The Beautiful Game.
It is time for the deceptive touch pass that sparks your eyes wide open.
It is time for that slicing run down the wing which slashes into the penalty area…raising you from your seat.
It is time for the hypnotizing tic-tac-toe passing play which springs a player loose to unleash a lethal bending bomb on goal.
Sixty-two matches in 30 days to establish global football supremacy and bestow the title of World Cup Champion. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa is upon us.
Hard to believe four years have passed since fellow Italian footie fans and I danced, cheered, cried and celebrated on either College Street or St. Clair Avenue, or both, after our Azzurri, our beautiful boys in blue, won the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
The World Cup always weaves a lifetime of memories for fans of this game, from the poorest ghettos to the most cultured world capitals.
As a Canadian of Italian heritage I’ve had the great fortune to see Italy win two World Cups, in 1982 and 2006.
In 1982 my family and about 100 other relatives and friends watched the magical Paolo Rossi, the mercurial Bruno Conti and the great stopper and team captain, goalkeeper, Dino Zoff defeat Germany 3-1 in the final. We were at a community picnic that day, crowded together tightly, under a large sheltered picnic area, to watch the game.
What I also remember is a family of six Germans nearby, under another covered picnic shelter, quietly watching us as we all went bananas when Zoff lifted the World Cup over his head. Later, I remember being seated in my dad’s Jimmy 4X4 as we crawled along Dufferin Street near St. Clair. The entire area was awash in Italy’s green-white-and-red, cars were honking, people were hugging and Toronto’s first-ever, impromptu, ethnic street party had exploded on St. Clair.
Along the way, thanks to my beloved Azzurri, I’ve also wallowed in the gut-wrenching depths football can take someone. The incredibly frustrating shootout has been the bane of many an Italian squad and its fans.
A semifinal shootout loss in 1990. A cup final shootout loss in 1994. A quarterfinal shootout loss in 1998. We finally exorcised the shootout demons to capture the 2006 World Cup in the cup final against France. For so long, we had died by the shootout sword and in 2006 we finally won by it.
A lasting memory of the 2006 tourney was Italy’s semifinal victory over host Germany. I was working in Cobourg and watched the semifinal match in an Italian pizzeria, owned and run by a Mexican with an Argentinian pizzamaker.
The three of us were glued to the television, eating copious amounts of fresh pizza as Italy sliced and pushed its way to victory, crushing the home team’s dreams of glory.
That afternoon we talked of the beautiful game and what makes it so. We agreed, its simplicity needs no Rosetta Stone to be understood… you see the ball, you kick the ball and you just keep running after it, as it rolls on and on….