Guest-blogger Rick Elliott makes a difficult decision on matchday 9 that gives us an insight into his life in Mantova…
It’s been a busy, but thoroughly enjoyable start to the season: some early long trips ticked off, several articles written about new places visited, and lots of time spent on internet research. Following last week’s successful visit to Lodi with a ‘get-in-and-get-out’ kind of win, it’s been an excellent start on the pitch for Mantova, too. But back-to-back away games has taken its toll; not so much on me, rather on my locally-born girlfriend, Elena.
If you have read my opening post of this blog series, you will know that since moving to Italy in 2008 I hadn’t been to many football matches at any level and wasn’t that interested in delving further. I am, first and foremost, a Burnley fan and my weekends were avidly spent watching online, as they rose to become a Premier League club. But in January 2018, when I started to take an interest in following Mantova’s fortunes, something changed. It felt right watching the sport I love alongside the locals I live with.
As you can imagine, this sudden change in lifestyle has been quite a shock for Elena and at times difficult to fathom, despite her knowing of my love for all things claret and blue and football in general. Our weekends were previously spent together relaxing, visiting places and exploring other northern Italian towns soaking up the immense quantity of culture, art, architecture, history and gastronomy the country has to offer. It has been these experiences that have influenced my writing of this blog.
Together, we also have a strong creative relationship and have been writing songs, rehearsing at weekends and going on the road for gigs when and where possible over the years. I play the guitar and she writes the lyrics. Playing and composing songs is my getaway. Writing is hers and every summer she writes a new theatrical play before rehearsing it daily in preparation for the following year to perform. She is a theatre actress specialising in children’s theatre and for years before meeting me had been on the road herself performing around Italy.
Now, she is an English teacher at a middle school near Mantova but still writes, rehearses and practices as if she were still on the road. She’s a kind of a one-man-band, but for story-telling and theatre. She tells stories through narration interspersed with dialogues by characters and acts out the scenes. All by herself. All by memory, somehow keeping today’s agitated kids mesmerised and silent for over an hour.
Her new show is about the French adventure writer, Jules Verne and his most famous characters who battle it out to be chosen by their creator to be the best and most important. It explores the five fundamental elements to life found in Verne’s books: Air, Water, Fire, Earth and Time. It is an introduction of this author to new, younger audiences and a journey back in time for older generations more familiar with his adventures underwater, to the centre of the earth and around the world.
Our adventure together started over 12 years ago, in Reading, of all places. I have to thank Reading for many things; an unbelievable play off semi-final win I saw under Owen Coyle, which took Burnley to Wembley, ultimately winning promotion to the Premier League for the first time. I also met a great friend from University, Seb Simmonds, who came from near Reading. And if you’re READING this then I thank all of you for following this blog series!
In Reading, I met Elena at a summer camp for teenagers learning English. She was the Drama teacher and I a Sports teacher. At the end of the summer we returned to our respective homes but kept in touch. I soon got a flight and visited her in her hometown of Mantova in early September. I was taken aback at this charming, pretty town; it all seemed so romantic and I was seduced by the narrow streets, dim lights, relaxed feel and stylish Italians. The end-of-summer weather wasn’t bad either.
A few months later and a 48-hour bus ride, in order to cheaply haul my guitar and 30kg of belongings, took me straight to her house and into the deep end. We moved in together right from the off.
I found work teaching English and started my career, eventually going freelance once I had got enough experience, qualifications, and contacts. She was already teaching in schools and settled so I had to move really. And the rest is history. Like a long football season with many ups and downs, as in all relationships, we are still happily together today.
I’m sure everyone reading this will know about the balance of love, relationships, women and football. It is a hard one to find. And generally is over-balanced by the football. But Elena is coming round to it. Whilst, the game against Crema was a game too far, I understood why. Sunday 27th October at 17.00 was the debut of her new show and I couldn’t miss it. Nor did I want to.
For several months now, we have been discussing, arguing and generally trying to avoid theatre dates when Mantova are playing, mostly Sunday afternoons. And when do people and children like to go to see shows in Mantova? Sunday afternoons, of course.
But I guess the day had to come. And to a ground that has been on the list for a while, the ground that Crema share with Pergolettese: Stadio Giuseppe Voltini. Alas, it will have to be another time.
The show went well and should get better and better as more shows are performed. Likewise for the season ahead for Mantova. This latest away game ended 2-2 with them holding on to a point after another battling performance to maintain their unbeaten start to the season. Mantova let go of the lead twice, but four points from two difficult away games is a good return and with home games coming up against fourth-place Mezzolara and second-place Fiorenzuola the season is now starting to hot up…despite the imminent drop in air temperature.
See you in a few weeks.
Teams: Crema 2-2 Mantova
League: Serie D Girone D Matchday 9
Time & Date: 27th October 2019, 17:00
Att: (away) Unknown
Stadium Info: Stadio Giuseppe Voltini, Viale Alcide de Gasperi, 67, capacity 4,100. Another tight ground very much in an English lower league style.
Travel Info: Trains from Milan & Bergamo with changes at Cremona or Treviglio. The station is a 20-minute walk to the ground.
Next Stop: Progresso