Football: passion or distraction?

I want to understand this. I have to!

The way Italians treat football is very different from what I’ve seen until now. They take it personally!

Besides talking about the weather as if it were the main character in a (very) strange play, as children talk about their mothers: “Mother said not to go there” = “The weather is going to be bad today, let’s not move”, they talk about football all the time.

If you want to understand Italy and the Italians you have to understand the dynamics of football. (Good luck!)

If the weather decides that today is going to be a bit cloudy, the Italians decide accordingly that today is not going to be a working day. Just this morning (cloudy/raining) I passed by an office. On the front door was hanging this message : “Siamo al bar” an arrow was pointing to left. I got curious. Really!? You can do that?

Following the arrow… I wanted to see this bar. At the end of the street, right at the corner, there it was, a little bar containing people drinking and eating.

If, on the other hand, today is a match day, the whole city is taking it into account and they, surprisingly, plan their activities according to the match! The bars, restaurants, street, offices open or close depending on it.

I look at them as if I am dreaming, what do you mean you can’t work now, you have to go to the match?

What do you mean “siamo al bar!” What if a customer comes in NOW ?

This time I have to say it: Boh! This is bizarre dear Italian people.

As always, I am an outsider. I have to ask hundreds of questions in order to understand what is going on. People walk around here while checking on the phone, a dedicated app I suppose, the chart! Instead of talking about things like, work, getting over that depression, learning that English, they say: Ha segnato Napoli!

Me: who the fuck cares! Let’s talk about serious things, as in (again) WORK!

But no, they care, a lot. All of them care.

So, I find myself obliged to understand this thing.

There are people who hang their team’s symbol outside on the balcony. I guess, as a way to keep away the evil enemies, i.e, fans of other teams.

God help you if you find yourself in a group of people supporting  Juventus for example, and you say, I am with Napoli, or Sassuolo…your flesh will be dripping blood in a second.

Your soul will be flying back to where it came from.

Don’t mention it.

So, in order to understand this fenomena I found a civile, a 21st century adapted human being, a eloquent football fan and  I asked pertinent, maybe naive, questions.

You reading this is a proof that I am still alive after having admitted that I do not support any team at all.

BOH!

1.How did you get in touch with the world of fotball? What did it bring into your life?

My family introduced me to the world of fotball. My father was the biggest supporter of Fiorentina among us. We used to go regularly at the stadium, with my cousin and my uncle. I was 5 years old when they took me for the first time at the stadium! Since then I’ve felt the fire burning inside of me and from that moment on me and the ball where inseparable.  (The brainwash starts during early childhood! 🙂

I used to create my own championships, I played alone, I played with my friends.

Now, whenever Fiorentina is playing I feel the call, I can’t miss it, see it or hear it, as we used to do years ago when there were no direct transmissions on the TV. (Oh yeah, I got that!)

2.What is this craziness about football in Italy? How do you look at it?

It is known, in Italy football is everywhere. I see it as a passion, but when I refer to Fiorentina, I feel belonging as well.

fiorentina.PNG
Whaaa …

It is also part of the city culture, the place where I was born, where I grew up and still live.  Seen from outside, I understand that it might seem crazy, a disease, sometimes escalating to unhealthy degrees. It is also a strong social aggregation point. This is how I got to know a lot of people. When we meet and talk I feel the same passion in them as in me. Yes, maybe it is a way of avoiding daily problems but being a fan is part of the same every- day-ness.

3. If you were to compare the Italian football to that of the other countries, how do see its evolution, where is it heading?

The Italian football has always had one of the most important places in the world. (Yeah right!) 

This is the home of tactics, sometimes to the disadvantage of the technique. The Serie A championship has seen better days than now. In the 80’ and the 90’ the Italian football was the destination of the best payed championships and the technical level was also higher.

According to me, Italy stagnated in regards of structures for young players, if we compare that to the systems countries like Great Britain, Spain and Germany have.

Italy is stagnating as well if we speak about club leaders. These aspects were crashed by the predominance of  TV and money, which are unequally shared among the clubs. The stadiums, most of them, are old, uncomfortable and inefficient. Besides that, a championship among 20 teams has for sure leveled the technical aspect, in a descending direction. There is a lot of work to do. (I know, that’s what I’ve been saying the whole time!!)

4.Talk about your team, how come you are supporting this team ?

