If it's Rome, I've lost me passport
I arrived at the Stadio Olimpico two hours before last WednesdayÃ¢ÂÂs Roman derby to pick up a pre-arranged press pass. Nobody knew from where I should collect it.
"This is Italy,Ã¢ÂÂ said my Milan-supporting translator, who had travelled to the capital from the north. Ã¢ÂÂAnd this is Rome. Nothing is simple here.Ã¢ÂÂ
I found myself in an office with a stunning girl dressed more for the catwalks of Milan than the accreditation office of Lazio. Sadly, she directed me to another office.
The Stadio Olimpico (pretty lady not pictured)
I handed over my passport, but they had no record of the fax from FourFourTwo confirming I was who I said I was. I handed my journalistÃ¢ÂÂs card to another official, who checked a different list. The girl with my passport dealt with other ticket requests, handing over envelopes.
Five minutes later they told me that I could not have a ticket and returned my press pass.
Ã¢ÂÂWhat about my passport?Ã¢ÂÂ I asked.
Ã¢ÂÂWe donÃ¢ÂÂt have it.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂI handed it to you.Ã¢ÂÂ
She searched the office. Nothing. She got a torch out and shone around where I had been stood. Nothing. I began to question my sanity. Had I really handed over my passport?
It had taken me 26 hours to get to the stadium (my choice, as IÃ¢ÂÂd travelled by boat) and within 10 minutes of arriving IÃ¢ÂÂd been told that I didnÃ¢ÂÂt have a ticket and my passport had gone missing.
Back with the stunning girl, my translator worked his magic and finally got two tickets, but I was still without my passport as I walked into the vast Olimpico. I was convinced that the lady had inadvertently handed over my passport when she dealt with the other ticket request, but how could I prove that?
IÃ¢ÂÂd left my phone number and said IÃ¢ÂÂd give her Ã¢ÂÂ¬100 if the passport was returned and she got it back to me. IÃ¢ÂÂm not one for losing my head, but I started to envisage a nightmare scenario of trying to get a new passport in Rome on Good Friday, when the city is thronged with pilgrims, and offices are closed.
Endless potential problems kept occurring to me. Even if I got safe passage home, how would I get my hire car in Manchester without my passport? How would I get a new passport to fly back to Barcelona on Easter Monday? Or, for that matter, to take the plane to Glasgow this weekend for Celtic vs Rangers?
As my mind spun, I watched Roma captain Francesco Totti lay a wreath in front of the Lazio Ultras in honour of a Lazio fan shot dead by police in November. The atmosphere was subdued and surreal for a game associated with noise, extreme passion and colour.
Then the public address system boomed out for 70,000 to hear:
Ã¢ÂÂANDREW MITTEN. ANDREW MITTEN. THE POLICE HAVE YOUR PASSPORT. MR ANDREW, YOUR PASSPORT IS WITH THE POLICE.Ã¢ÂÂ
I punched the air like Brian McClair and sought out the Carabinieri to pick up my right of passage, which has accompanied me from principalities (they count as visiting a separate country) to airports (they donÃ¢ÂÂt).
Then I watched one of the best Roman derbies in years as Lazio took the lead, then went 2-1 down, before fighting back to win 3-2 with a last minute winner.
My concentration in the absorbing encounter was only broken when the dream girl from the office, who was so fit that she turned a hundred heads when she walked into the stand, asked if IÃ¢ÂÂd got my passport back.
I nodded and smiled. Although she could have asked if my name was Javier Mascherano and I would have nodded Ã¢ÂÂ before, naturally, telling her to Ã¢ÂÂfuck offÃ¢ÂÂ.