Meanwhile In Moscow: Italy…and Now, What?

November 13, 2017. One of the worst days in the recent Italian history. Not because of civil wars, economic crisis, civil riots, murders, or stock market cracks. It was because of something worse: the Italian football national team failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.

Every single Italian clearly recalls that moment, as much as we recall where we were, what we were doing, and with whom we were the night of July 9, 2006, when our guys brought back home their 4th World Cup. Someone was cursing trainer Gian Piero Ventura for how badly he coached a fragmented group of players. Someone else decided to drink it up, trying to forget everything, only to wake up the following morning and realize that this was not a nightmare, but a sad, ungenerous truth.

Everyone was caught unprepared. No one expected a summer without blue jerseys, green-white-and-red flags, big screens in the squares, and beach clubs packed with people staring at TV. No one could predict the absence of that moment, maybe the only one when every Italian feels Italian for real: the National Anthem, sung with the right hand on the chest, and shouting Sì! as loud as possible at the very end of it.

We had seven months to find an alternative to the absence of Italia during this Russian edition of the World Cup. And, as the competition started today, The Cult of Calcio asked those disappointed supporters how will they fill this unbridgeable gap. Here is what their four most common responses were:

1. Go on vacation, as far as possible

As defender Giorgio Chiellini suggested in a recent interview, Azzurri‘s supporters were so in pain at the absence of their national team, that they would rather be in some exotic place, where no one cares about football, where no TV is tuned on a World Cup match or, even better, where there’s no TV at all. We wouldn’t be surprised to see an increase in flight bookings to Malaysia, Greenland, or even Antarctica.

2. Root for another team

Loads of Italians have migrated and settled abroad over time and, in most cases, they are hosted by countries that will compete in the World Cup: France, Germany, England, Spain, and many others. They will join their fellow citizens in rooting for their country’s selections. “At least there will be a good reason to party”, they said.

…And those who are living in Italy, they will pick up one of the teams following different approaches: Rooting for the underdog (like Panama or Peru), or for the team “that will win for sure, so at least I will collect a joy” (such as Germany or Brazil), or for the one that features their idols (e.g. Argentina for those who love Leo Messi, or Portugal for Cristiano Ronaldo’s fans), or just for affinity (“I will support Colombia because I liked Narcos – the TV series,” said one interviewee to CoC).

In any case, you should reserve a warm thought for us at The Cult of Calcio, who are based in the Netherlands, and cannot support them either. Such a struggling time, lads.

3. Watch 2006 FIFA World Cup videos

Honestly, this seemed the most honest answer, since it depicts an authentic Italian way of  reacting to problems: Just forget about them, and remember the past. There’s plenty of options to choose from, ranging from this clip made by RAI at the very end of that edition (perhaps the best video content produced by the Italian State TV in decades…), to this short movie that goes through the whole World Cup adventure, from the 2-0 debut against Ghana, through the legendary Semi Final won over Germany, to the moment when captain Fabio Cannavaro raised the cup to the sky.

4. FIFA World What?

Last but not least, there will be group of indifferent people. They will go to the beach, and play football on the sand. They will go to the mountains, “where there’s no TV signal and I can enjoy nature.” They will go to work, because “I’ve got no days off left and no time to waste.” They will spend their weekends at IKEA buying furniture for the house. They will do anything else, but watching the World Cup matches.


…and you, Italian reader, how will you spend the coming 30 days?
Personally, I will root for England, and you can read about it in our new feature Cup of Tea, starting next Tuesday, June 19. Stay tuned!

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