Monday, October 09, 2006

Home Field Advantage?

Italy has no national stadium. So, unlike France, whose national team games all take place at the Stade de France, the Italian team plays its games in cities all over the country. Now this might not be such a problem for a team like England, whose national team elicits similar measures of support and derision wherever it goes, but in Italy the "wandering Azzurri" have to deal with the problem of differing levels of regional attachment not just to the national squad, but to the nation itself.

Yet, when the FIGC yesterday mooted the idea of making Rome Stadio Olympico (above, left) the permanent home of the national squad, the first to bitch were the squad's own players. Gigi Buffon led the way, saying that while the staidum could act as a 12th man if Lazio or Rome were playing, national team matches were "quiet as a theatre".

Now, coming from the anglo parts of North America, I'm tempted to say: join the club. In CONCACAF matches, Canadian and US fans are frequently (and embarassingly) drowned out by visiting latin crowds during matches. And national stadia are no guarantee of passionate supporters. The stade de France can be so embarassingly quiet as to make Highbury look like the Bombonera.

Even within Italy, a quiet crowd isn't the worst thing that can happen. At Italia '90, during the semi-final at Naples' San Paolo stadium, sections of the local crowd decided to demonstrate its regional prickliness by actually cheering against the azzurri and in favour of local deity Diego Maradona's Argentina.

Italy aren't the only national team that has crowd trouble in certain parts of the country. Spain, for instance, also move national team matches from city to city - but for the most part they keep their games to Castille and Andalucia. Spain may be stupid enough not to sack Aragones, but they aren't stupid enough to play matches in Euskal Herria or Catalunya. What marks the azzurri apart is the fact that they can't count on a favourable reception even in their capital city.

Now that's a national unity problem even Canadians can't match.

1 Comments:

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