Tuesday, June 18, 2002

1966, again

Allright - now that everything is over and the Italian soccer team is holed up in the shower room weeping over each other's shoulder, I can own up to it. I rooted for them. Not that very much, and for a whole lot of strange reasons, but during the last ten minutes of overtime I was buried under a pillow and moaning.

Partly it was because of the surrounding ambient of friends and relatives that were living the thing with authentic passion (up to and including the friend who unplugs the phone during and after to be able to grieve in private). Not to mention the neighbourhood - some heroic workers were tearing down a garage opposite, and though they arrived at the workplace a bit later than usual they did arrive and they did start working, when the second time was still running. In this they were a lot more conscientious that the members of the Parliament, who stopped the session and divided along party lines to go watch the match in the respective group rooms. At the end, somebody walked out to inform the workers of the outcome: "How's it gone?" "As usual. They fucked us."

Because in the end, in Italy, it's always the referee's fault.

Partly it was because rooting for the other team is, in Italy, such a seriously grave and heinous crime that it can inspire a certain revulsion even in those that don't give a toss for soccer and the nation.

Partly, and mostly, it was because how can you resist rooting for the underdog? For a team made up of, granted, overpaid big boys, but of such candid stupidity and tender emotional fragility that you can't but feel a bit sorry for them? For the robustly old-time coach that sprinkles blessed water over his boys? For the team that has to score three times to make a point because two out of three scores are annulled (and it's a moot point if rightly or not, when facing the touching look of horrified surprise on the scorer's face)? For the team playing the home team with a referee from the same nation whose team it first kicked out of the Cup?

So in the end, I was genuinely sorry.

A few hours after the match, one of the TV news - TG3, the one that's supposed to be on the left - ran an interview with the coach and for an embarrassing moment the caption appeared "Giovanni Trappattoni - Prime Minister". Don't we wish. If we'd won the Cup, it would certainly have transpired that it had been Berlusconi's doing, which was one of the things tempering my distress this afternoon. As it is, it was him that fired the preceding coach, Dino Zoff ... And, since he seems to enjoy so much the interim of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, why can't he take over coaching the National Soccer Team too? He'd have fun and we'd have, well, another Prime Minister. I'd gladly take Trappattoni.

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