Stadium Experience: An American Journey to Juventus Stadium


SWOL staff writer and Juventus supporter Aaron West

When I received the news that I’d be attending the Juventus-Napoli match in Turin a few months before the fixture, my heart started pounding and my palms began to sweat like a high school freshman being asked out by the prom queen. In my 15 years of being a Juventus supporter, I’ve seen my team play in person exactly once: in a pre-season game against Chivas USA in Raleigh, NC last year (with an appearance at their training to accompany it). While I was blessed to be able to see il Pinturrichio Alessandro Del Piero before he donned the blue of Sydney FC, I still felt unable to *really* say I had seen my team play.

As the date drew nearer for my trip to Italy, minutes turned to hours, and hours turned into agonizing trials of endurance, separating me from my goal: Juventus Stadium. When I sat down on my first flight into London’s Heathrow Airport, I struck up a conversation with the friendly British couple who would occupy the row of seats with me for the next 7 hours or so. The reason for my trip soon surfaced, and I was delighted to find that the husband was a Notts County supporter: the very club who provided Juventus with their first uniforms, and were selected for the honor of opening the Juventus Stadium last year to much fanfare. This trip was destiny!

SWOL Writers Yael Averbuch and Aaron West

When I landed in Milano, I met up with my (much) better half Yael Averbuch, and we were soon on our way to Turin. Being a NIKE-sponsored athlete, it was she who made it possible for us to attend the sold-out match. However, the style in which we would attend the match was something neither of us counted on. When we arrived in Turin, we met Nike’s General Manager of Merchandising for Juventus at a quiet café, an unsurprisingly dapper fellow named Fabio, with a genial smile and a good understanding of English. As he drove us towards the venue in his Audi, he gave us a bit of information about the area around the stadium, and shared his background (having previously worked for Inter Milan as a Juventino).

A full hour plus before the match, we drove past line after line of car waiting to get into the stadium, and hundreds of pedestrians streaming into the entrance as Fabio pulled into the V.I.P. entrance with the practiced ease of someone to whom this experience was no longer special. Not so for me. The moment we pulled into view of the green, white and red flag adorning the outside of the stadium, my pulse began to quicken, and I pulled out my phone to chronicle every moment I could.

Juventus Stadium

As we walked into the stadium through the V.I.P entrance, all I could think about was how blessed I was to be able to see this place in person. Ignoring the bustling crowds, I snapped picture after picture of everything I could, excitement bubbling up like a kid on Christmas Eve. After picking up our special bracelets and using them to enter the V.I.P. area, Fabio goodnaturedly deposited us in our suite with the promise to return after a meeting with some important clients. Having barely eaten all day, Yael and I made a beeline for the wonderfully stocked buffet, and made sure to clink our champagne glasses to show our American class.

Once sated, we headed back to the suite to watch the teams warm up and take in the sights of the Curva already in full choreography. The noise levels from the 2,000 Napoli fans were already breathtaking, but when the first of the Partenopei players began to stream out onto the pitch to warm up, I thought my ears would explode from Bianconeri whistles. Not even a quarter full, the stadium exploded with a noise that could only be described as a cupful of derision mixed with equal parts hate and vitriol. Completely drowned out, the Napoli fans could do nothing but futilely add their cheers to the ever-building racket in the hornet’s nest that is Juventus Stadium.
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The jeers had eventually died down to a dull roar, when AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” kicked on and every Juventus fan stood up for their heroes to enter the gladiatorial arena. Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Giorgio Chiellini, et al raced onto the pitch to a noise that would rival a tarmac full of fighter jets taking off simultaneously, sending a chill down my back that I’ll never forget.
Before the match began, Juventus’ anthem “JuveStoria Di Un Grande Amore” was played over the speakers and I added my pitchy, emotionally-charged voice to the thousands around the stadium. With the stage set, the referee blew his whistle and the match started.
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Martin Caceres of FC Juventus (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

Throughout the terse proceedings, the noise levels never dropped below that of a continuous thunderclap, often erupting into a hail of whistles, jeers and catcalls as the referee seemed to lose control of the match from the offing. When Martín Cáceres rose majestically to head home Juventus’ opening goal in the 80th minute, the stadium exploded in a sonic boom that would put even the cockiest fighter pilot to shame. Just two minutes later, the sound inexplicably rose even higher when youngster Paul Pogba sealed the deal with his perfectly taken left-footed volley from 25 yards.

As the 11 Juventini on the field played out the last minutes of the match, the 39,000 of us in the stands celebrated by stretching our vocal cords beyond capacity and shaking the arena to its roots.

With Cáceres’ goal, I was finally able to take my hands away from my face as I gripped myself in nervous excitement. When Pogba arrowed his volley into the lower right corner of the net, I stood with the rest of the stadium, unable to sit any longer, nearly leaping over the glass barrier from pure unadulterated joy. With the perfect result secured, it was all celebration in the stadium from then through the final whistle. Songs rang through the night air, and as the players did their customary salute to the Curva, the entire stadium paid tribute to their winning gladiatore.

Juventus Stadium

As the supporters streamed out of the stadium and we waited out the traffic, I took a minute to reflect on the beauty of my surroundings and how fortunate I am to have been in attendance at such a wonderful occasion. Having been to the Bernabéu, Old Trafford, Celtic Park, the Mestalla, and many other incredible stadiums, I can honestly say I’ve never had an experience comparable to that in the Juventus Stadium. For football lovers worldwide, it’s a trip I encourage everyone with the means to add to their bucket list.

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