Matteo Melodia has been called the Indiana Jones of soccer ticket collectors. It’s easy to see why. With more than 6,000 tickets in his personal stash, the 46-year-old Italian native has been digging for soccer artifacts since 1987.
Melodia, a native of Milan who moved to Lodi in 2001, claims he has the largest collection of soccer tickets, including stubs from the World Cup.
He even wrote a book about it: World Cup Tickets: 1930 to 2018, which was released in February and is published in English, Italian and Spanish.
Melodia’s collection includes tickets from almost every World Cup match since 1930 — he is missing 30 tickets — along with tickets from AC Milan (his favorite team), the Italian national team and European Cup collectibles, including UEFA matches.
But the World Cup is soccer’s showcase, and Melodia loves the history of the tournament.
“I think the World Cup is the only main opportunity where all real football lovers from all over the world have the chance to meet each other,” Melodia said. “Especially for teams from the smaller countries that sometimes — incredibly — qualify for the final round of the World Cup.
Melodia said he had to pare down his overall collection, which became unwieldy.
“About 10 years ago I had about 60,000 tickets, but obviously I decided to make a choice,” he said. “I couldn’t collect every ticket in general, so I decided to keep the collection limited to the World Cup, the Italian league, AC Milan and European Cup Finals.”
Melodia got his first soccer ticket in 1987 when a friend gave him a stub from a Manchester United game.
“I got it free from a Dutch friend,” he said. “And after that I got involved with English tickets.”
Melodia soon found a friend in Milan who enjoyed British soccer and got AC Milan tickets from him.
A passion was born. Because Melodia’s family traveled around the world, he was able to find tickets at various shops, flea markets and even from newspaper advertising. He has found them in places like London, Vienna, Munich, Barcelona and Valencia.
Melodia even found a ticket in 2003 when he was in Tokyo, finding a shop that had an AC Milan ticket and program for the Intercontinental Final Cup that was being played in Yokohama.
“This was hunting, not collecting,” Melodia said.
Melodia is always on the prowl for soccer tickets. Where does he look?
“Everywhere, my friend,” he said. “I lived in Milan for 30 years and now (in Lodi) I am next to a ‘good’ zone for flea markets and people.
“But really, I search everywhere — on the internet, advertising in newspapers, flea markets, and (from) any useful contacts.”
Melodia’s World Cup book showcases the tickets he has collected through the years. He said the toughest tickets to find are from the 1934 final in Rome, when Italy defeated Czechoslovakia 2-1 in overtime in temperatures that reached 104 degrees.
“Italy had much destruction during World War II,” he said.
Melodia said his favorite ticket comes from the same tournament, from the semifinal matches in Naples between Italy and Austria, and Czechoslovakia and Germany.
“Nobody in the world has a ticket from that match except me,” Melodia claimed. “They were really scarce and impossible to find.”
It’s ironic that Melodia, given his passion of collecting World Cup tickets, has never attended soccer’s premier event — even in 1990, when Italy hosted the tournament.
“I was 17 and did not have much time for (watching) football,” he said. “My main hobby was girls.”
Melodia did play a brand of football unusual to Italian culture — American-style football. Melodia played quarterback for the Rhinos, a youth team in Milan.
Melodia said his interest in collecting probably descends from his great-grandfather, Arturo Bistoletti, who was a referee in Serie A and helped organize the World Championships in Milan. Melodia still owns a whistle Bistoletti used during his nearly five decades as an official.
“I never met him, but he left many items to his son (my grandfather), who kept them all,” Melodia said. “He was a member of the 1934 World Cup organization team in Italy.”
Bistoletti officiated matches in Italy and was “one of the founders of Italian football,” Melodia said.
Outside of the World Cup, Melodia said the ticket he was most satisfied tracking down was the 1961 European Cup final between Benfica and Barcelona. Benfica defeated Barcelona 3-2 in Bern, Switzerland.
It took 30 years for Melodia to find a ticket from that match, as many tickets that day were destroyed by rain.
Tickets for more recent tournaments no longer fit the traditional look of stubs, since many are generated through the internet and fans can use bar codes on their smartphones to get into events. That makes the older tickets much more valuable.
That leaves open the possibility of fake tickets, particularly from the 1930, 1950, 1954 and 1962 World Cup tournaments.
“Tickets are an art and a historical memory that we will no longer have,” Melodia told il Giornale, Milan’s daily newspaper, in January.
That puts an even bigger premium on legitimate tickets. So, like Indiana Jones, Melodia keeps searching for those paper artifacts. What is now the hardest ticket to find?
“The ones I don’t have,” he said.
If you have one he’s looking for, or if you want to order Melodia’s book, you can reach him at [email protected].