The 2006 World Cup was amazing. I had lived in Napoli for awhile and was really starting to have a deeper understanding of Italian culture. And, let me tell you, there is nothing like a World Cup to teach an American girl a thing (or ten) about the epic Italian love affair with soccer.
Soccer is a sacred sport in Italy. When I was teaching six-year-old first-graders, their skill level far exceeded any American middle school-aged soccer team. It is incredible watching the soccer match develop during first-grade recess. The choosing of the captains, the teams, the strategy… And then to watch them play: it was like watching miniature men. Nothing like the soccer fields across America, where most little league soccer games are basically a crowd of adorable little kids chasing the ball around for an hour.
So, the World Cup was a major, life-changing event. I learned that Italians go crazy for it. And Fabio Cannavaro, their national team captain is from Napoli, so you can imagine what the streets of Napoli were like during the games: Empty. That is right, the crazy chaos of the Neapolitan streets would disappear whenever Italy played. So you can imagine the craziness that erupted when Italy WON the 2006 World Cup. It was madness. The entire city poured on the streets, singing, dancing, shouting, lighting fireworks, and, obviously, lighting some cars on fire. Giuseppe and I were downtown at a friend’s home watching the game that evening. The drive home was CRAZY. I was just glad we made it home in one piece. Giuseppe loved that Italy won; I loved the pure excitement of it all.
So, here we are again in World Cup season. Italy’s performance was incredibly disappointing. Giuseppe, in disgust, basically disowned them and started rooting for USA. Which is actually hilarious, given the American history of popular disinterest in soccer. But the American soccer team actually showed some promise. So Giuseppe was pumped. We went to a bar with some friends from the vet hospital to watch the USA v. Ghana game:
That game only got exciting in the end. And then Ghana beat us, again. Same as the last World Cup. I think Giuseppe was heart-broken for the whole next week. But then he got the fabulous idea that we should definitely go to some games at the 2014 World Cup, to be held in Brazil. That cheered us all right up. (It’s never too early to start planning, right? Here’s to hoping!)
Lesson learned: Italians love soccer and I love the idea of trip to Brazil…