Italy today, USA tomorrow

2010-06-25 13:44

For the Italians, there are no half measures, especially when it

comes to supporting their soccer team.

Before what would turn out to be the reigning World Cup champions’

last 2010 Fifa World Cup match against Slovakia, a sea of blue jerseys, scarves

and Italian flags filled the Italian Club in

Bedfordview on the East Rand.

There was no shortage of beer, pizza and pasta either – or of

family members.

Children in Italian soccer jerseys scampered past, grandparents

settled at tables in the beer garden, shaking their fists at the screen

, teenagers

flirted by poking each other with vuvuzelas and moms cradled babies in one arm

and Italian flags in the other.

I chose a seat in the beer garden with a friend who had kindly

offered to scan the Italian crowd for me – for journalistic purposes of course,

she reasoned.

Behind me a young boy named Luka shouted at the players on the

screen, using an impressive amount of soccer lingo. His dad was just as

frustrated, with Slovakia already one goal ahead.

The second half saw Slovakia score another goal. Two loan figures

jumped up and blew their vuvuzelas – to an unimpressed, stunned crowd.

“What are they doing?” Luka’s dad asked.

“They aren’t playing the game,” Luka’s mom said, “they must get up

and play.”

Finally, in the 80th minute, Italy managed to score.

The field in front of me was a river of Italian flags, waving in

the fading afternoon. Before anyone had blinked, it looked like Italy had scored

again but it was offside.

Abuse was hurled at the referee and then Slovakia scored again –

all too quickly.

Luka’s mom shook her head: “Tomorrow I’m going to go out and buy a

USA shirt,” she told Luka, “your dad can support the Azzurri.”

Families started to pack up and head out of the Italian Club with

disappointment hanging in the air.

Luka’s mom said: “Even England made it through.”

Too little, too late, Italy scored in the 90th minute, making the

final score 3-2 but evoking little enthusiasm from their fans. There was little

chatter as families headed out of the club to their cars.

“I want an Argentina shirt,” Luka said to his mom.

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