Recently, loyal soccer fans watched the Confederations Cup. As a devoted fan of the Azzurri, I too watched with anxious anticipation and clenched my jaw as the Azzurri ran up and down the pitch. After every play and sometimes bad calls by the referees, I wondered about the World Cup and what this meant for the boys in blue.
While people gathered in cafés around the North End and elsewhere, I observed interesting behavior. I couldn’t resist! On one occasion I witnessed a bevy of international fans dressed in their respective team’s colors. Brazil, Italy, Spain, it didn’t matter who was playing that day. Everyone came out in their favorite team’s gear. Speaking in a range of languages, I was surrounded by a diverse group who all shared one thing in common: a love for soccer. It was an amazing sight to see. As Italians and Italian-Americans we know the pride we feel when we watch the Azzurri. There is a deep connection to the team and what they represent.
When I saw the excitement building as our favorite athletes pounded up the pitch and repeatedly debated with the referees, I could see the tension rising within the onlookers.
“That’s a bad call!”
“No it’s not, he deserved it!”
“Come on! We all know who is going to win!”
Comments flying around me in various tones and languages, forced me to hold back a bit of laughter. Not from the humorous situation that was playing out before me, but because I could sympathize with the passionate exchanges that were taking place.
Upon further reflection I saw gestures! We are no strangers to gestures, so again I focused on the emphatic displays. Jumping out of chairs with arms raised high, I saw one gentleman leap like a track athlete preparing to launch over a hurdle. Another person excitedly pounded his glass down with an emotion so strong you could almost feel the pain that was flowing through the glass.
So what’s the point? Regardless of language, despite our loyalties, we all share this love and devotion to soccer. Yes, our Azzurri hold a special place in our enthusiastic Italian hearts, but it certainly keeps it more interesting to know that our competitors are just as passionate.
Thinking back upon many excitable afternoons watching the Confederations Cup, it became increasingly obvious to me how the path to the World Cup is a journey we all take together. No matter where you live or who your team is, there is a sense of ownership and pride that is attached to your favorite athletes. Your team becomes a part of your daily life when leading up to this major competition. International friendlies aren’t so friendly after a while. Your competitive spirit begins to build and soon you feel as if you are a part of the team.
Admit it, we all do it to a certain degree, some more than others, but the connection we have to the Azzurri is special. Everyone looks ahead to the next big competition where we dress in blue and yell at the television to notify the referee or manager of their horrible decisions. But nothing compares to the scoring of a goal or when the opposition earns a red card! We know the exhilaration when they advance to the next round of matches and yes, the final few games.
Get ready everyone! The World Cup is near and the fever is beginning! Azzurri gear for some may need a bit of dusting off, while for others it’s part of their regular wardrobe. Regardless, it’s time to prepare for the big games that are on the way. Are you ready?!