Story of Italian soccer club's lone supporter sweeps the internet
Arrigo Brovedani was outnumbered by 15,000 Sampdoria fans on Monday
The 37-year-old says he didn't expect to be the only Udinese fan present
He says he has been besieged by media requests, including an invite to England
He might have walked alone in a crowd of 15,000 fans, but for one Italian soccer fan that lonely experience has resulted in internet stardom.
The unusual story of Arrigo Brovedani, who was the only Udinese supporter to turn up to the club’s top-level away game earlier this week, has swept around the world.
“I feel a little overwhelmed, I don’t think I deserve all this attention!” the 37-year-old told CNN on Thursday.
Brovedani has had a memorable few days. He went to Sampdoria’s stadium in Genoa on Monday evening expecting few fellow Udinese fans – but he didn’t expect to be the only one.
A wine seller, he had been in the city on business, having started the four-hour drive from the northeastern city of Udine that morning.
“When I travel to away matches, there’s about 200 or 80 of us but on Monday, because of the time of the game and the location I thought I wouldn’t find more than five or six people there,” he said.
“When I got there I found out I was the only one. I understand that it’s cold now, it’s a long drive plus, the economic crisis doesn’t help, so people are not moving en masse as you would expect. I was lucky because I’m used to traveling and just happened to be in the area.”
The stewards at Stadio Luigi Ferraris gave him the option of sitting in the main stand, but Brovedani chose the deserted away end.
“The home fans started booing, shouting and insulting … the usual,” he said. “But when I saw that the Udinese players were warming up I shouted out to them saying, ‘Guys, I’m all alone here. Alone! You can hear me now but you won’t be able to hear me once the game starts!’
“When the home fans eventually understood what was happening, they gave me a huge round of applause. They were cheering even though Sampdoria lost the game in the end. They were actually really nice – they offered me food and coffee and the club manager gave me a shirt, which was nice.”
Brovedani has since been swamped with media requests as the popularity of his story grew.
He said he has been invited to a Premier League game in England by broadcaster the BBC, Udinese officials have asked him to come to the club’s next home match and Italian TV stations “keep calling me.”
“I don’t think it’s that big a story – there are so many keen fans that really never miss a game, so I’m sure I’m not the first one!” he said.
Udinese, which last season finished third in Serie A to qualify for the preliminary rounds of Europe’s top club competition this term, has an average home attendance of 18,000.
Monday’s 2-0 win at Sampdoria lifted the team into the top half of the table, with captain Antonio Di Natale among the scorers. He personifies the fierce loyalty the club inspires, refusing lucrative offers to join bigger sides.
Brovedani, meanwhile, is happy to support anything from his home region.
“I’m not a representative of the Udinese fan club, I’m just passionate about all things that my region has to offer – from sports to food and everything inbetween,” said Brovedani, who hails from the town of Spilimbergo.
“I’ve been a Udinese fan for years, since I was a little boy. Udinese represents my region: if you come from Friuli, you have to be a Udinese fan.
“I always carry a flag and my scarf with me in the car. Whenever there is a sporting event that involves people from my region I just go along, because I’m very proud of my origins.”
The supporters of English club Liverpool traditionally sing the anthem “You’ll never walk alone” – and from now on it can apply to at least one Italian fan.