after resisting all his attempts to pass on his passion for Juve when I was a child. Instead, I opted to support the side where a promising 16-year-old forward from my own region – named Roberto Mancini – was making waves.
It was the 1981/82 season and Bologna FC were struggling despite Mancini's nine goals. They had to win their last match at Ascoli Calcio to avoid their first-ever relegation. My father finally gave in to my tormenting requests and treated me to my first game.
We also went outside the hotel where the team were staying. My father told then Bologna coach Francesco Liguori: "Please say something to my boy, he is worried." While I was trying to hide myself because of the embarrassment, the coach replied: "Worried? Kid, I'm surely more worried than you are."
He was right to be. Bologna took an early lead but then conceded twice in the closing 20 minutes and were relegated. I recall my father suffering alongside me in the stands. However, his concern was for his beloved Juventus, who were simultaneously winning in Catanzaro thanks to Liam Brady's Scudetto-clinching penalty. Maybe I will not bring him those photos after all.
"Do you remember the first time? I can't remember a worse time," British band Pulp once sang. If some Juve fans are not happy with the maiden European game in their new ground, it is worth remembering there are worse first times than that. I can tell you that from experience.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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