Soccer – Calcio in Italian – is very important in Italy. That might be understating it. To be honest, it is closer to a national obsession. On major game days, the streets are empty and shouts of joy and anguish can be heard from open windows.
To understand Italy, one must have at least a basic understanding of soccer, it’s importance and it’s passions.
Paddy Agnew sums it up well in his book Forza
“Historically, the tradition of spectacle has always been important in Italy. It’s a culture where what goes on in public really matters, public perception matters — the idea of bella figura. Spectacle also matters, and by extension football matters because it is a great spectacle. The other thing about football is that it’s a meritocracy. In Italy, a lot of people instinctively feel [suspicious] of a guy who gets named director of the local bank or the local hospital because they don’t know if he has the skills to do it or if he landed the job through raccomandazione.
But in football, if someone gets picked to play in goal for Juventus and the he starts letting in a lot of goals, you can quickly see he doesn’t have the skill for the job. You can’t hide [any shortcomings] on the football pitch. Football offers an element of clarity to it that everyday life in Italy doesn’t.”
Serie A, often said to be the best league in the world, has produced the highest number of European Cup finalists, with clubs from the Italian Soccer League reaching the final of the competition on a record twenty-six different occasions, winning the title twelve times. The current European Cup champion is Juventus, from Turin.
There are twenty teams in the league. Teams in the league change from season to season, according to qualification, though generally speaking, the top teams stay consistent from year to year. Inter Milan carries the distinction of being the only Italian soccer team to have never left the Serie A.
There are plenty of chances to catch an Italian soccer match while you are in Italy. During the course of a season, from August to June, each club plays each of the other teams twice in a round-robin format; once at home and once away, totaling 38 games for each team by the end of the season. In the first half of the season, called the andata, each team plays once against each league opponent, for a total of 19 games. In the second half of the season, called the ritorno, the teams play in exactly the same order that they did in the first half of the season, the only difference being that home and away situations are switched. Teams are awarded three points for a win, one point for a draw, and no points for a loss.
Italian Soccer Teams
Serie A members for 2012–13
Atalanta – Bergamo, Lombardy
Bologna – Bologna, Emilia-Romagna
Cagliari – Cagliari, Sardinia
Catania – Catania, Sicily
Chievo – Verona, Veneto
Fiorentina – Florence, Tuscany
Genoa – Genoa, Liguria
Internazionale – known as Inter or Inter Milan. Milan, Lombardy
Juventus – Turin, Piedmont
Lazio – Rome, Lazio
Milan – known as AC Milan. Milan, Lombardy
Napoli – Naples, Campania
Palermo – Palermo, Sicily
Parma – Parma, Emilia-Romagna
Pescara – Pescara, Abruzzo
Roma – Rome, Lazio
Sampdoria – Genoa, Liguria
Siena – Siena, Tuscany
Torino – Turin, Piedmont
Udinese – Udine, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia
In Rome an important match that occurs twice a year is The Derby, when the two local teams, AS Roma and SS Lazio, face off at the Stadio Olimpico, along the lungotevere. Occurring since 1929, the rivalry is fierce and this game can be tense. The locals like to say that the derby is “much more than just a game,”
For World Cup matches, the Olympics and European championships, all local differences are put aside and the country rallies behind the Azzuri- The Italian National team. Sky blue jerseys and national pride abound. The Azzuri are the second most successful national team behind Brazil. Mario Balotelli is the current national superstar, after scoring spectacular goals in the European championships this past summer.
Italians are fierce with their loyalty for the game and it’s players despite match fixing scandals, devastating losses and rare fan violence.
A great souvenir to bring back from your trip to Italy is a scarf or a jersey from your favorite city or player.
Tifosi – fans
Azzuri – Italian National soccer team
Il Derby della Capitale – The Derby of the Capital
Ultras – hardcore fans
Curva Sud – south end, where AS Roma fans sit
Curva Nord – north end Lazio’s ultras sit