In response to yesterday's anticipatory post, Joe said, "I guess you think Totti is a Hottie?"
Well, sure. But that is not the biggest thing--so let me explain my thing for Italian soccer.
Really, it is not so much Italy as AS Roma. You may know that there are 2 teams in the greater Rome area, Roma and Lazio. The two teams have an interesting history: Roma was founded during the fascist period to build civic pride. But still: the first time I went to Rome, I learned what a big deal Italian soccer really is.
I should back up a bit: I was fortunate on that trip to run into 2 other travelers who allowed me to tag along on their outings. I was there for a seminar, but it would not start for four days after my arrival. I had planned to do some wandering around beforehand, but Rome was intimidating, especially since I only spoke a little Italian. Very little. Like almost none. But I had enthusiasm!
Anyway, I was staying in a little pensione on the Gianicolo, and so were these other travelers. These two men had traveled together before, but this was their first time traveling together in Rome. One of them was a classicist, and he had taken hoardes of students around the Forum, and Campus Martius, the Palatine, and probably many many others. They were headed to the Forum the next day, they told me: would I like to join them? You bet!
Friends, this was the most amazing introduction to Rome that you could ever imagine. We met up with another friend of the classicist's, a Roman who was eager to get the real story on the Forum. Even in my hopelessly jetlagged state, I learned so much and saw so much. They let me tag along for the remaining days before my seminar began, and in addition to seeing amazing churches and piazzas, I learned more restaurant Italian.
So one afternoon we were walking around, starting to feel a little tired from the day and ready to look for a beer. We started to notice that every time we passed a little bar, there were cheers from inside. Even the Communist Cultural Center was emitting more than the expected enthusiasm. When we did find a little outdoor table to sit down at, we learned that Roma was playing Parma. Sure, the ham there is outstanding, but Parma's soccer team is nothing much. So we did not pay more attention. Except that the cheering kept getting louder and more intense.
Then Roma won, and people poured into the streets, waving their arms in the air and singing "Semo noi," or "It is us": the Roma song goes something like "i piu forti semo noi"--we are the strongest, and notice the Rome dialect there.
Why so much excitement over beating little Parma? Because that win secured the national title.
As we learned.
As the evening went on, people got more and more excited, and finally we followed a throng of red and orange wearing people--waving flags, singing, cheering--to the Piazza Venezia, which had filled with fans. People were hanging banners on the Vittorio Emmanuelle monument. They were singing in fountains. Fans on motorini waved flags behind them. Cars had flags coming out their sunroofs. The procession of fans was filled with little kids in Roma jerseys, and men and women and grandmothers and grandfathers. Everyone was so happy.
There were no taxis to be found, so our long walk back to the pensione was filled with wonderful moments of people driving by and singing, or people hanging off balconies. And this was not like northern European soccer revelry: there was no violence, just lots of happiness.
As I fell asleep that night, my open window meant I heard every motorino that went by, and half their drivers were singing the Roma song. It was not long before people had downloaded the little tune to their cellphones. There were flags and banners everywhere that read ROMA CAPUT MUNDI. Indeed.
It is not easy to keep up with Italian soccer in the USA without satellite TV, but I manage. And I always look forward to the World Cup as a chance to catch up with some of my favs, and watch them play, even if they are wearing blue instead of purple-red and gold.
On this year's national team there are 2 other players from Roma. Totti is perhaps the most famous, we also have centerfielders [scusa: I see that centrocampisti translates to "mid-fielders"]Daniele de Rossi and Simone Perrotta. Not as many players as Juventus or Milan, of course, or Palermo, but still. And yesterday, they won!
Today, no soccer for me: I must get some work done. But Wednesday? Ukraine!