Amarcord – My life as a Calcio Fan
I was born to Italian-Canadian parents and raised in eastern Canada but have always felt as though my heart belonged to Italy. Having been in Italy many times over the years, I have grown fascinated by the wonderful culture, language, fashion, and most importantly the national sport – Calcio. The feeling I get when my favourite football team wins, or the dejection I go through when they lose is indescribable. My love for calcio grew at a very young age, thanks to my calcio fanatic family. My name is Annalisa, and calcio is my passion.
Ever wonder how would be the life of a Milanista growing up in the Interista family? Annalisa D’Antonio painted a beautiful picture down her memory lane who proudly uses her twitter account @mrsgilardino.
Growing up in Canada, it was remarkable that while most Canadian children played ‘I Spy’ as a family, I played calcio guessing games with mine. At the tender age of six, my aunts would randomly say first names of players, and I’d shout out their last names. When that became too easy for me, they had to be more creative to make it more challenging. So they’d say the player’s last name, and I’d give the name of the team he played for and his playing position. Due to my extensive knowledge of all the players, my family has coined me the nickname CT (Commissario Tecnico). Some years later, when my younger sister was old enough I played the game with her, but she wasn’t as successful – naturally, because she’s an Inter fan!
However, just like the city of Milan is divided in two big clubs, so is our family: my aunt, grandmother and myself are Milanisti, while my parents, sister, aunt and grandfather are Interisti. This may seem like an unequal balance numerically, but we Milanisti hold our own.
Growing up in an Italian household, all we ever watched was Italian football. From friendly matches to the most important competitions, calcio was and will always be a permanent fixture in my family. Ninety-nine percent of conversations over sunday lunch at my grandmother’s house consisted, and still do, of calcio. However, just like the city of Milan is divided in two big clubs, so is our family: my aunt, grandmother and myself are Milanisti, while my parents, sister, aunt and grandfather are Interisti. This may seem like an unequal balance numerically, but we Milanisti hold our own. Our household is like a war zone, only getting worse around ‘Derby della Madonnina’ time. In my experience, most arguments that ensue consist mainly of the Interisti’s whining and complaining about being victims of faulty refereeing after another derby defeat.
Besides our love for the sport, the only thing we have in common is a shared disdain for Juventus. At elementary school, there were a lot of Italians in my class and my friends were more often than not Juventini, thus making my classroom a war zone as well. During Champions League or World Cup season, we’d trade Panini football stickers and bicker over whose team had the better players. Many of my oral presentations were usually football-oriented and on my favourite Milan or Azzurri players. During my last year of elementary school, which happened to be in 2006, our teacher actually showed Italy’s World Cup matches instead of imparting English lessons.
When I was about four or five years old, my blue-and-black-loving aunt bought me an official Nike Inter kit, as well as a calendar. She was able to have her way and make me wear that hideous outfit because I was too young and naïve and didn’t know better. Pictures were taken of me wearing the atrocious blue and black colours, but I eventually got rid of all those photographs. However, as I got older, her attempts at brainwashing me into being a full-fledged Interista failed miserably. Soon after, I had an epiphany and realized I was living a sheltered life. That’s when I was introduced to the world of the red and black, thanks to my other aunt. And this, my friends, is how I got to where I am today.
I was fortunate to have witnessed the world’s best defender, the irreplaceable and sensational Paolo Maldini, work his magic in the Milan squad until his retirement a couple of years ago. Once I started watching Milan matches religiously and arguing with anyone who didn’t like the team, I realized I was a real tifosa and borderline ultrà. My earliest memories of watching Milan win a competition would have to be the 2003 UEFA Champions League final, where the Rossoneri beat Juventus in penalty shoot-out. I remember jumping off the couch when Dida saved David Trezeguet’s penalty kick, as well as the tears that were building up when Clarence Seedorf missed. While I waited for Andriy Shevchenko to take the decisive penalty kick, the build-up was like watching the ending of a good movie in slow motion. As he was about to take that kick, I couldn’t take the pressure, so I closed my eyes…seconds later, after hearing all the cheers, I opened them and Milan had become European champions for the sixth time. Through the years, that feeling of watching Milan win Scudetti, Super Cups, Club World Cup and another Champions League title never got old.
Needless to say, being a die-hard fan of Milan makes me an equally die-hard fan of the Italian national team. My memories go as far back as being in Italy during the 1998 World Cup; however, I have seen pictures of me wearing the Italy kit, watching the 1994 World Cup finals when I was five months shy of turning one. My fondest memory of the Italian national team was parading in the streets of Montreal when they won the World Cup for the fourth time in 2006. Seeing so many people parading and gathering in the streets made me feel closer to the Italian-Canadian community. The flood of Italy flags and Azzurri jerseys was so overwhelming that it brought tears to my eyes. And so for my thirteenth birthday, I was surprised with a cake bearing the now-famous image of Fabio Cannavaro raising the World Cup and the emotions of that magical day came rushing back.
Hopefully I have painted a decent picture of my experience as a calcio fan whose passion has been ongoing for years, and continues to increase every day. Calcio is not just a sport, but a way of life. “My heart is azzurro and I bleed red and black”, is a motto I live by.
***Amarcord in Romagnol (northern Italy) language is “I Remember”. Fellini made a movie by this name too.