Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why I love the Italian (European) Football Culture

As you know, football (don't call it soccer) isn't just a national obsession. It runs in the blood so it is in the DNA of Italians and a huge part of the culture. I have learned that the best time to go food shopping or to the park is when there is a big game on, and as a result, little traffic and no crowds. I just finished watching the Italy/Slovakia game, and Italy lost (3-2)and is out of the World Cup games. They were the champions of the last World Cup, and so this is especially disappointing. But we did have the pleasure of being in Sicily for final game four years ago. We watched it outdoors in the piazza of the small town we were staying at- the game was projected onto a bedsheet hung by the young men onto the side of the town hall. Unfortunately, a torrential rainstorm came through half way and the tv lost its reception, and our friend Marco (who, with Kathryn, was vacationing with us) ran all the way back to our apartment to continue watching the game.

When I went to get Ray at school today, the Italy game had just started. The classroom had been converted to a TV room. The teachers lined up chairs in front of a small TV and the students - 3, 4, and 5 year olds - had the Italian colors painted on their cheeks and were all sitting quietly and watching the game. They sure start them young, eh?

Why do I LOVE watching football here?
1. Because the English (and non-) teachers I work with all went to the nursery room (where the biggest TV is) after school to watch England play yesterday, armed with beer and wine.
2. Because the carpenter who is working on the garage outside our apartment pulled his car closer to listen to the game on the radio while he continued working (which is surprising as most people go home or to a bar but I suspect he is not Italian).
3. Because the Italian players broke down and cried like babies on the field when the game was over.
4. Because the coach of the Slovakian team did the victory walk around the field, waving at the fans with tears running down his stoic face.
5. Because businesses close, and schools shut down whenever Italy makes it to the finals.
6. Because when Italy wins an important game, you can always here the cars honking for 30 minutes after the game is over - and if you are lucky enough to be in the main piazza, watch the waves of Italian flags out of car windows and motorbikes. The police take a step back and just watch.
7. Because I was able to attend/watch many of the World Cup games held in the NJ/NY area in 1994 and I can remember the Irish fans going absolutely crazy (they won against Italy) and walking on the shoulders of the highways to walk back to where ever they were staying, singing and waving their flags. I didn't get it then, but I do now.


Bo said...

Despite all the controversies, it's called "the beautiful game" for a reason!!

Julia said...

I was in Rome 4 years ago -- it was quite the sight to behold! I ended up in a theater lobby that had been converted into world cup central -- we wrapped italian flags around us when italy won and walked the city in a daze well well into the night. I don't even follow soccer, but I remember it as one of the best evenings ever! The city felt charged, electric, for some reason.