Bar Maratona, Firenze - 3 hours before kick off. I stood clutching my ticket and could hardly believe that I was about to watch the Europa League semifinal. People had asked before I left if I had regretted booking flights to the game after the 3-0 in the away leg and the answer was most emphatically no. People have commiserated with me since I have returned, implying that I had wasted my time going all that way for a 2-0 defeat. I'm afraid that they have missed the point. Thursday started with a 4 am alarm to catch our flight. On arrival in Florence the sun was beating down and there were plenty of Sevilla fans in the streets, soaking up some of the city's treasures before the game. Upon meeting our Florentine friends, it began to sink in that what was special about coming to the game was being recognised and accepted by the Fiorentina fans that we have come to know so well and the feeling of being at home in a foreign city.
Despite the first leg defeat, there was optimism and a hope of restoring some pride. The roar of the Curva Fiesole was overwhelming as we entered the stadium. The sight of the flares that accompanied the cauldron of noise was something to behold, and I felt like I could hardly take it in. When Carlos Bacca scored on 22 minutes it was though someone had popped a balloon as the entire Curva fell deadly silent. After all the hashtags, open training sessions and belief, the fans knew that the dream was over.
Fiorentina continued to look for the goal, but he game panned out in a similar way to the first leg, the viola did not take their chances and Sevilla were absolutely clinical. The reaction to Josip Ilicic's penalty that was blazed over the bar and at the end of the game was that of real hurt and heartbreak, but personally I felt proud of the players to have reached the semi-final and to have beaten teams that they weren't expected to beat. I thought back when I went to White Hart Lane when the team turned things around when all hope looked to be lost and realised that this time Sevilla were simply the better team over the two legs. Just being at the game was special, and of course, I had hoped that it would be a more competitive game but there are absolutely no regrets to be found from me. Win, lose or draw - Fiorentina are in my heart forever.