Yesterday L played his first official match with the soccer team he’s been practicing with for months. While it may be hard to believe, given Italy’s reputation of being relaxed about so many things, they are uber-serious about even kids having to have resident’s status before they can play in any league games. Not only do you have to prove residency but you have to complete an opus of paperwork to be officially registered with the league. I’ve never seen anything like it. In Germany, it was one sheet of basic information, a copy of his passport and a photo, and he was a full member of the team, and of course the same in the States.
So the reason he was able to play yesterday is not that we are suddenly full-fledged members of the Italian club, but simply that it was considered a ‘friendly game’ and not an official one on the way to the tournament. That said, it seemed as official as any other match I’ve been to. Whatever the game was, it was a true pleasure to get to watch my son play again. This boy lives to play soccer and when you watch him you can understand why. He has a sort of gazelle-like grace with the ball that is hard to miss. I know I’m his mother, but when I heard the Italian fathers behind me say his number “Dieci-siete…” in approving tones, I know I’m not the only one who sees it. He scored the goal that tied the game, thereby cementing the respect of his teammates for his first game out.
The whole experience of watching the game as a parent in Italy was, you could say, amusing by way of just comparing the differences and similarities between cultures. In one way, parents going to their kids’ game is simply universal and looks the same everywhere. You don’t need to understand the language to know what everyone is saying. I of course could not bring myself to cheer, just because I would have been the only one for miles speaking English, and my Italian is not good enough to cheer beyond ‘Vai!’ (go!) and “Dai!” (come on!).
The biggest difference in the whole experience you could point to is the little refreshment hut which naturally, had the requisite cappuccinos, espresso, apertivos (a Campari or Aperol cocktail), and beer, plus candy. And I can certainly attest to everyone being quite expressive during the game, both coaches and parents. The coach for the opposing team yelled non-stop at the top of his lungs at his players. Finally, one kid, clearly in exasperation at one invective from the coach, threw up his arms in a typically dramatic Italian fashion, and yelled back, ‘Ma come?!’ – ‘But how?!’
Personally, I hate coaches who yell constantly. It’s hard to see how it helps them. I was grateful for our lovely, low-key Brazilian coach who kept his sideline instructions to low, concise sound-bites.
All in all, a lovely afternoon out and L was invigorated and proud of himself, as was I of course. And now we have a three-day holiday ahead of us this week as Italy celebrates ‘Carnevale’. The last few days it has gotten increasingly common to see people, mostly very young ones, walking the streets in elaborately painted faces, masks, capes, and various outrageous costumes. Methinks another trip to Venice is probably in order, the heart of it all.
actor-writer-director, improviser, mother, traveler, life renegade