The day started under a cloudy sky and with general exhaustion due to the sultry heat typical of the New York summer day and with a flood of text messages and phone calls in the frantic search for a place to meet with friends to go and see the game.
The names of Italian pizzerias and restaurants began to fly: Keste’, Ribalta, where are you going to see the game? Who is coming? Do we need reservations? As the day progressed, the frenzy increased for all Italians in New York in what would become an unforgettable day.
Eventually I managed to join a group of friends and go to Ribalta Pizzeria, which is almost considered “Italy Headquarters” in New York. On the way to Ribalta I started following a trail of blue shirts that split like streams depending on where they went to see the game. As I got closer, the avenues and streets were becoming blue rivers.
As soon as I arrived at Ribalta, two hours ahead of the game, the atmosphere was already as hot as the temperature outside. The street had been closed and the blue river formed by a large group of Italians in front of the restaurant was turning into a lake.
We Italians have never been lone wolves; certain things must be done together and in this case the more the better. I met with my friends in the pizzeria, but the place from where I would later follow the game was at the Italian Consulate.
The new Consul General Fabrizio Di Michele had invited his colleagues to watch the game at the Consulate and I had been invited to join also, so before the game started, I left Ribalta and headed there. I was wearing a blue Italian soccer team jersey and even on the subway I noticed the pleased looks of many passengers and some smiles and gestures of good luck.
The Consul General and his wife made everyone feel at home and the atmosphere was much softer than the one I had just left at Ribalta, but we were only at the beginning.
There weren’t many of us, perhaps about forty, so we had plenty of space. The screen was visible to everyone from every part of the room and the guests were a cross section of Italy that brought together all generations. That’s where I started watching the game but also and above all, observing the emotions of the guests.
The match began with a mixture of tension and hope that immediately became despair and disbelief when the first goal was scored by the English. A leaden atmosphere, as if the storm that was coming outside had slipped inside the walls of the consulate.
It’s difficult to describe the discomfort and panic of those present. I was there, with my husband, who is American, but obviously a fan of Italy and who often observes us from afar with the eyes of the Anglo-Saxon now accustomed to the ups and downs of emotions that only we Italians can produce so quickly.
That goal hit us as if one of our family members had suddenly passed away; there was suffering and general disbelief.
At that moment, I realized that we are a family. Throughout the game, I watched the screen and the spectators. The tension was more and more palpable. I could have turned my back on the screen and watched the game by observing the guests and I would have known at every second what was happening live. Every time an Italian player touched the ball the reaction was immediate and universal throughout the room.
It’s at moments like these where you realize that we are a united family, compact beyond geographic origin, status and generation. It was a wonderful experience to observe the game through those who were watching it.
We have all seen and reviewed the match commentary by now, dissected, chopped and discussed, as only we Italians can do.
I believe that all possible human emotions were experienced throughout the game, from pain to joy, from frustration to encouragement, from discouragement to euphoria.
There are very few occasions in life when all these emotions are displayed in the space of 90 minutes.
The final explosion of joy was incredible and therefore I would say indescribable, but there is no need to describe it as we Italians all over the world have experienced it.
I had the pleasure and honor of living that moment at the Consulate.
The vision of the Italian victory on the screen and the exultation of our players will remain an indelible memory, as well as the image of the Consul General Fabrizio Di Nicola, his happiness, pure embodiment of joy while he was proudly wrapped in the Italian flag.
After the game I went back to the Ribalta pizzeria, the street was celebrating and the lake had by then become a blue sea.
A sea of Italian flags, spumante and songs, all the Italians were singing songs that have united us for generations, with a tribute to New York that hosts us and who was praising us in every corner of the city.
There is a reason why we say that “we” won, “we” played well, or “we“ could do better, and it is because, in fact, all the Italians in the consulate, in front of Ribalta, and in every corner of the world played that game as if they had been physically and mentally on the field.
We put in it all of our strength, but above all, our hearts and for this “we” deserve the victory.
We often forget what unites us and we tend to focus on what divides us. This is the moment that reminds us that we are all Italians and that we now have one more reason to be proud of it.