Tuesday, June 22, 2010

True to my word

On January 18, 2010, I wrote about this blog's new beginnings, and promised that for the remainder of my time in Italy I would publish an average of one post per week.

I returned from Italy on Friday, June 18, exactly five months later. In those five months, 21 weeks and four days passed by. On my blog, 24 new posts appeared.

Which means that I did it.

In the next day or two I plan on uploading pictures from the last few months, and maybe, if World Cup soccer action gets boring, writing a final sort of What Did This All Mean To Me? post. But given that the blog was about my time in Italy, and I'm no longer in Italy, I don't plan on taking it much further.

For now, let me thank those of you who actually read this thing for taking the time to read it. For those of you who generally didn't read it but who happened upon this post, thank you for spending your time doing something probably much more productive for the world.

Now that I'm back, and regardless of your reading loyalty, I hope to see all of you again soon.


Monday, May 31, 2010

Try to guess which briefs were a birthday present from my host sisters

Three for three

On Saturday, May 22, Inter became the first team in Italian soccer history to win Champions League, the scudetto, and the Coppa Italia, and I -- in the spirit of a true fair-weather-fan -- officially became Interista, ending my two-year-long quest for an Italian team to call my own.
My parents and I had considered watching the game on a big screen in Piazza Duomo in Milan, but after everybody we mentioned this plan to told us we were insane, we opted for the more relaxed environment of a small bar in Crema. When I read the following day that 100,000 people had crammed into the piazza for the post-game festivities, I felt good about our decision to stay local.

100,000 Inter fans celebrating Inter's victory in front of Milan's massive gothic cathedral.
A student who had gone to Milan to witness the madness took this photo of the clean-up the following morning. Despite the chaos, newspapers didn't report any major incidents or rioting. Just general euphoria.

For the final five minutes of the second half -- after it was clear that Inter, up 2-0, would win -- we went into the piazza in Crema where several hundred people were watching. Below, their reaction to the final whistle:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Celebration #1

Friends of mine, all devout Inter fans, celebrate after Inter beat Barcelona to advance to the Champions League final.


The metal napkin holder that the guy bangs on the table in the middle of the video was reduced to this:

Celebration #2

I've spent hours trying to load the second video, but it won't get through. For now, photos will have to suffice.

From 5pm onward, Piazzas all over northern Italy were covered in black and blue.

Note the scarf.

They start young, quickly growing into the fans you saw in Celebration #1.

A bid for Italian soccer history


The professional soccer leagues in Italy (and in most of Europe) do not have playoffs at the end of their regular seasons. Rather, the team that has the most points at the end of the season simply wins the title, here called the scudetto. Last year, Inter clinched victory with several weeks left to go, which made for a rather anti-climactic end of the season, and left me favoring the idea of post season playoffs in which anything can happen, and any team can win. This year, however, I was better able to appreciate the beauty of the no-playoff system, as the year's champion team was decided in the very final half of play in the season's final week of games.

Going into their matches this past Sunday, both Rome and Inter could have won the scudetto. If Rome won their game and Inter tied or lost, the title would go to Rome. However, if Inter won, or if Inter tied or lost and Rome tied or lost, the victory would to go Inter.

Both teams played their final games at 3:00pm, but not against each other. Which meant that if you wanted to know what was going on, you had to keep track of both games simultaneously. Conveniently, there was a program on TV that switched back and forth automatically, which made for an exciting but frenetic 90 minutes of having your attention launched uncontrollably from game to game, and goal to goal.

In the end, both teams won, which left Inter with its fifth scudetto in a row. The celebrations, which ensued all afternoon and evening in Crema's main piazza, were worth videoing. (Blogger was giving me a hard time with video loading here; if you wish to view it, see the post Celebration #2, above.)

In addition to the scudetto, Inter also won this year's Coppa Italia―the season-long tournament between all of the teams in Italy's highest professional soccer leagues (not just Serie A, in which Inter plays, but also B, C, and D). Although the team that wins the tournament is usually in Serie A (if not always; I asked some people at school who said they believed this to be the case, but I wasn't able to confirm it in my hasty search online), the lower leagues' players have the opportunity to showcase their talents to the higher level clubs.

Anyway, with its victory in the Coppa Italia earlier this May, and then its capture yesterday of the scudetto, Inter has won two of the three great honors available to Italian soccer teams in a single season. The third, and most prestigious―victory of the all-European (not just Italian) Champions League―is a feat that Inter, despite extraordinary success within Italy, hasn't achieved since 1965.

Of course, they're playing in the finals against Bayern-Munich this coming Saturday. And if they manage to win, Inter will become the first Italian team ever to win the single-season tripletta of the Coppa Italia, the scudetto, and Champions League.

For a sense of what could happen after a Champions League victory, see the video in the other post above, Celebration #1, then multiply by a factor of several million.

In short, Inter fans throughout Italy could become apocalyptical.