LITTLE SCARAMANZIA PAID DEAR
“Italians speak with their hands. We, with the feet ”. This is the slogan launched by a well-known Belgian beer brand a few days before the match between Conte’s “working-class” Italy and the Belgium of the super stars valid for the Euro 2016 round. The stereotype of the Italian gesticulating while speaking alongside the Belgians’ ability to “talk with their feet”, underlining the technical gap between the two teams. As everyone knows, the match ended 2-0 for the Azzurri. Ah the superstition!
An episode that clearly testifies to the difference in approach to the great event between the fans of a national “parvenue” with merit and those of one of the historic greats of world football. The enthusiasm of the first times that leads to teasing before the matches communicates a carefree and a little naive attitude that a fan of a more seasoned national team would never have dreamed of, who knows well how being strong and favorites means very little in these competitions. This time, in fact, even in the land of fries and beer they were more cautious.
However, differences remain in waiting for tomorrow’s match, as evidenced by four Genoese who moved to Belgium for work reasons and who are experiencing the countdown “in the midst of the enemy”, sportingly speaking, ça va sans dire.
A COMPARISON OF BELGIUM AND ITALY
Teresa Jurilli, 46, from Genoa, has lived in Brussels for almost ten years and works for the European institutions. “Differences between Belgians and Italians? We are used to this type of matches while for the Belgians it is still a bit of a novelty, although they are aware that they have a very strong team. They expect to move on and have that innocence that we no longer have. There has been an impressive enthusiasm for the national team for months, typical of a country that has been competing at high levels for a few years “, he claims.
The Genoese, from the “mouth” area, Simone Casadei Pastorino he is 35 years old and has been working in the Belgian capital for ten years. He is a true Sampdoria, since he is a member of the “Sampdoria club of Brussels”, a group that “He follows Sampdoria with love despite his president”, has to be precise. “I am quite tormented for two reasons – he tells – the first is personal, since I started the process of acquiring Belgian citizenship, also for this reason Belgium is my second team. The second reason is the strength of the team of coach Martinez. Having many Belgian colleagues, I am already under pressure “. Italy and Belgium have two very different histories when it comes to national football teams and this is evident for those who live between the two worlds. The transversal factor is the unifying force that only cheering for the team of your country can give: “For the Italians, cheering on the national team is a consolidated feeling. In these ten years, I have seen a feeling of belonging grow in Belgians that I had not perceived before. The differences between Flemings and Walloons disappear and they celebrate each game with much enthusiasm, perhaps more than we do. Furthermore, I think that Italy-Belgium is very much felt also because the Italian community in Belgium is one of the largest and above all because there are many Italians of old immigration with children and grandchildren who will be very conflicted about who to support. Italy and Belgium share a common history, I am thinking of Marcinelle but also of the many stories of Italian immigrants in Belgium who are now part of this country. And I find all this very beautiful “.
Andrea Nazario Ferrando, from Arenzano, is 27 years old and works in Brussels in an agency that takes care of relations between companies and European institutions. “I belgi – he states in agreement with Teresa – have been at this level in football for a short time. Now they hear the matches like us, making carousels in the streets “. In fact, going around the numerous brasserie in Brussels there is a considerable amount of people who follow the red devils with a lot of scarves around their necks even during the qualifying matches, matches that we often notice only when they go badly. Or very bad as in November 2017. Of opposite faith to Simone, he supports Genoa and is part of the “Grifoni” of Brussels, a group that, like their Sampdoria cousins, “Follows Genoa despite its president”.
Jacopo Guagliardo he left the city of the Lantern towards Ghent, where he lived for five years and where he returns from time to time. He works as an airline pilot and is 28 years old. “Watch the Azzurri – comments – makes you feel a little more at home and close to the family “. Like Simone, he starts from a premise on the composition of Belgium, from the point of view of the population, to take into consideration similarities and differences between Italians and Belgians. The Kingdom of Belgium – yes it is a parliamentary monarchy although less at the center of gossip than the British one – is divided, to put it simply, into two macro-groups, Flemish and Walloon, different in culture, habits and language. Furthermore, various migratory waves and the presence of European institutions have made the Belgian population even more heterogeneous. “The red devils – explains – they have the power to completely cancel divisions. I think that for them seeing the national team has an even stronger ‘unifying’ power than what happens in Italy, where cultural differences exist but are not as marked as in Belgium “. Then, an interesting comparison between the Flemings and the Ligurians: “Especially in Flanders people are extremely discreet and suspicious by habit and culture, a bit like us Genoese, and when there are these events (national football team, the classic cycling) everyone has an excuse to compromise, to do that which usually do not “.
