18th January 2009
It goes without saying that football mums have to go to football matches to support their young players. I am no exception. When I found out my nine-year-old was playing on the Island of Elba this weekend my first reaction was to groan, knowing that the day would entail lots of travelling.
Elba is part of the Province of Livorno, part of the Tuscan Archipelago, a group of varied and beautiful islands lying off the coast of Tuscany. Five of these islands lie within Livorno’s provincial boundaries – Capraia, Elba, Gorgona, Montecristo and Pianosa. To get to Elba from Livorno, you have to drive for about an hour south to the smaller port of Piombino and catch a ferry from there to Portoferraio, the main town on the island of Elba. The ferry crossing lasts about an hour.
So off we set, at a little after 7.30 on Saturday morning, Elba-bound. It felt good to be heading out of town. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad after all. The sun was shining and the sea was calm. I hadn’t set foot on the island for about twenty years, so arriving in Portoferraio was like discovering new territory. The small town, founded by the Florentine Medici who also founded Livorno, stretches around the port and up the side of the hill dominated by its fort. This is where Napoleon was first sent into exile and his house can still be visited. The town looked very inviting, waiting to be explored.
We were promptly whisked away, however, in minibuses to the village of Capoliveri on the south-western side of the island, another half hour’s journey. There were about sixty of us altogether counting footballers, parents, and team staff. Dropped in sleepy, out of season Capoliveri we were led to the village square with views over snow-topped Corsica in the distance – a rare and wonderful sight. A restaurant awaited, the staff ready to serve us all a very good, albeit early seafood lunch before the football tournament at 2pm (food being almost as important as the football itself).
I had never seen a football pitch in such a scenic setting, suspended against a backdrop of Elba’s hills and distant sea. As the boys gave their all on the Astroturf, my gaze occasionally wandered over the surrounding views, then back to the calcio to keep up with the score.
We won three matches and drew one, and came away a happy bunch. On the way back to the port our bus driver took us on a quick detour to the beach at Lido di Capoliveri. Perhaps he was missing the tourists. The beach was deserted, of course, and black clouds hung overhead, making the scene look rather like a stormy Caribbean island.
We got home almost exactly 12 hours after we had set off. Twelve hours for just over an hour of football. But all in all it was a satisfying day out for everyone! Where to next week?