Arts & Culture
Football in Italy: Italy’s Cultural Veins.
Football in Italy, (soccer in America), is a tradition that has bled into the culture, making the country one of the core homes of football internationally. Embraced by British expats in the late 1800s, football began to take hold among the Italian communities. Clubs like Genoa, Milan, and Juventus have produced some of global football’s greatest icons like Andrea Pirlo, Paolo Rossi, Dino Zoff, Franco Baresi, Roberto Baggio, and Paolo Maldini, culminating in a national team that has won four World Cups.
The Construction of Football
In the United States, sports leagues and teams are constructed in a “franchise format”; one could think of each group as a core element of the “company” or league. Throughout Europe, specifically in Italy, clubs are run as individual entities rooted within the local community and city. These clubs then remain amongst a bigger federation which has multiple tiered leagues in which the clubs climb and fall depending on seasonal results. This has led to certain cities having a primary club, such as Florence having ACF Fiorentina or Naples having Napoli maintaining and representing at the highest level. Some larger towns such as Milan and Rome have multiple clubs which have sustained top-tier success creating inter-city rivalries. While clubs may remain in the top tier, failure and a poor season can result in relegation, which means that the club will be demoted to a lower tired league. Clubs receive more reward money for competing in the top tiers, due to lucrative advertisement deals, TV contracts and global attention.
International football is much more complicated and interwoven than leagues in the US like the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB. Football as a whole is governed by FIFA or the International Federation of Association Football, which then separates the game down to region, nation, and club.
For example, The United States participates in the CONCACAF region which embodies North and Central America and the Caribbean nations. This conference is different from the free UEFA which governs European nations. CONEMBOL governs South American nations, CAF covering African nations and AFC covers Asian and Middle Eastern nations. This allows the game to be somewhat globally connected and regulated, and has provided for the global staple World Cup tournament. The United States top league is Major League Soccer or the MLS, which is recognized globally as one of the growing and emerging leagues.
In the past global stars like David Beckham and Thierry Henry have come through the MLS ranks, but more recently the league has offered competitive matches and has begun producing top tier talent. In 2022 MLS and Apple reached a streaming deal in the excess of $100 million with aims to grow the sport in the United states.
While clubs move up and down throughout national league tiers or in Italy Calcio tiers, certain teams remain in the forefront of media and global attention. Clubs like A.C Milan, Inter, Juvetus, Roma, and Napoli draw massive international and domestic followings, creating some of the most intense and awestruck sports experiences. The Derby Della Madonnina played between Inter Milan and A.C Milan consistently produces some of the most intense and star-studded classes throughout history. Global stars like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Andrea Prilo, Andrey Shevchenko, Kaka, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Javier Zanetti have played this derby against their San Siro rival. Teams like Juventus have also attached some of the globe’s biggest stars, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Pavel Nedved, Zidane, and Buffon. But what makes the Italian game is not just its top flight stars, it comes with the heart and passion throughout the mid-tier and even lower league clubs.
Passion runs against the fans, on a typical afternoon in a cafe, one would not be surprised to hear “calcio” talk begin… a term which describes the manner of debate over different aspects of the league, such as top scorers or failing managers. Calcio’s talk extends beyond match days and becomes a part of the media and gossip circles, analyzing stars on the move and the latest dramas. Football matches in Italy will have a different atmosphere; throughout the game, there will be crowd chants coming from the whole fanbase, and some specifically from specific fan groups.
Below are some quick terms you may hear or need while chatting about football:
“tell them where to go”: vaffanculo
Experiencing the atmosphere, chants, and rich history of football in Italy is sure to be one of the best experiences for a sports fan. If you attend a game make sure to visit a local pub before the match, this is the best way to get the pre-match energy. In most stadiums bringing your own food is very welcome, if you are in a city like Naples a warm Pizza Fritta can be the perfect meal to stay warm till halftime.