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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Watching the World Cup--ala Romana

Italy's first game of the Mondiale (World Cup) is a big deal, and to feel the nation's pulse at that moment, we joined thousands of Romans at Piazza di Siena in Villa Borghese (Rome's large public park)--see left, walking to the game through the park--to watch the game on a maxi-scherma (big screen) television, 20 square meters, mounted in an enormous box at one end of the piazza, which is a gallapatoio (an oval used for horse jumping competitions). Large white medieval-style tents lined the sides of the gallapatoio, and we imagined them full of "i big" (fat cats) sipping their Campari and eating precious finger foods while working on restraining their emotions--the fate of the wealthy and influential. We wished we had an invitation.

Ordinary people had several choices for "seating." The best place for viewing the game was down on the field of the gallapatoio, but for that one paid a price: standing for the whole game. Otherwise, there was tiered bench seating at the far end, about 100 meters from the scherma, or very-crowded, picnic-style seating, on the
ground, along the elevated sides (elevation helped one see over the sponsor tents). That's what we chose--just far enough back from the stage so that we could see the whole screen, though from that distance the ball was a mere dot.

The game began at 8:30, dinner time for Romans, and many arrived with snacks, cartons of Chinese food, beer (though nobody seemed drunk), and cigarettes. We had two cartons of take-out stuff from the grocery store--one a pasta with salmon, the other carrots, green beans, and potatoes, and some grocery-store pizza bread. The food was lousy. We had also brought a 1/2 liter plastic bottle of white wine--not enough, really, but we had to get home on the scooter.

Radio Italia was giving away a "clap banner," a light cardboard thing, folded up like a fan, that had a banner on each side ("Forza Ragazzi" on one side), and, folded up and struck across the hand, made a clapping noise.

For a long time there wasn't much to clap for. Paraguay scored first and the Italians were in shock. The "ragazzi" tied it up in the second half--AS Roma's own De Rossi, the key midfielder in this game, was the hero--but despite dominating the game, Italy didn't score again and had to settle for a tie. The next day's newspapers seemed to think that wasn't a terrible result, and the players said the team would improve. And the crowd leaving Piazza di Siena was surely disappointed, but mellow - for which we, on a scooter, were thankful.

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