One of the most prominent landmarks in the Italian city of Milan is the statue of the Virgin Mary atop Milan Cathedral, known as Madonnina (Little Madonna).
This is also the affectionate name given to the football match between Inter Milan and AC Milan, the bitter rivals who have been contesting the ‘Derby della Madonnina’ since the inaugural meeting in 1909.
Both sides have a massive fanbase, who are among the most passionate followers of their respective clubs anywhere in the world. But what exactly does it mean to be a fan of either side? And how on earth do you cope if you happen to fall for someone who supports the enemy?
Separated By Class
Internazionale, to give them their full title, were traditionally seen as the club supported by the more prosperous Milanese, while the city’s blue-collar workers followed AC (Associazione Calcio) Milan, often shortened to Milan. Of course, these distinctions have blurred over time, but the rivalry between them has never waned.
What makes the Milan derby especially potent is the fact both teams play their home games in Italy’s largest stadium, the San Siro. When they lock horns, up to 80,000 spectators create a cauldron of atmosphere.
Who Wins The Derbies Overall?
Milan are a hugely successful side, having spent virtually their entire history, (bar two seasons in the early 80s) in Italy’s top tier, now known as Seria A. Having won 18 FIFA and UEFA trophies, they are by far the highest-achieving Italian club. For all that they might once have been seen as a club with overtly working-class roots, they are also one of the richest in the world.
Internazionale also have a formidable record, winning 18 league titles, including a record-breaking run of five successive championships from 2006-2010. They are also the team with the most supporters in Italy, although Milan have the highest support from anywhere outside the country.
The greatest victory in a derby was a resounding 6-0 thumping of Inter by AC Milan in Seria A in 2001, while the overall record for the 225 official matches between the sides is 76 wins for Milan, 82 for Internazionale and 67 clashes ending in draws.
Milan were certainly a dominant force in European football, regularly appearing in finals, but they have undergone something of a slump in recent years which has taken an edge off the derby – although few are likely to have noticed any diminishing in the fervor of the atmosphere at these meetings.
Crossing The Divide
The Derby della Madonnina is always a colorful affair, with the seething crowds segregated into legions sporting Milan’s black and red, and Internazionale’s black and blue. But what happens if you’ve met someone you like, only to discover they follow the other side?
It’s not difficult to picture this scenario. You’re a die-hard Inter fan. You meet someone on a dating site like this. You hit it off, and message each other constantly, building a strong sense of chemistry. But when you happen to be browsing through their profile photos you see, to your utter horror, a selfie of your prospective partner wearing a red and black striped shirt.
This is where you need to take a step back and think logically. Football games last for 90 minutes. Rivalries can certainly create a febrile atmosphere during this hour and a half.
But with the final whistle, most fans, no matter how passionate, will return to the real world, socializing with friends and family who follow ‘the other side,’ and embracing a love interest, regardless of the colors of the scarf they’ve just hung in the wardrobe.