Thawed from the National Anthem, Those Moments Come Back Every Four Years

The World Cup sets back the hands of memories, allowing us to live the same moments at regular intervals and arousing the same unique feelings. While everything is transformed, the spirit of the World Cup makes us immutable (Leggi in Italiano)

   The night is long gone; along the Adriatic shore the sun appears elegantly dressing the sea in fire red. An unexpected lightening bolt followed by pealing thunder disturbs the waves and the beach. Suddenly I find myself at the center of a crowd of people hugging and cheering. An explosion fills the air with tricolor iridescent powder and a warm waft envelops me; finally I am awake. I’m still under the influence of a ruby red wine from the Abruzzo vines. I feel a strange uneasiness, the midnight spaghettata, beyond heralding parochial victories, has also caused me to hallucinate terribly. My mind struggles but awakens with a jolt. I grab my smartphone seeking comfort in the screen by looking for the results of the match of just a few hours ago… it wasn’t a hypnotic dream—Italy won 2-1 against England.

   All of a sudden everything is clear. The thunder awoke me from my deep sleep, which had lasted only a few hours. The game in Italy started at midnight but no one knows at what time it ended. Italians greeted victory with copious wine goblets, toasting the moon, which was respectful and paid homage to them in its fearful light. Everything began at about 8 p.m. when restaurants dressed the tables and adorned rooms with tricolor cloths. In the air, the unequivocal aroma of arrosticini, traditional char-grilled meat skewers very much in vogue in my region, was intoxicating. Soccer is like a wedding, uniting families in a way that even the most distant relatives become welcome guests just for the allotted time befitting this media-culinary event. Appropriate distances between relatives will return once the World Cup is over…

   By 10ish, the set tables marked the time, and Italians, seeking a worthy closure to the banquet with coffee just prepared by the hands of capable wives and mothers, awaited with the usual angst the start of the game. In my quarter, kids with faces painted in Italic colors by Valerie, a French girl with a permanent job at the corner restaurant, linger to stay up late (a privilege permitted by impatient parents) and energetically play and wave their flags, very excited about this unexpected permission to stay up late… almost all night.

   From TV updates and other news sources we know latest: Buffon will not be playing. While the last-minute defeatists are now marginalized to the back of the room, it is then, as if scripted in a movie, the teams come to the field. The game is being played in Arena Amazonia, a type of “enormous basket” situated in the nothingness of the Amazon Rainforest—they say after the World Cup it will be transformed into a prison.

   The team is announced by a curious transition of images where each player, once his name is announced, poses with folded arms, just like gladiators in search of fame. With the players already lined up on the field, immediately those first familiar notes broadcast over speakers vibrate within us like the strings of a violin. The national anthem is a sacred moment. Adults stand encouraging their children to do the same and while the music instills the solemnity as it should, everyone present invents the words, which they never really memorized. The news of this game combines with current events and are already consigned to history—Marchisio’s goal; Pirlo’s stellar feint, Balo’s goal; the crossbar on the free-kick—all of these sealed the victory and branded these unforgettable characters in the book of winners. All this was accompanied by shouts of triumph of millions of Italians, who, in many cases, met in the very many piazze equipped with giant screens specifically installed by municipal authorities, recalling memories of public assemblies with less of a focus on sports but equally triumphalistic.

   The World Cup is a period in life that regularly returns to materialize as a rhythm of brief cometic cycles that instead of foretelling dark disasters, moves back the hand of time, allowing us to relive these moments at regular, four year intervals. A moment frozen in time and thaws at the first notes of Mameli’s anthem, pouring out of our souls, allowing us to relive the same discrete emotions. Technology pervades all—children have their new tablet-based games; automobiles change their appearance and features; our bodies change irreversibly. That which makes us eternal is the spirit that takes hold of us during this unrepeatable moment of glory called the World Cup.

To be continued…


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