Milan's Juve fan club proud to be different

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MILAN, Oct 31 (Reuters) Real Madrid fans from Barcelona are seldom seen and Manchester United supporters born in Liverpool are just as rare.

In Milan, though, a Juventus supporters' club is thriving with around 630 members.

They meet in relative secret, with no Juve shirts in sight, but every other week about 100 of the group troop off to Turin an hour away and expose their black and white hearts.

On Sunday, members will have to be extra careful as they share the motorway and Turin train-line with Inter Milan fans.

The leaders are visiting title-chasing Juve.

The fan club is called Madunina, a fortunate name as it does not include the word Milan, something which could further anger Inter and AC Milan fans already aghast that fellow Milanese would dare support old enemy Juventus.

The football rivalry is so intense that anyone going against the grain and supporting the other team risks jocular banter from work colleagues at best.

Verbal abuse and physical harm can happen though, prompting the question of why they put themselves through it when they have two perfectly good teams on their doorstep.

''The history of Juve is written in letters of gold on the roll-call of glory and victory. Juve will always be and when the other teams are no longer, Juve will still be there,'' Madunina member Guido Secreto told Reuters.

FINDING JOBS The Milanese in the fan club, founded in 1964, are proud of being from Milan and for having chosen Juventus rather than having one thrust upon them because of where they were born.

Members also point out that any knowledgeable person would be aware they came from Italy's second city because Madunina refers to the Virgin Mary statue on the main spire of Milan's cathedral.

''Between the organised Juventus and Inter ultra groups, there is a deep hatred,'' said Igor, who asked not to reveal his second name.

''But many Inter fans live with Juventus supporters as if Juve was another team from their city.'' Several in the fan club are not originally from Milan but have gravitated to Italy's financial centre from all around the country in order to find jobs.

Juventus, like Bayern Munich in Germany, are the club most supported in their country by people not from the city and are almost viewed as the nation's team.

Rather than support smaller hometown clubs, Italians, especially in the south, tend to choose Juventus as many fans do across the globe.

''I support Juve because I cannot at all imagine supporting any other team. As I say to my friends I follow football because I am a Juve fan. Otherwise I probably wouldn't follow football at all,'' said fan club member Paolo Bencardino.

''Supporting Juve is like being part of a religious sect.'' Inter and Milan fans would rather Milanese supported one of the city's teams, even if it was their rivals, rather than Juve.

They allege that Juve fans outside of Turin are simply 'glory supporters', attaching themselves to a successful club.

GIVEN POTENCY The animosity between Juve and Inter is slightly more pronounced than the rivalry between Milan and Juve and is almost as intense as Inter against Milan.

The bitterness is deep-rooted, with the two sides battling over titles in the 1960s, but it has been given potency in the last couple of years following Juve's demotion to the second tier for match-fixing and their subsequent promotion back to Serie A.

Inter were the main beneficiaries of Juve's demise. The Turin club were stripped of their 2005/06 Serie A title and after second-placed AC Milan were deducted points, Inter ended up being crowned champions despite finishing third.

Roberto Mancini's side officially counted the scudetto as their 14th league championship, much to Juve's annoyance, and thanks to Juve being in Serie B and Milan suffering a further points deduction, Inter wrapped up their 15th title last season.

They did so with the help of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and midfielder Patrick Vieira, who both had moved to Inter from Juve because they did not want to play second tier football.

Vieira is injured for Sunday but Swede Ibrahimovic can expect a rough ride.

''The truth is that we are superior, we always have been and soon we will return to the top. November 4 will be our judgement day,'' added Bencardino.

Reuters BJR VP0650

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