Italians are a passionate bunch in general, and their passion for life can be triggered on a dime. Amazingly though, they also seem to make up with one another right away. I have seen them yelling and screaming at each other, faces reddened, spittle flying, arms waving and then shake hands and walk away five minutes later. Given this passionate culture, I was eager to attend a football match because one thing that Italians are very passionate about is football, the most popular game in the world. You know, what we Americans call soccer.
Football, The Most Popular Game In The World
We decided to support our local football team and we went to watch Parma play against Inter Milan. I was a tad nervous because my husband had warned me that when Parma scores the crowd goes a little crazy – their passions are unfurled with yelling, screaming, shoving, running up and down the stands. Joe was actually knocked over at the last game he went to. He was not hurt, but that knowledge made me anxious as neither my daughter, nor I, do well in crowds. I was also anxious because Inter Milan was ranked fifth and Parma was ranked sixth, so tensions were indeed high. Ultimately. my desire to experience Italy to its fullest won out over my fear. We donned our blue and yellow and headed out to the stadium.
Upon arriving, I noticed that there is no alcohol allowed at an Italian soccer game. Now, bear in mind that Italy is a place where one can find a full bar just about everywhere – the park, the movie theater, the shopping mall, the gym. But not at a football stadium. I have to say, that I support this practice. I think it is a wise idea to prohibit alcohol at sporting events where passion and loyalties are on overdrive. One of my dear friends in California is a sweet, gentle guy unless you encounter him at the UCLA/USC football game. Then, he is a rabid dog. Give him some beer at the UCLA/USC game and he is a rabid bear. It may be a good thing for America to follow the Italian example in this case.
Something else that I noticed was that even stone cold sober, Italian fans are INTENSE about, and loyal to, their football team. One of our Italian friends welcomed his second daughter into the world on the morning of the game that we attended, but he still made it to the match that afternoon!
Warning – Foul Language Ahead
The intense loyalty that they feel for their team is most often manifested by hurling insults at the other team. Through the entire game, Parma fans were chanting “Inter, Inter, vaffanculo, vaffanculo!” which literally translates as “Inter, Inter, up your a**,” but is used more as Americans use f^%k you. Imagine half of a stadium chanting “f^%k you!” Here were some of the antics I was hoping to experience.
Italians are a poetic people. They value the poetry of their art, food, fashion and language. Given this love of language, a simple vaffanculo would not suffice and the fans occasionally intermixed the vaffanculo’s with the chanting of an Inter Milan player’s name and then “pezzo di merda.” As in, for example, “Zanetti piece of shit.” They also broke into song once or twice singing along to the tune of Guantanamera but replacing the Guantanamera with “pezzo di merda” and then a player’s name so that the tune went something like this – “♫ pezzo di merda. Zanetti, pezzo di merda. ♪♪ peeeezzzzzo di merdaaa, ♫ Zanetti, pezzo di merda.” Again, imagine a huge crowd all swearing together in song. Fascinating and entertaining stuff, I tell you.
The most perplexing expression of loyalty for me, however, was the yelling of “cinesi vai via!” or “non ci sono cinesi in Italia!” This translates as “Chinese go away” and “There are no Chinese in Italy.” As factually incorrect, and as racially insensitive, as these comments were, the funny thing to me is that they were yelling these insults at Inter Milan player Yuto Nagatomo . . . who is Japanese. I swear I saw Nagatomo looking around for the mysterious Chinese guy once or twice.
The final thing that I noticed about Italian football games is that the previously blogged about colpo d’aria – the dreaded hit of air – that Italians feel must be avoided at all times and at all costs for fear of ending up in the hospital – seems to have a waiver for football matches.
During our game, for example, the weather was rainy and cold and yet scores of fans were without umbrellas or rain gear. And quite a few were without shirts. In the rain! There they were, standing in the freezing rain, getting hit by air for 2+ hours and not a one seemed to be concerned that they were going to end up in the hospital. Once again, questions arise in my American mind about the colpo d’aria malady.
Alas, for Parma fans, despite their best insults and choral talent, Inter Milan won. Parma didn’t score a single goal so I didn’t get to see the post score craze of happy fans that I craved. And despite the racist epithets, Nagatomo dominated the field. But, you know what they say . . . karma is a Japanese Inter Milan player.