WHERE IS A GENOVESE IN BELGIUM WATCHING THE GAME? AND WITH WHOM?
“I don’t know where I’m going to look at it – Teresa comments – ma I always try to keep the place of the previous game when it goes well. I could watch it either with an Italian-Spanish couple of friends or at home with my daughters. I will not watch it with Belgians“.
For Andrea, however, a possible success of Chiellini and his companions would double the party: “The game falls on my birthday. I will watch her at home with my girlfriend, I prefer to see her calm and not surrounded by hordes of Belgians, who will be so many in the streets “. In the photo, Andrea with a group of friends attends an Italy match. The choice of the menu was focused on the classic pizza also because – let’s face it – the fact that the french fries (twice in fat and not in oil) are one of the symbolic dishes of Belgium must mean something. “Pizza – comments Andrea – it’s not bad here in Brussels “.
Simone follows the same philosophy as Teresa: “Location that wins you don’t change”. “I will watch it at home with my wife, a dear friend – alas Juventus, no one is perfect – and our cat is always very interested in matches. We saw the match against Austria with this team and it’s better not to mess things up “.
Counter-current choice for Jacopo, who will attend the match in close contact with the enemy: “I’ll be on the road for work, but I’ll see her with a Belgian colleague from abroad”.
FORECASTS AND SENSATIONS
Jacopo, probably out of superstition, eludes the question with a joke, which in any case underlines something that unites Belgians and Italians given the well-known rivalries: “Who will win I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. The important thing for both Belgium and Italy was that France exit the tournament “.
Simone has full faith in the twins of the Sampdoria goal and is wary of the flattery of the opponents: “The Belgians are very afraid, also because the injuries of De Bruyne and Hazard in the match against Portugal are making them tremble. Many of my Belgian friends are telling me that they consider Italy to be the favorite because it is a good team, with a game proposal different from the usual schemes and quite young. I don’t trust all this kindness and out of a mixture of superstition and truth, I reply that Belgium is a more mature team and has better chances. Having said that, my blood is proudly Sampdoria so I can only blindly believe in that bench and in that strength that Mancio and Vialli are certainly passing on to the players “.
Andrea believes in the chances of Italy (“I think he will win”), also by virtue of the possible absentees notable among the opposing ranks. Security in their national team also found on the other side, partly seasoned by the lack of knowledge of those who do not live on “bread and football”: “My Belgian colleagues are convinced they will win because they have champions who play in great teams but also because very often they don’t know the young Italian players well”.
Teresa prefers not to overreact: “It will be a very balanced match. Belgium are a great team, but it is also true that we do our best against squads. In my opinion we have a fifty percent chance of passing. Italy plays very well compared to other editions of the European championships. What do the Belgians say? Unfortunately I don’t have many exchanges with them, because due to the pandemic I still work from home. Having said that, I know they fear us because we are a historic team, considered a bit like a ‘real great’ “.
ITALY IS ALWAYS ITALY
In fact, the Italian national team often enjoys great respect abroad and is seen as a candidate for final victory regardless of the value of the team, especially by those who do not follow international football assiduously. Just as Teresa claims, Italy is admired by supporters like the Belgian one, which is experiencing a golden moment but has not yet been able to fill the trophy cabinet. Examples of this, the comments under some posts of the Belgian newspaper Le Soir after the first leg of the ominous double challenge against Sweden in November 2017. It wasn’t difficult to find phrases like: “Always the same story, they struggle but when it matters they are there, while we …”. In reality it went very badly for Italy on that occasion. We hope that the day after tomorrow this Belgian feeling, in spite of themselves, turns out to be correct.