We Went to an Italian Football Game

Today we experienced an Italian soccer game. Over here they don’t call it “soccer,” they call it “football” or “calcio.” I’m not a big sports person, but I love going to live games of any variety – just for the atmosphere. This one did not disappoint. They don’t sell food inside the stadium (completely incomprehensible to my American mind) so we grabbed some hotdogs and fries from a food truck parked outside. The hotdogs were different but delicious. They were served sliced in half lengthwise with ketchup and mayonnaise on a toasted baguette, which was slid into a paper bag for easy eating. The French fries come in a little square container with ketchup and mayo squirted all over the top, and a tiny wooden fork so you don’t get your fingers dirty. I have to admit, it feels pretty weird to eat French fries with a fork but they were good. Oh, and we got pesca (peach) tea to wash it all down (those are very popular over here). After we finished eating, we queued up to enter the stadium. Back when we first bought our tickets, we had to provide official identification for every person, including the kids, and we had to bring everyone’s IDs with us to the game too. I’m not sure why this is, especially since no one sat in their assigned seats (in fact, most of the sections weren’t even labeled), but when in Rome … They do sell water inside the stadium (both carbonated and naturale) for 1 Euro each, beer for 3 Euros and tiny cups of espresso for 1 Euro. As an American used to seeing people climb the stands with gallons of liquid, it was funny to see everyone walking back to their seats holding tiny thimbles of black coffee. Now, for the game. I LOVE watching soccer in Italy! The players could have another career in the theater. On several occasions, a player would just fall down for what seemed like no reason at all and start writhing in pain on the ground. The moment the referee made a call, they’d bounce up and run away again, miraculously healed. It was delightful. Then there were the fans, who were absolutely the best part of the whole game. It wasn’t an intense rivalry match, but the crowd didn’t hesitate to express themselves. People were jumping and yelling and gesturing wildly throughout the match. Several waved giant flags, one bearing the likeness of Che Guevara, the famed Cuban revolutionary. I asked our Italian friend why they were waving a Che Guevara flag and he said it was because Che Guevara supported the Pisan soccer team. Talk about an unexpected pairing! My favorite part of the whole game was when the 10-year-old girl behind me started screaming Italian swear words at the referees with both middle fingers high in the air. Her mother was so proud. It was a true right-of-passage moment. About halfway through the game, the whole crowd erupted into song and started jumping up and down. One of our Italian friends said that it’s a tradition that happens at every game. The song basically says to get up and jump and if you don’t jump, you’re Livornese (the neighboring town that has an ongoing rivalry with Pisa). I also saw multiple people wearing shirts that said “Livorno Merda” which roughly translated means “Livorno Shit.” Now, we weren’t playing against Livorno and Livorno wasn’t there, but clearly the rivalry is strong nonetheless. All of that may sound like the game was rough or violent, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It was just wild, raucous fun. Everyone was happy and polite to each other (just not the refs or the opposing team … or the Livornese, for that matter …). It was wonderful. And, I noticed something else. There isn’t the same culture of machismo here as we have back in the States. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try. The men here are much more comfortable touching and interacting than they seem back home. Lots of the guys had their arms around one another, were leaning together or would hug. It was nice. Americans are used to having more personal space (myself included) but this is one of my favorite aspects of Italian culture. Everyone just feels closer and more friendly. It’s like one big family. Maybe that’s just what happens when you’re banned together against the Livornese.

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