Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Forza Azzurri... anche nella sconfitta!

i have to forewarn everybody that i'm not a big fan of football and actually i even didn't realize there is european cup going on until N., one of my students in the italian class, told me.
N. and R., another student, then made an evil plan to set up a group of supporters of the italian national team in abu dhabi, involving the students of my course, plus former students and other arab friends who support italy.
that's how we decided to go to watch the match last monday after the class: we called everyone we knew would join, reserved a table in Rock Bottom Cafe' for 9.30 pm and wait spasmodically for monday to come.
in the meanwhile i received so many messages and jokes that i couldn't wait anymore.
it seems that the italian national football team has loads of admirers among the arab countries: N. told me how her passion for italy was born when she was a kid in lebanon and her young uncle taught her the names of the italian football players at Italia 90 (uh, i think i still have a little pin of Ciao, the official mascotte of that world cup... nice memories of long time ago!) and how she asked to her boss in lebanon if she could bring at work a portable tv set to watch Japan-Corea World Cup in 2002. not only lebanon is full of italian supporters: egypt is another main hub of fans for our football teams and here in the uae, whenever you get a taxi, every taxi driver (pakistani, but also iranian or afghan sometimes) will tell you how they like "ac milan" (how they call milan abroad) or why del piero is not the same than before (because he's old, simply!)
one of the nicest message that i received was from M. from montreal, a student in my previous class married to S. (also a former student of italian), who is canadian of italian origin: "We will be there. I had to agree to support Italy before her family agreed to the marriage."
on monday during the class we had a dictation and i taught them the italian national anthem (i never imagined before it could be so difficult to explain what "l'elmo di Scipio" means and who Scipio Africanus was...), so that we were all pumped up about the match.
i don't wanna talk about the match because everybody know the result and by the way i don't care if italy won or lost: what i've watched was a nice match full of action and, far from me being a nationalist, all these so-called "football superstars" comes to italy to become someone... (think about it and ask yourself a simple question. just an exemple: who was zinedine zidane before playing for juventus? answer: a beur with baldness troubles. question #2: who was zinedine zidane after playing for juventus? answer: the best footballer of the nineties - my personal opinion).
still, we had a great time and it was enough (we decided to watch the match against france all together too on tuesday, unless A., the only emirati student in the class, will support france).
what i want to talk about is what i was thinking during the match.
i'm not a big fan of football and i agree with many people that footballer are being paied too much and i don't like their superstar status: they are evrywhere and talk about everything for no reason. but on monday i finally realized that the reason many people are so into football is just because it is a perfect portrait of our society (i never thought about it before, i know it may seem stupid and obvious, but till now i had other things to think about...). what i've seen on monday was a team of old players (like it, italy also is getting older and older) and, to my eyes, most of the choices the coach donadoni made were dictated by prestige (something that actually in italy is still very important): how otherwise can i justify the presence on the bench of an injured cannavaro (who took the place of someone who could actually play if we would be in need of people) or the fact that materazzi, panucci and others were playing despite their not great shape? the name is too important in italy, and so it is in our football team.
oh, and then the typical attitude of italian (football players and common citizens - and don't forget politicians!): it was the fault of someone else. it was the fault of the referee who validated the first goal, it was the fault of the dutches who made many fouls. it was the fault of the teacher that i got a bad mark at school. it was the fault of 9/11 if italian economy is going worse and worse.
then today i've read Il Manifesto - Quotidiano Comunista and i've found this article where they analyze dutch team in the same way: i was relieved to know that i'm not the only stupid one making this kind of theories on football!
the article talks about english journalist and writer David Winner, who wrote Brilliant Orange. The neurotic genius of Dutch football in 2002 about Johan Cruijff and his idea of "Total Football": the book explains how dutch history, culture and art contributed to the birth of "Total Football", the revolutionary idea of football embodied by the dutch national team in the Germany 1974 World Cup: the dutch football players drank, smoked and had sex before the matches and showed some of the best football ever. Winner compares the current dutch team to your loved one suffering Alzheimer's disease: they play in a boring and unpleasant way, thinking about winning only. according to Winner, today's dutch football is a result of the cultural and political crisis which started in 2001 and worsened one year later with the formation of far-right populist LPF party by pim fortuyn and gradually sank netherlands in a twirl of insecurity, suspiciousness and xenophobia.
p.s.: by the way the first goal was off-side (despite what uefa says, it's not possible that an injured player out of the playing field counts as a player and keeps van nistelrooy not off-side. this is a really stupid rule!)