We won. Gli azzuri sono campioni del mondo. Del MONDO. Forza Italia (the official name of the Italian team) took the World Cup last night 6-4 when the game was forced to penalty shots, the ultimate final preuve to decide the winner in a tied situation after 30 minutes of overtime. Honestly, I am exhausted this morning having spent a weekend in Venice (which has to be put on hold because of more immediate news), having gone to sleep at 3am last night (well, this morning), getting up to a stubborn hot water heater, and arriving at work to be kicked off my adopted home computer. But all that is besides the point.
We congregated at Marina's house in her spacious living room with an international crowd (two dutch men, an american girl, a canadian, and four italians). A real world cup gathering. Although we missed Shakira's performance, we were, well no, I was glued to the TV for the rest of the match. The others (except for Davide's brother and I) grew bored after the first hour of the game. It all started with a visible will on both the Italian and French side to win. Players were being more aggressive and both throwing themselves into the game to win and at other players to avoid scoring goals enemy goals. That last tactic started badly for the Italians giving the French a penalty kick by the super star Zidane that bounced off the top of the goal into the net. 1-0. For France. Shit. At first France seemed the more skilled team, passing the ball to each other accurately and quickly and in formation. I wasn't optimistic. Not until a corner kick 12 minutes later that ended in a beautiful head shot by Materazzi. 1-1. Good. Dai dai dai Italia. Forza ragazzi.
The game continued with close calls (a goal by Italy that was barely, just barely, offside), tense moments, plenty of aggression, and a couple of yellow cards. As there wasn't much action, the rest of those gathered went to chat on the balcony but I stayed, with only Davide's brother and my tall Heineken can as company. Yelling at the TV, I wondered why people weren't more excited to watch every second of the game. Why was I? Soccer is terribly exciting, I've decided: agile, skilled, emotional. Full of swearing and instinct, soccer appeals to a raw-er side of me than my other favorite tennis. Soccer is also wonderful to watch. But I digress.
The game was forced to overtime where tensions mounted again. This match was French soccer star Zidane's last and he sure went out with a bang. After some sort of scuffle with Materazzi, he proceeded to headbutt the Italian player in the chest, an action that was followed by a red card expulsion from the game. Way to end your career, Zidane. It seemed like Italy could really step it up now, but France continued to maintain the pressure even with one less player (their star player at that). The second overtime period ended and it was all left up to the outcome of the penalty kicks. Italy started and scored and so did France. France missed their second shot, with the ball bouncing off the top of the goalpost, bouncing down but just outside the zone where it would be considered a goal. The rest of the players continued to get their shots in the net. The final Italian player, Grosso, had to score a goal to win the game since France had missed one and couldn't beat 5 successful penalty kicks. And, as you all know, he scored.
The neighbourhood erupted in cars honking, dogs barking and people yelling in a refrain from the semi-final win. Tonight however, it would continue for a long time. We at Marina's apartment hugged and jumped up and down and yelled for ourselves all while watching the Italian ragazzi on TV go ballistic, don their flags, cut Camoranesi's luckly locks of hair and realize that they had indeed done it, won the World Cup.
What do you do when Italy wins the world cup besides the requisite yelling and cheering? There were a couple of options: head to the city center and celebrate (bringing horns, flags, pots, beer, anything), drive around in your car honking and waving the flag out the window for a couple of hours, or just be happy and try to sleep. We opted for choice number one and headed to the center of town, snapping photos along the way (I got back at 3am people, don't be angry that there isn't anything visual up today), cheering with everyone on the metro (repeating either ITALIA clap clap clap , Francia Francia vaffanculo, po po po po po po po [you had to be there to understand the rhythm of that one...actually, its from the white stripes song] and something else that I can't really remember).
I have never seen so many flags of any country so densely packed in one place. It was a literal sea of flags and people. Such happiness. Hugging, couples kissing, people running around in tri-colour underwear, and vigorous flag-waving. If I were Italian I probably would have been crying with joy, waving my flag because it was the most intense sign of my patriotism and the only way I could really celebrate besides yelling at the top of my lungs. The metros were free, people let off fireworks (some quite loudly exploding in garbage cans), piazza duomo was densely covered in beer bottles and beer cans. A whole bunch of people were also standing on the base of some monument in the piazza with a victorious horse-riding captain on top. Of course we went on top to start cheers and look across the sea of people and flags, packed densely with cheers, towards the duomo. Intense. I could cheer at cars or people in their apartments and they would break into a smile and yell back, intense community.
Soccer brings this country together, which I think is the case for a lot of Europe. In Italy, gli azzurri are national heros and soccer a national sport that kids play in piazzas and learn about in their baby carriages. With the recent scandal of match-fixing penalizing illustrious teams such as Juventus and Lazio to lesser leagues, lesser prestige and lesser funding. This victory affirms (backed by player Gattuso) that although this scandal and trial may still be going on, soccer still drives the Italian people and the integrity of the game itself continues.
After a toast of champagne, I was ready to wish honking Milan goodnight after quite an experience. Auguri Italia! I crashed at 3am (only to have to get up 4.5 hours later) content for my new home country, its patriotic people, and its azzurri, champions of the world.