If you thought football was a way of life in the UK, then just wait until you see what it is in Italy. The seriousness with which Calcio is taken in Italy can be demonstrated soon after landing, when you set eyes of no less than three major sports newspapers, la Gazzetta dello Sport, Corriere dello Sport and Tuttosport, in every newsagent, all dedicated 20+ pages to football, on a daily basis.
And then you switch on the television – there are regional and national TV channels that dedicate primetime hours, and in some cases whole channels, just to discussing the latest football news. Make it a Sunday afternoon, and that situation is multiplied tenfold.
If you try to leave the house to escape it, then you may well be presented with a TV in your local pizzeria or bar, that is showing the live match, while families, football fans, and non football fans, enjoy an evening out. And then at work on the Monday, a familiar ritual of ribbing for a fan whose team has lost shall occur.
Amongst the fans at the stadium, there are a section of fans, the Ultra, who usually stand behind the goal, who represent the hardcore fanbase, often with an intimidatory influence over club owners, not shy in voicing their displeasure should things begin to go awry on the pitch. But the fans in general go to the stadium to be entertained, to win bragging rights, and they are less than happy to let it go should their side fail to put in sufficient effort.
Because football in Italy is a way of life, it is an extension of the self, and the fans take it as a personal affront if the side fails to represent them in the way they deem acceptable. And whether they are able to do that sufficiently, is a matter of great debate each week – in newspapers, on TV, in bars and at work, and the cycle repeats itself once more!