Before you even start reading this blog post, I would like to make you all aware of the fact that you are not going to find my plans for the next summer holidays in the following lines. This is because they might not be as interesting as yours and most of all, I am not going to lie, if haven’t got any idea for New Year’s Eve yet, how am I supposed to think about July and August? I wish I could tell you that I am flying to a lovely tropical destination but, you know, the NCTJ exams are rather expensive.
At this point, you might ask yourselves what is this blog going to be about. Well the answer is football and, more specifically, the FIFA World Cup. Football? Again? Yeah I know, this is my second blog post about my favourite sport but what can I do, I am addicted to football as much as I am to “tangfastics” (the fizzy Haribo sweets). Moreover, as some of you might remember, around this time last year I was begging the Italian Football Association to abolish the Christmas break and have some league matches during the winter holidays. Well, guess what? Some Serie A (the Italian correspondent of the Premier League) fixtures are scheduled on the 23rd and 30th of December. Although, as things are going for my team at the moment, I would have rather avoided another defeat right before the most wonderful time of the year.
So back to my summer holidays, from the 14th of June to the 15th of July, teams from all around the world will compete in Russia for the 21st FIFA World Cup. Literally, from all around the world! For those of you who prefer to evade the conflicting emotions which this sport entails, the FIFA World Cup is a quadrennial international football tournament between 31 qualified national teams plus the hosting country (in this case, Russia).
What is the problem then? You are going to watch all the matches as usual while your friends are having a great time on the seaside, right? Well yeah except for the fact that my national team, the four time champions Italy, one of the most prolific producers of football legends over the years, have failed to qualify. The last time this happened was in 1958 which means that my dad was not even born back then and my grandfather was 23! Although this might sound already very dramatic, let me tell you how I felt while watching our players being unable to score against Sweden in the decisive match and what does this mean for me and my country.
On the 10th of November, Italy lost 1-0 to Sweden in the first leg of the playoffs which, I must admit, I didn’t watch because the first years invited me to a flat party. Can this be described as poor national identity? I suppose so, to a certain extent. However, three days later I woke up feeling more Italian than I ever have. I knew we couldn’t lose that match and I couldn’t stop thinking about my national team. My conference preparation that morning consisted of reading all the first pages of the Italian newspapers. I even walked back home from lectures singing the Italian national anthem in my mind. Obviously, when the match started I was wearing my Italy shirt. The first half flew by without any remarkable chances but I didn’t have any doubt that, somehow, we would have found the way to score. Unfortunately, I was wrong. As soon as the referee blew the final whistle, I was speechless. I couldn’t stop staring at the Swedish players celebrating and thinking that it was just a really bad nightmare. I finally realised that we didn’t qualify for the World Cup when my friends started to text me. Some were really sorry, others were mocking me. Needless to say that, before going to bed, when I saw our captain Gianluigi Buffon announcing his retirement from international football, I cried. Is this too much for a football match? Maybe, but I have always considered football as the most important thing of the least important things in life.
Therefore, for the first time in my life my country won’t be represented in the World Cup. This means that all those traditions which surrounded a similar event back home are going to be suspended for at least another four years. What about those barbecues with relatives and friends before the matches? What about those footballs given for free when buying Nutella? What about all those contests or special offers to buy a new television right before the tournament? Given that Italy winning the FIFA World Cup in 2006 was one of happiest nights in my life as well as one of my first football memories, it is not difficult to say that I am going to miss all this.
What next? Well, at the moment our national team is still looking for a new manager and the president of the Football Association has resigned. I hope that failing to qualify for the World Cup can finally encourage those responsible for this sport in my country to imitate the way other football associations around the world have invested in their youth sectors and facilities.
I guess now that Italy are not in the World Cup I will have to find a new to team to support. England might be the easiest choice but, luckily, I have met people from different countries in the last year and a half. Any of you guys have any suggestions?