9th July 2006, and I'm thirteen again. - 10 July 2006

Don't you just love the smell of foie gras in the morning? It smells like... victory.
Update: Now with a video from the night of celebrations in London!

Oh yes. It's been too damn long.

World Cup 2006World Cup 2006I'm not really sure how should I start this article. I haven't written anything for too long, but I was waiting only for the end of the world cup.
I even agree with Rob that the title of this article is cheesy but hey, it's too late.

It's Monday morning (6am), I've just came back from 4 hours of celebrations with my fellow Italians in Piccadilly, I'm knackered, thirsty, my voice is gone, I can't sleep and Italy are world champions. Doesn't really get better than this.

Campioni del mondo!Let me give you an interesting statistic: do you know how many countries are parts of the United Nations? 192. And how many countries taking part every four years in the qualification rounds for the world cup? 207.

Football IS the main sport of this globe. No other sport gets event closer to it.

Campioni del mondo!At Piccadilly Circus!All you need is a ball (or an empty plastic bottle, or an orange or anything that can be kicked).
You don't even need a friend. You can kick that empty can ok coke and imagine that you are actually taking the final penalty for your country in the world cup.
And you know you ain't going to miss it (well, if you're not English at least).

Forget the Olympic Games, a nice event that sometimes looks more like a circus. There are too many winners, and a bronze medal is almost as worthy as a gold medal.

Climbing LondonIn the football world cup, there is only one winner. During the month of the tournament 31 countries will cry their eyes off, and before that other 175 countries already watched their teams crashed out in disappointment.
One winner and many losers. I know the feeling, hey, after all Italy lost the world cup just when it was so close you could almost touch it.

Gazzetta dello SportNot this time. Today is my turn to collect in huge jars liters of Australian, German and French tears.
I will freeze them and make nice ice lollies
Soon on eBay "12x ice lollies, French tears flavored". They taste sour, but strangely sweet if you're Italian.

In 1982 I was too damn small to remember anything about the celebration, and anyway probably I was far away in Poland spending my summer as usual.
Olaf Olgiati, campione del mondo!My world cup was Italy 90, when I was thirteen, and my only reasons to live were my friends and the ball.
Back then we didn't care about girls, we just wanted to kick the ball and play one day in the world cup final, just like basically all the players in the current team.
We lost in a sad night in Naples, to the Maradona's Argentina, at penalties. And oh God if I cried for weeks.
My childhood was gone, and girls suddenly become interesting.

USA 94 was another tragedy at penalties, with a final lost to Brazil, but after 1990 I didn't have any tears left.
I didn't really like it the past two world cup, and to avenge Schillaci's tears I had to wait 12 years.
Man, that's a long time (and yet I remember more finals on a color TV than the whole of England)

World Cup 2006 - penaltiesWe beat France, and their hero to zero number one, Zidane. Sorry Zizou, you are a great player but no matter what Materazzi said to you (Terrorist? Something about your family or religion? So what? Just tell him to fuck off and walk away) you deserved that red card, but it's not the first time you act this way (Saudi Arabia and Hamburg anyone?).
Now run away and hide in shame.

World Cup 2006 - Grosso and BuffonFootball brings out the best and the worst of any supporter. Just before the semifinal with the Germans, the locals like us because we were supposed to succumb to their mean football Kaiser Machine. We didn't, and they decided to boycott the pizza.

Just before the final, I heard voices and read articles about how great would it be to see the multicultural and multiracial French team win again the world cup (well, the BBC would have just loved it).
Sure, they are all so great and multicultural than for weeks when they were burning down Paris they were doing it in the name of peace and love between races.
So what the same papers should write now? That this was a victory of the white power in Hitler's stadium?
Someone probably is already thinking of a way to disgrace the Italian's triumph.

Campioni del mondo!Say whatever you want, but we don't care. Tonight and for next 4 years we are the world champions. Thank you very much.

Buffon, Zambrotta, Grosso, Materazzi, Cannavaro, Gattuso, Pirlo, Perrotta, Camoranesi, Totti, Toni. And Del Piero, Inzaghi, Gilardino, De Rossi, Barone, Barzagli, Oddo, Zaccardo, Amelia, Peruzzi, Nesta and Iaquinta. And Lippi. Names to remember. Thank you again ragazzi!

Piccadilly full of italians!Listening to "Un'estate italiana" played in the stadium, the anthem of Italy 90, was the best way to link the delusions of the past with the glory of the present and to put an end of football sufferance.

Now I'm just tired. I'm trying to make some sense, but I can't.  I know next year I'll have to fulfill my promises in case of the Italian victory, and for the first time of my life visit South Italy.

But now my memories still go back to the penalties and the group hug with Ian and Sarah. It's a shame that soon Ian will leave to go back to the US.

Campioni del mondo!I spent my world cup at their place, watching Italian football on their Italian satellite.
We created a nice mojo and Ian forced me to dress, eat and sit the same way during the whole tournament. I was never so happy to oblige.
Campioni del mondo!The football, the match, the glory, the gelato and the regular text messages from my flat mate Rob (the last one: "..Garlic tears. Ur chest can be extended and proud. And yes, there will be tears") joining us in celebration for each Italian goal.
And even getting phone calls from Anna, blocked in an airport without a telly, and hearing her scream inside the plane when I gave her the outcome of the penalites... just great.
We left the flat and joined few thousands Italians and sympathizers in a carnival of red white and green flags and azzurri shirts. I think I've never been so much hugged and kissed by strangers (I tried to avoid hairy men).

Did I cry? I'm a proud man, and "your national team wins the world cup on penalties against the French after beating the Germans in the last minute in the semifinal" is definitely a moment when I am allowed to shed some joyful tears.

Campioni del mondo!For a moment I hoped I could squeeze in that Fiat driven by Ian all my family, Lindsey and all my Italian and polish friends left behind (Beppe, Max, Mera, Paolo, Dominik, Alessia, Mauro, Gualtiero and many others, and even Christoph, my German friend, who enjoyed 1990 in the same way I enjoyed Germany 2006) and drive together the whole night without having to spend 23 pounds on the phone bill.

Campioni del mondo!But I know they were having the time of their life too, in Italy, with 55 millions other people who for one night forgot their differences, their football clubs, their geographical origins, and joined the biggest street party since 1982.
Even my favourite restaurant, the Pagliaccio in Fulham, hired a Routemaster to celebrate the whole night. It'll be a sad day next week when they remove the decorations that kept me company for such a long month.

Let me say it again: Italy are world champion, this strange country where everyone is still crying because we know that, after all, is only football and not life, but imagining a life without football is just impossible.

The great Bergomi, an 18 years old player in the 1982 triumph, gave from his TV-pundit position a great piece of advice for the players, a piece of advice that can be easily used for all the people celebrating yesterday:

"Take a look at where you are right now
Take a look at the people around you
Because you will never forget this moment"

How true.

South Africa 2010, here we come. Hear me coming.

p.s.: well done to my cousin Dave, who got his degree, breaking the long tradition of failures among the males in the family (so far only the girls finished university...). One more reason to celebrate

By the way, it has already began: the losers are trying to find some excuses, not accepting the final results, and the winners are already saying stuff like "we won because the captain was from my club", "yes, but the wing was from mine town" to try to own the victory more than others. It's perfectly normal, and I was just waiting for it.
What matters is that moment, that scream, that night spent partying with perfect strangers only because they were wearing an azzurri shirt.
Life is back to normal, with a great memory to remember for the next 50 years. Or until the next World Cup.

Last Update, I promise. This is a quick montage made from some videos taken with my digital photo camera (sorry for the quality) about the celebrations in Piccadilly: