Lu Bin, an avid fan of Italian soccer, finally realized a dream yesterday when he bought a ticket for Saturday's Super Cup clash between Inter Milan and Lazio in Beijing.
Lu, 40, is just one of millions of Serie A fans in China. He grew up with Italian soccer, which was the first European league to be televised here 20 years ago.
Serie A was widely recognized as the world's best league in the 1990s as it attracted the best and highest-paid players and produced the greatest number of finalists in European club competitions.
After years of watching the league in front of his television, Lu now has the chance to experience the real thing at the Bird's Nest, the 2008 Beijing Olympic venue.
"All of my memories over the past 20 years have been re-ignited thanks to the coming of Super Cup," said an emotional Lu.
"I started to watch Serie A and fell in love with it almost 20 years ago," Lu recalled. "There was no other soccer league on TV at that time and the Italian league produced the first generation of Chinese soccer fans as well as a huge base of Serie A fans."
Twenty years of exposure to the league in China has produced strong local fan bases for teams like AC Milan, Inter, Roma and Juventus and has also left everlasting memories of brilliant performances from superstars including Diego Maradona, Marco van Basten and Jurgen Klinsmann.
Through the popularity of Serie A, Chinese fans also turned their adoration to the Italian national team.
They cried when Roberto Baggio missed a penalty during the 1994 World Cup final. However, in 2006, they were jumping and singing in the streets, celebrating Italy's World Cup victory.
The mania was highlighted by controversial comments during the 2006 World Cup match between Italy and Australia.
Popular CCTV 5 commentator Huang Jianxiang revealed his Italian bias in an anti-Australian rant while commentating on the last minutes of the live match broadcast to many millions in China.
Meanwhile, the ticket agency said 53,756 tickets had been sold up until 3 pm on Wednesday for the 70,000-capacity Bird's Nest and there will only be 5,000 tickets available at the gate on the night of the clash.
Taking place on August 8, exactly a year after the opening of the Olympics, the match will be the first event at the venue since the Paralympic Games' closing ceremony last September.
"Italian Super Cup is a traditional and spectacular event in Italy while the Bird's Nest was the symbolic venue during the Olympics. It's perfect to have a beautiful match in a beautiful stadium," said Sun Kanglin, director of Beijing Sports Bureau.