Last Thursday night almost seems like a dream to me. Myself and six friends from Stockport were in London on Thursday afternoon in anticipation of the big Europa league clash between Tottenham and Fiorentina. If you missed why we support Fiorentina, you can read it here: From Stockport to Florence: Our link to Fiorentina.
We headed over to meet our Florentine friends at a large pub inside Liverpool Street station. In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined the scene that met us when we arrived. Hundreds of Fiorentina fans were packed in the pub, both inside and out. We were met with the warm welcome that we have come to expect from our amici, there were handshakes, hugs, and kisses aplenty. Introductions were made to new people and we were asked the question again and again: "Are you Stockport?" We felt truly honored to be given such a welcome. Hundreds of voices sang "Oh Fiorentina", filling the pub with atmosphere and passion. I could not wait for the game.
Our seats inside the ground provided a fantastic view, although we (the Stockport group) had wanted so much to be in the away end with our friends. As the heroes in purple came out onto the pitch, the excitement levels were off the chart. Conceding so early and being so dominated by Tottenham in the first twenty minutes, I thought all hope might be lost. It is a huge testament to Vincenzo Montella and his players that they didn't let their heads drop and slowly but surely regained their grip on the game. The tactical flexibility and commitment of the squad was clear for all to see. They played for each other, letting their collective effort and technique carry them forward.
When Jose Maria Basanta put the ball into the back of the net, the sound of my silent cheering was deafening! When the players celebrated in front of us, I could not miss the opportunity to take pictures - at that moment in time I did not care if my cover was blown.
When the final whistle went, we waited for the Tottenham fans to leave and we made our way down the stand to where the Fiorentina fans were being kept behind. The seven of us stood together in the empty stand and got out our Stockport Viola flag. What happened next was the most unbelievable thing I have ever seen at a football match. A few fans spotted the flag and began to point. A wave of applause then rippled through the stand and before we knew it the whole away end was applauding us and singing to us! The next morning I would have thought I was dreaming if it hadn't been filmed:
On leaving the ground we were mobbed by Viola fans coming out of the away end. We were asked if we would be in Florence for the return leg. "If only" was the answer. It was a special night of football and friendship - bring on the next adventure!