Imagine a New Yorker who goes to see the game, a game of the Cosenza football club (meaning soccer, but don't call it that way when you're in Europe). Imagine a New Yorker who lives in Italy and has to pick a team to root for (leggi in italiano)
I know I've touched on the fact that I'm becoming a parent. And before I know it the hour will be upon me. So this brings up something very crucial, something I 've been thinking about even before I left for Italy. Something I need to choose, to pick that will be mine and only mine……..a football team!. My Italian roots hail from both Naples and Sicily. So I guess I can make one of the most loyal of decisions in an Italian man's life from there. I also tend to root for the bad guy in movies, or at the very least laugh at his jokes, so no reason to swear an oath to the most popular team in Italy. I'm the type of person that shuns away from something if everyone else is doing it, you know what they say about sheep.
Sunday, I had a baptism of sorts. I attended my first Italian football match, actually my first ever European football match. It was an awakening experience to say the least.
I felt as though I was a new parishioner at a church for a religion I had previously known little about. This wasn't like trudging all the way to New Jersey to watch the Giants/Jets play the Cleveland Browns at the Meadowlands (Met-Life Stadium). Inching your way through bumper to bumper traffic (in New Jersey!), circling around parking lots like wagons of past closing in on a rebellious tribe of Cherokee. Then hiking all the way from the overpaid spot with my over priced ticket in hand to a stadium so tattooed in advertisements you can't tell if this is where the Giants/Jets call home or where the “Miller Lites” are playing the “Best Buys” of the New York/New Jersey/Greater Metropolitan Area. It is a pilgrimage of the utmost unfulfilling.
We were going to see the Cosenza Calcio take on Vigo Lamezia, on Sunday. Whose fans were unable to attend due to security reasons. Now this is serious sport! The Stadium, San Vito, a stone's throw away from where I'm staying, was as alive as a Knick's playoff game at The Garden. Despite being a far cry from a sell out crowd, the atmosphere was pulsing with local fans and numerous supporters (ultras), waving gigantic, beautiful flags and banners representing various groups or factions of supporters. Chanting not just “J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets Jets”, but they're singing songs of civil unrest, social injustice, and of course historic hymns of encouragement to ensure Cosenza Calcio's victory on this very brisk day. After about ten minutes of play, a thirst quenching stadium birra, and a taste from the most fragrant of communal cigarettes, Cosenza scores. The crowd erupts with jubilation and then BOOM! A celebratory explosion from a “firework”, fit for a canon, goes off in the middle of the calcio supporters, shaking the stadium of San Vito. A sea of blue and red smoke engulfs the entire, cheering section of the stadium. Italian football, welcome home your long lost son.
The political and societal overtones tied to football clubs is not just here in the cellars of Series C or the basements of Series B, but unanimously throughout Italian football. This is one of the many hurdles I face and questions I ask myself while trying to pick a club to root for and represent. As an adopted son of Italy I'm not tied to a team or club based on where I'm from. I get to pick who to support as I call Italy my new home.
I am far too loyal of a fan to side with a team because it boasts a superstar on it's roster or because of it's lovely uniform whose colors match almost any outfit. I can't support Roma JUST because I went to see the Colosseum, or because Juventus is in first place and Buffon has really nice hair and a pretty wife. This choice has to be one of the heart, from the very depths of my soul.
I thought I'd have a tougher time picking the name of my unborn child, than choosing which side of the ideological and political line in the sand to stand on when choosing a football club.
Much like my future child's name, I want a club and the society that comes along with it, to be strong, yet elegant and respectful; unique and independent, yet not one that will alienate or entice ridicule. One with history, not just popular or on a hot streak.
Along this particular journey lies a tough road ahead. As I ponder this decision (s) with one last espresso, one thing is for certain, it's more than just a name. Vediamo dopo.