If it's Rome, I've lost me passport

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I arrived at the Stadio Olimpico two hours before last Wednesday’s Roman derby to pick up a pre-arranged press pass. Nobody knew from where I should collect it.

"This is Italy,” said my Milan-supporting translator, who had travelled to the capital from the north. “And this is Rome. Nothing is simple here.”

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 journalist’s 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.

“What about my passport?” I asked.

“We don’t have it.”

“I handed it to you.”

“You didn’t.”



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 I’d travelled by boat) and within 10 minutes of arriving I’d been told that I didn’t 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?

I’d left my phone number and said I’d give her €100 if the passport was returned and she got it back to me. I’m 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:


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 don’t).

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 I’d got my passport back.

I nodded and smiled. Although she could have asked if my name was Javier Mascherano and I would have nodded – before, naturally, telling her to “fuck off”.