Ryan Chartrand

Prepare yourselves for the greatest sports story – ever. By the time you’ve finished reading this column, I promise you a laugh and maybe even a tear. If you don’t laugh, let me know and I’ll ghost ride my Dodge until you do!

Are you ready? Are you sitting down? Are your eyes stretched and ready to do their thing? Here comes the awesomeness:

With every great sports story there is a dream and with every dream comes a journey. This journey began Saturday morning in a house tucked away on a side street on the east end of Foothill Boulevard. While most were still asleep, a man rose from his bed.

He would’ve loved to remain in a comatose state of sleep along with the rest of his housemates, but what seemed like a flock of chirp-happy birds happened to be stationed outside his window.

“What are people supposed to do at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning?” I wondered.

I could’ve chosen to attack that mountain of laundry in my closet or to clean my room, but that wasn’t my destiny.

I gazed at my PlayStation 2, a long lost friend. We had spent many glorious hours together in the past, but a general disinterest in video games abruptly ended our relationship about six months prior.

I browsed the six games in my collection and popped FIFA 2005 into the console.

“Just one game,” I thought.

Three hours later, I was one-quarter of the way through a season with Hellas Verona of the Italian Serie B, the second division of Italian soccer.

A knock at the door – “Dude, can you hear those damn birds? What are you playing? Oh! FIFA? Can I play?”

Brought together by boredom and a flock of chirping birds, we were ready to take on all of Italy in a quest to take Hellas Verona to Coppa glory. The Coppa Italian (Italian Cup) is awarded to Italy’s top team. It pits teams from Italy’s A, B, C and D leagues in one March Madness-like tournament.

I did the research on Wikipedia. Hellas Verona had zero Coppa Italian trophies since the tournament’s beginning in 1922. The club was runner-up in 1976, 1983 and 1984, but couldn’t nail down a championship.

A crowd of onlookers grew throughout the day as word of the unlikely title run spread. Just two games away from the Coppa Italian title game, it was standing room only.

We roasted Roma and aced AC Milan. And, in the end, we met Juventus in the final leg of our journey.

This match would be the ultimate David versus Goliath scenario. We’re talking a one-star team against a 4.5 star team, one of the worst teams in FIFA 2005 against one of the best. It was a miracle that Hellas survived to the championship game.

We knew what was necessary – a killer training montage. On went the Rocky theme song and we trained. We worked on our eye-to-finger coordination, stretched out the eyes and did laps up our staircase. We topped it off with a Rocky-like pose on our balcony – game time.

Juventus kept Lunco quiet and put one past Pelogo to win the first game. However, in most soccer playoffs, there are two games and the aggregate score is taken between those two games to decide the victor. We still had a chance.

We fell back quickly in game No. 2 as Juventus scored in the fifth minute and took a 1-0 lead into halftime. Downtrodden, we held our heads low as the players headed to the locker room.

“What the hell are you guys doing?” our roommate yelled at us. “You need to pick your heads up and play! It’s not over!”

A slow clap emerged from the back of the room. Dustin and I looked at each other, shook our heads and clasped our hands as a sign of unity.

We scored in the opening minutes of the second half. Then came another just minutes later. However, Juventus stepped up the defense.

In the 90th minute, the aggregate score knotted at two and the game destined for overtime, Lunco took a long ball in the middle of the field, dribbled past two Juventus defenders and stroked one for the upper right. The ball hung in the air for a moment before splashing into the back of the net. GOOOOOAAAAALLLLL!!!

Cue the “Chariots of Fire” theme song. The next moments unfolded in slow motion. I leapt from my chair and whooped my arm around in a circular motion while yelling, “Wooooo!!!” My roommate and I embraced as the crowd went wild with jubilation.

It all started with a flock of chirping birds. One wasted Saturday later, my roommate and I had conquered all of Italy with the most unlikely of teams.

Note: This story is loosely based on Saturday’s actual events.

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