10 July 2006
Football hooligan for a night. (Champions of the motherf***ing world!)
The "Sports Cafe" in Manchester is a bad place. Dark, seedy, home to the worst kind of unsportsmanship and hooliganism. The best place to go watch a World Cup final then! Almost an hour before the kickoff, it's already packed. We struggle to find two chairs with a decent view of one of the two big screens, and will spend the night shuffling between that and the smaller TV nearby. The French are almost undetectable, but when BBC shows the "golden goal" steal of Euro 2000, they start to sing and shout. They'll pay for that, oh yes, and in spades. The match starts, the game seems nervous, the teams cautious; it looks like the match with the U.S.A., it will end up being very similar. Then, a useless french winger, one of those players that will never ever score against us, takes a big dive in the penalty box, and gets away with it because Materazzi (that will became Maserati on the radio, the day after) moves in the wrong way. Zidane scores and the French are exstatic, singing louder than ever; I "know" then that we will win 2-1, and I won't be much wrong. Less than 5 minutes and Materazzi, clearly an instrument to some higher will, scores from up in the sky. 1-1 and the French now are stunned. I-TA-LIA, I-TA-LIA, and I even forget that my ex is just a few seats behind me. Two goals in the first 20 minutes, a rare sight in a World Cup final these days. Then the match stalls. We play better on the sides, but Totti is completely out of the game and Toni is too lonely, easy prey for Thuram. We score again, but a passive offside means it's not good. France grows in confidence, we are again overpowered by their singing "allez les bleus" and "zi-zou, zi-zou". The break is time to relieve ourselves from beer, and I've never seen that toilet so packed. The French can't restrain from shouting even when they pee. I am tempted to start a riot. The second half we suffer. Lippi tries to win it, but Del Piero and De Rossi are not effective and our midfield disappears. Zidane warms up and almost scores, but our goalkeeper is simply too good for any player nowadays. He won't be beaten in live action, only from penalties (and an own goal). Extra time is over us, we are tired, the players are tired, the damn French start to gloat thinking about penalties... but then Zidane loses his cool and gets sent off. I shout BOOOOOO as much as I can, what a shameful way to end a wonderful career. The French are silenced, their talisman is gone, they sense fear. They put on the pitch the two players that killed us in 2000, but this time the stars are with us. Trezeguet, who scored the golden goal at Euro 2000, fails the penalty. Del Piero, who missed so many appointments with glory, this time is ice cold. Fabio Grosso, hard-working defender playing for Palermo, gets the responsability on his shoulders like he did in the semifinal, and starts the party. It's all mad then. The french move out, some shaking hands with me, while the italians are jumping and celebrating. "We are the champions" goes on and on again, until Cannavaro grabs the cup and we dance and jump and hug and sing and I really don't know what happens next.