MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JULY 28: Urby Emanuelson #28 of Milan is congratulated by his teammates for his goal against Chelsea in the Herbalife World Football Challenge 2012 at Sun Life Stadium on July 28, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
On Saturday I will have the pleasure of seeing Milan in person for the umpteenth time, yes I have lost count. Like previous occasions, this time will be at Gilette Stadium in Foxboro Massachusetts. While I don't put much stock in friendly matches, I always enjoy these summer tours because first and foremost I get to see my Club close to home, but secondly, I get to see players who I may not know or appreciate quite yet. I still remember the first time I saw Abate at one of these matches, Paloschi or Giacoma Berretta. At 13 years of age, I shook hands with Francesco Coco, and both my father and I thought we had shaken hands with the next Tassotti, Panucci or Cafu, got that one wrong! But I blame but the fact of the matter is these occasions are always special regardless of what is at stake. Simply put, it is a chance to see your team up close and personal.
I am pointing this out because the comments on the last post got me thinking a bit. Often times in the comments I get exposed to opinions that, while not right or wrong, leave me perplexed. How can a fan so quickly criticize or chastise the Club that has brought them joy during the course of the fan/club relationship. Easily, I guess if you have limited history or excessive expectations. It is even more puzzling when the Club's Ultras, a scummy group to begin with, lambast the Club, hold a funeral, and then ask for refunds on season tickets. Talk about biting the hand that feeds, but that is a discussion for another day, as I truly believe it is the Ultras who are holding Italian football back more than stadium and tax issues.
The point I am after is that Milan is not dead, far from it, and while we may enter this season for the first time in a long time with low expectations, it doesn't mean we are any less of a Club. For every season of shear joy I have endured as a fan of this Club: 89, 90, 99, 03, 04, 07, and the most recent Scudetto, I have eaten some crap along the way. Oddly enough that crap was usually fed to me by the same people who gave me the joy in winning seasons. In 96-97 Cappello was run out of town in favor of Tabarez, Baresi retired, and players I had grown up with like Donadoni, Desailly, and Panucci were on the way out. Berlusconi came out then, much like he did a few days ago, and said a new Milan will rise. An entertaining Milan with players like Davids, Reiziger, Dugarry and Kluivert, I grinned, I smiled, and I beared it as I laid on eyes on the WORST Milan I had ever seen, granted my standards were high. It was not until 1998 and 1999 that the glimmers of hope and succes shone through, and a Title came soon after and the next lull was met with the greatest CL I have ever witnessed in 2003.
The moral of the story is for all the loathing aimed at Berlu, Fester and AC Milan, the fact of the matter is we wouldn't be here discussing it without those guys. So as bad as today may seem, I am not ready to write the eulogy of the Club, the players or the Coach. I have no false belief that my team should win each and every year, and while I understand the need for them to be competitive, I also understand the need to refresh, regroup and rebuild. To be honest we maybe have been on borrowed time, and while some fans are quick to say this refresh should have happened already or along the way, would you be willing to trade in a 07 CL and recent scudetto? Not me, because you enjoy the highs so you can accept the lows. So while fans are asking for refunds and protesting, I will do what I have always done. Dust off my Maldini jersey, whatever vintage I prefer on that day, throw it on, and head to the stadium because AC Milan is in town and last I heard they were still the most decorated Club in the World.