Calhanoglu with Inter two star tifo
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Historic Derby della Madonnina Sees Inter Clinch 20th Serie A Title Against AC Milan

The story of a famous night from San Siro:

“INTERSTELLAR” read the front page of Il Corriere dello Sport on Tuesday morning, depicting a defiant Lautaro Martinez exalting amidst the backdrop of three central pillars of Interismo: a deep blue serpent, ‘Il Biscione’, the symbol and nickname of the club, alongside a navy-tinged flag of the Madonnina, the iconic golden statue that sits perched atop the city’s grand Duomo and lends its name to the derby. Thirdly, framing il Corriere’s background was the imposing image of the Curva Nord, the beating heart of Internazionale’s most fervent support, nestled in the ‘Secondo Annello Verde’, i.e., the second tier of San Siro’s north stand.

It was beneath the Curva Nord where, shortly before 11pm local time on Monday night, Inter’s title-winning celebrations kicked off after defeating their bitter rivals AC Milan 2-1 in a Stadio Guisseppe Meazza more Rossonero (Red and Black) than Nerazzuro (Black and Blue), given that this was the leaders’ “away” derby.

An agreement between the two clubs, however, means that there is a greater ticket allocation afforded to the “travelling” fans for this fixture, allowing each set of supporters to retain the 7500 seats in their respective Curva (their usual Ultras’ section). That said, judging by the number of people from other sides of the stadium who decided to stay behind long after the full-time whistle to not only observe but participate in the festivities, the true number of Interisti present to witness their crowning moment will have undoubtedly exceeded 10,000.

Inter Milan on front page
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The Importance of this Derby For Inter & AC

The magnitude of this particular derby was heightened not only because Inter had the chance to seal this season’s championship against their “cousins” (a term used to refer to the relationship much more so by the media than the fans themselves) on their own patch, but also because it would take the Nerazzurri to 20 Scudetti in total, thus overtaking Milan’s 19 and earning themselves the much coveted ‘Seconda Stella’ (Second Star).

These two stars, each representing ten league titles, were proudly flaunted in the Curva Nord’s spectacular pre-match tifo, above a pitch-wide banner declaring, “Our Destiny, Your Nightmare,” directed at the Milanisti. The centrepiece of the coreografia was a looming figure in an Inter-stamped hoodie manipulating a fortune-teller’s crystal ball, foreshadowing the dream that was soon to become reality for Il Biscione.

San Siro

The second star hadn’t been secured yet, but it had long been an inevitability for Simeone Inzaghi’s men. The only question was when, not if. A deflating draw the previous weekend at home to lowly Cagliari meant that a point would no longer suffice in the derby to push them over the line; they simply had to win, this time at a much more hostile San Siro.

As has regularly been the case over the last 16 months, beating Milan proved no problem for the blue-and-black half of the city. Goals from veteran defender Francesco Acerbi and idolised summer signing Marcus Thuram helped the Nerazzuri to a sixth consecutive victory over the Rossoneri and marked a famous night that will live long in the memory of Interisti and will haunt Milanista nightmares.

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Inter ascended “to the stars” as La Gazzetta dello Sport led the following morning, after a derby triumph of truly ‘Inter-galactic’ resonance. On a damp, dreary Monday in Milan, as Gazzetta journalist Luigi Garlando wrote in his match summary, to paraphrase, “The grey, drizzling sky, mixed with the mist of roasting chestnuts, appeared closed as if it were pavement, but, just as the final whistle blew, the clouds parted and, up high, a star was illuminated.” A star with the number 20 emblazoned on it and one that, for Interisti, will never fade.

History Makers

They become only the second Italian club to achieve such a feat. Even if Juventus have three, to go with their remarkable 36 titles, the crucial point for Inter fans is that the team with which they share a home remains just one. Ever since Milan boss Stefano Pioli followed Antonio Conte’s 2021 Scudetto by keeping the shield in the city the following year—transferring the honour from the north to the south end of San Siro and thereby re-equaling the two sides’ tally—the race to be the first to twenty gained pace, becoming the primary objective for both sets of supporters.

Although Milan will finish this season one place behind Inter in the table, as they did last year, in truth, they were never really in the race. The 17-point gap separating them is emphatic, but by no means unreflective of the gulf in quality and performance levels between the two sides. Inter have sauntered to the title, while Milan have stumbled to a default runners-up spot.

“Nothing Changes”

Not even the most one-minded, fanatic Milanista could deny Inter’s legitimacy as the rightful ‘Campioni d’Italia’ this season. They would, however, contest the notion that their rivals have, in fact, obtained a ‘legitimate’ second star, as the Curva Sud made clear on Monday night. An awe-inspiring, three-tiered tifo of their own was draped across the home end, portraying Inter as rats and the supposed second star as plastic or, indeed, ‘paper’ in the Italian phraseology, beside a mosaic of the words “Nothing Changes”. Following this was a banner reading, “Maths is not an opinion; on the field, you are still on nineteen.”

