Following the Italian national team is for me a relaxing experience. Of course I want them to win. But if they win or lose does not carry much of an emotional load. As an Italian born I am happy the Azzurri are in the final of the Euros. But not having Optus I am not going to wake up and brave the cold to watch the game live somewhere. Will probably listen to the final stages on the the Italian radio on the web. I am not nervous or anything like that. And won’t be upset if Italy doesn’t win. While this would be a totally different story with the Australian national team. Why is that?
Italy, football and me. ‘It’s complicated’
My relationship with football, especially in the Italian context is as Facebook would say ‘complicated’. When I was a child in Italy I had conflicting emotions about it. It was everywhere (like it is now) it was a major source of conversation among children and adults alike. My father (like his father) was a life member of AC Milan. He would recount tales of when as a young men he would travel with the team in away games and help shovel snow on the pitch before the game.
I was hopeless at it. I was a fat child with no sporting prowess whatsoever. I do remember playing in the courtyard below when I was a young child of 6 or 7, but when it became more serious and kids actually wanted to win, rather than have fun I stopped going, stayed in my bedroom and listened to the children below acting out their competitive streak.
Still, football had an important part in my life. Especially in relating with my father. I still remember when he took me two or three times at San Siro which I still remember as one of the best things in my childhood. Or listening to ‘Il Calcio minuto per minuto’ when Milan was beaten in the last match of the season by its hoodoo team Verona to lose the scudetto. My father almost threw the transistor through the window.
Or watching that amazing Germany Italy match at the 1970 World Cup with a portable black and white TV in front of a caravan during a summer holiday.
Coming to Australia
Instead I feel much more anxious with a Socceroo match. Why? Probably because football had a significance to me and tied me to family and my childhood, I used it as a link. When I go to a football match I somehow feel a connection to my late father and to those moments in San Siro or listening to the radio (I still love listening to football on the radio, whether from Italy of in Australia). And that connection is created by a sport which is often belittled in this country. And the National Team somehow signify that link.
I know that football in Italy whether it wins or loses in the EURO final will always be passionately followed by the population. Italy didn’t qualify for the World Cup and just a few years later in the the EURO final. This is not the situation in Australia. I came to Australia in 1974 and by the time I got interested in the Socceroos qualification in 1982 I didn’t realise that I had to go through five agonising qualification failures. When Italy fails qualifying for a World Cup there is general astonishment and sadness. In Australia football fans had to suffer taunting from other Australians ‘sport fans’.
So in bocca al lupo Italy. But when September comes and the Socceroos are playing the first match is when the butterflies will start.