My team is Fiorentina. I chose it  because in our family everybody was supporting Fiorentina, because I am from Florence, because I even grew up very close to the stadium. I could not make a different choice even if I wanted to! As soon I saw the stadium, the games, that beautiful purple Tshirt- I was hooked! ( I was not! ) 

Fiorentina won only two championships, first one in the 50’, the second one during the 68/69 championship.It won 6 Italy Cups and one Super Italy Cup. It did not win a lot. It has always been an outsider even if it was almost always present in  Serie A and it also had high quality players, since the beginning.

My forever idol has been Giancarlo Antognoni: a high class player, always played for Fiorentina and even now is part of the managing staff of the club. 

antognoni.jpg
A photo signed by the very Antognoni!

I can also mention fantastic players as De Sisti, Baggio, Batistuta, Passarella …but there have been so many good ones!

To end, as I was saying previously, supporting this team, being a fan means belonging, it doesn’t matter the category, the position on the chart even if we, the fans, are very demanding and we would like to win always!

5. Please talk about the context, the Italy,  where football grew in having such an importance? How was it before?

(If I think back to Moldova, there are football teams and a championship as well but not in my reality, not as a countrywide pandemy).

I think that Italy was in general very competitive: it needs to fight against something, a neighbour city or even with a different quarter in the same town. Football is containing this characteristic.The rivalry is increasing and it lightens the passion needed to beat the “enemy” and then it gives rise to happiness and heat! Maybe because before, many years ago, we were closed inside the walls. Italy was composed of many little states, maybe we still have it in our genes. Any Italian, even those who do not follow passionately what happens in the football world, is anyway supporting a team. Before it was easier to get to the stadium, less safety controls, and more affordable. Let’s say that is was addressing to families more.

6.What do you think, what does football mean for the fans? .

The fans see themselves as trainers and football experts and they have to find anyway to express their opinion, on anything! They are ecstatic when their team wins, they are depressed when it loses. The whole week they talk about football, especially on mondays. For some of them, supporting a specific team, means being part of a specific city/town, there are those who chose the best teams so they could say: I am always the best! That’s too easy! ( Agree! Choose the last one and be a good person!) 

In general, I see it as a big collective passion!  (Crazzzy! Any collective things make me wonder).

7.Seen from outside, this “collective craziness” looks like a shortcut, a way to stay away from the reality, to not see that which happens in one’s life, the family, the society in general. What do you say in regards to this?

Yes, from outside it might seem a way to evade the reality, a drug which is giving your relief from the everyday life, a way of not thinking at the “most important” things. As you can see, I’ve added the quotation marks: for us, the fans, football and our team are part of the most important things! Those who are not fans seem not to understand. (No, they don’t indeed!)

Let me give you some examples: there are  those who are crazy about cooking, moto races, crochet, cinema, music, theater etc. It is the same passion and I can’t see why the passion for football might be “stupid” while the others are “ intelligent”! 

The hours I spend talking or watching football, in my case, are relaxing, apart the times when my team is playing, I am all fired up then! 

8.What do you get from this passion? What does it make you think, feel?

This passion makes me feel alive!

The same for my other passions, music, theater. I always liked to follow my team’s performance but also to see what are the other teams are doing, the small or big championships. (It goes on and on!)

I like to be always informed about the situation in general and the results, the tactics or the modules. I am passionate about  watching  the amazing technique some players have. I like to see the game, the dribbling, the attacks, the goals! Last time I went to the stadium I had the chance to have a seat in the central tribune. I was so moved and excited because I could be so close to my team! I was happy like a child.

So, this fact reminded me about what  football does to me, it makes me feel a child again: frank, sincere like a child. (Do children scream “palla di merda” while playing?!? )

9.What do you expect from the future of football?

The future of the football  looks like the future of the world: globalized (this is not bad, on the contrary), under the influence and the pressure of money. There are too many gaps between the teams, regarding their financial capacity. (The rest of the mortals also experience this strange gap, did you happen to notice that? )

The football today is suffocated by buyers who are pushing the clubs to sell their players by engaging others who are overrated, not yet ready for the challenge. This fact is paralyzing the market.

If we look at the game itself, now it is much faster and sometimes what is prevailing are the athletic abilities and not the technique, even if you don’t have strong feet you don’t get very far. 

In my opinion, the future of football, as to avoid the pressure of the most potent clubs, should reorientate towards training young players, towards building the structures for them, towards passion and imagination.

We need that to play football. 

And we need all of YOU to move this country forward! Come back! 🙂

 

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