The Milanista belief that this year’s Scudetto merely catches rather than surpasses their record emanates from the 2006 “victory,” which was awarded to Inter “at the table” following Juve, who finished top that season, being stripped of the title amidst the Calciopoli scandal and their subsequent demotion to Serie B. This message was further rammed home by the Curva Sud with a flag raised of the Juventus badge in Inter colours along with the slogan “You lose finals, steal leagues. You’ve become everything you always hated.”

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San Siro

Any mild irritation this prickly provocation caused onlooking Inter fans would have been quickly dispelled as, seconds later, Milan’s last gasp attempts to spoil the party evaporated. Fikayo Tomori halved the deficit in the 80th minute, inspiring hope of avoiding an unprecedented humiliation at the hands of their rivals, but despite Noah Okafor coming close shortly after and the Rossoneri camping themselves in the opposition half for the final stages, frustration turned into desperation and, ultimately, self-immolation for Milan.

As the clock ticked down, the dying moments resulted less in an attack on Inter’s goal but, more so, on their players from those in red and black shirts. Theo Hernandez and captain Davide Calabria were both shown straight red cards for off-the-ball altercations in stoppage time (Denzel Dumfries was also sent off for his part in the scuffle with the Frenchman that erupted into a mass brawl in the 93rd minute), perhaps sparing themselves the ignominy of being on the pitch for the impending explosion of black and blue jubilation.

After several ill-fated corners dissipated any remaining Milan optimism deep into the added time, the referee’s whistle eventually marked their submission to the slow death they had endured fighting against the ferocious blue tide. Inter had done it. Regardless of the moralistic disapproval of Milanisti, that second star could finally be stitched onto the badge, although, frankly, that had already been done in minds across Italy for months before. Monday marked the end of a long procession towards the Scudetto, one that never really looked in doubt even before Juventus’ collapse in the spring.

One’s Celebration Is Another’s Misery

The Inter players knew this day was coming, but that certainly didn’t taint the spontaneous ecstasy that poured out of them at full time. Sprinting and sliding across the length of the pitch; players, coaches, and staff alike congregated beneath the boisterous Curva Nord to commence the celebrations that would last through the night.

From the second tier, flares were lit, flags were waved, and another huge banner was unveiled: “Repeat it to the Madonnina, who is the champion and who is the cry-baby.” The insult may have cut deep… if there had been enough Milan fans left to read it as they, following the lead of Hernandez and Calabria, made a hasty exit to avoid permanently damaging their corneas with the tear-gas-like, pepper-spraying sight of an Internazionale Scudetto celebration party unfolding in front of them.

San Siro

The visual pain inflicted upon the outgoing Milan fans was, for those of an Inter persuasion remaining in the stadium, matched by the ear-splitting DJ rave music blasted over the speakers straight after full time in a typically logical Italian “measure of public security” to avoid inflammatory chanting between the two sets of fans after the game.

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It didn’t get in the way of the Inter festivities, mind, as they danced, sang, and rejoiced in unison with the Curva Nord, captain Lautaro Martinez, and boyhood fan turned fan favourite Federico Di Marco leading the chants perched on top of the crossbar. Italian tricolours stamped with the number 20 were paraded while the architect of this most special of triumphs, Simeone Inzaghi, soaked in the adulation from both fans and players.

The joint celebrations on the pitch may only have lasted for a little over fifteen minutes, but they continued in the dressing room for the players, and in the stands as well as outside the ground for the fans. Fireworks lit up the appropriately navy-black night skies outside San Siro, while in the city centre, the main square, Piazza Duomo, began to fill up slowly—and then very quickly.

The team later joined the thousands of Interisti in the Duomo, this time with the dynamic reversed and the players admiring the gravity of their accomplishment while looking down from a balcony at the adoring crowd. Not all the players remained on the balcony, however, with Denzel Dumfries and Hakan Calhanoglu descending into the crowds to immerse themselves in the scenes of revelry and feel the full emotion of their devoted public.

The party went on long into the early hours of Tuesday morning, and it has not fully stopped yet. In the days that followed Monday’s success, speaking firsthand, the streets, public spaces, and college campuses of Milan have been populated with an abnormal uptick in Inter jerseys, as all those with a Nerazzuro connection proudly flaunt their club’s dominance. While certain windows and balconies of apartment blocks are adorned with black-and-blue bunting, flags, and memorabilia; the colours of Rossonero are conspicuously absent. There will be an open-top bus tour through the city on Sunday afternoon to continue the celebrations, just hours after the pre-parade warm-up that is their lunchtime kick-off against Torino at San Siro.

Even with a month of the season left to play, Inter are keen to keep the music rolling. Sunday will be a festival dedicated to the team, the manager, number 20, and their return to the summit of Italian football. The Derby reaffirmed their recent superiority over their city rivals and the memory of securing the title in the sweetest possible manner will shine forever brightly in Inter minds, just as that second star that emerged from the clouds illuminated the Milanese sky in an interstellar constellation of black and blue.

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