Tuesday, November 4, 2008

World Cup 2006: In Retrospect

[Above: North Beach after Italy won the World Cup in 2006]

This blog started a few months after the 2006 World Cup of soccer, in which the Italian team won. I had always planned on writing something about it, but never did. I did mention it at least once, and had written a piece on the Torino Winter Olympics aftermath. Looking back, especially from our perspective, the Torino Winter Olympics of 2006, and the FIFA Soccer World Cup of 2006, had some amazing similarities. Both represented some amazing worldwide links, that were, at least temporarily, reconnected. In that way, there was an added excitement to those times. At least for me.

We had featured a video on our YouTube page, which showed a celebration in North Beach, San Francisco, just after Italy had won. What I found amazing is that it was mostly locals, who almost like, rediscovered their roots, with a mixture of Italian nationals, and others. That also was an interesting dynamic, as Italian nationals (chiefly tourists or those working abroad) mixed with the long-standing local Italian-American population, thousands of miles and seventy-plus years disconnected.

Of course, there's the issue of our concept(s) of "Italy," which I think is best saved for another time. I saw where a couple of east coast posters, on message boards, said they didn't care about the World Cup because their families were from Southern Italy, and most of the team was from the north. That's very unusual, as with the vast majority, it was "Italy, Italy, Italy," all the way.

What it boils down to, is that I wanted to send a message to our Padanian friends, that we are here. North Beach is indeed known in Italy, and there has always been at least a trickle of immigration from Italy. However, as a whole, we Californians are not well-known in Italy. Not remotely as much as those in New York, Chicago, or Philadelphia are. I realize that I'm mixing apples and oranges here, but it's difficult not to in this subject.

For me, Torino 2006 sewed stronger connections. It was in Piemonte, located in the same northwest Italian region where so many of us have roots. Then there was Californian Julia Mancuso, being cheered by the Italian fans as she won the Gold. That was an amazing moment!

However, it was in the World Cup period that we saw celebrations in the streets of the "Little Italys." Not only in cities like Rome, but in New York City, Boston, Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco, San Diego, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Melbourne, etc. You can still see them on YouTube.

Just a side note, but I find the World Cup of Rugby to be more exciting than soccer. Rubgy is the English sport which was the origin for American football. It's played with a ball that is like a hybrid of an American football and a soccer ball. The best teams are from the British Isles, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. A very up-and-coming team is the Argentine team, which seems to be made up of mostly Northern Italian-descended players. I would also like to add that, possibly, the greatest rugby player of all time was David Campese; an Australian of Northern Italian descent.

I wanted to finish with a little story that I already had written once here I think. I still remember how after Italy had won the World Cup in 1982, there was a huge amount of noise in the Southern Hills district of Daly City (just south of San Francisco), which had a sizable Italian-American population then. I visited the same neighborhood to watch the World Cup in 2006. After Italy had won, there was an eerie, almost complete silence.

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