The rescheduled European soccer championships begin in Rome on Friday in what the city’s mayor, Virginia Raggi, has announced as a symbol of a new beginning.
Andrea Bocelli will sing Nessun Dorma before the opening match between Italy and Turkey at the Olympic Stadium, and a soccer village will open in Piazza del Popolo in central Rome.
But even the most passionate soccer fans are struggling to get in the mood. “The atmosphere is a bit sad,” said Marco Martinelli, owner of Osteria Mamma Mia, a small restaurant near the stadium in the Flaminio area where the AS Roma players have eaten. “You don’t have all the fervor you would normally have before such a tournament … I still don’t feel the excitement.”
Osteria Mamma Mia and other bars and restaurants in the area usually enjoy a good habit before events at the stadium, but with the number of spectators limited to 25% of capacity, the trade will not be as dynamic as in the past.
Martinelli will screen Italy’s matches in the restaurant and said the atmosphere would certainly improve if the national team, which last lifted a European Cup trophy in 1968, performs well.
Rome will host two more Group A matches, Italy’s against Switzerland on June 16 and Wales on June 20, along with a quarter-final match on July 3.
To accommodate fans outside the stadium, giant screens will be installed at various venues in the city and the Rome authorities have established a program of events over the next month, including live music and shows that trace the history of Italy in euros. .
The football village in Piazza del Popolo, said to be the largest fan zone in Europe, can host a maximum of 1,680 fans.
“I’ll watch the games and obviously I want to see Italy win, but the pandemic still overshadows me,” said Alessio, a taxi driver, as he watched the workers put the finishing touches on the soccer village on Thursday afternoon. “Few of us are living well right now.”
Others were more animated. “I can’t wait for the games to start,” said Mattia Simionatti, a tourist from Milan. Like other Italy fans, he was bitterly disappointed when the team failed to make it to the World Cup in 2018, their first such failure since 1958. But he said the current squad, which includes key players such as Leonardo Bonucci and Nicolò Barella and is led by Roberto Mancini as coach, it was greatly improved.
“This year’s team is in great shape and I really think we can make it to the last four,” said Simionatti. “I also see the tournament as a way to restart and get back to normal after more than a year of the pandemic, of which we are all fed up and tired.”
Francesco Apa and his girlfriend, Arianna Miringi, were visiting Rome from Lake Orta, in the Piedmont region, where Apa plays for the local team, San Maurizio. “The atmosphere is totally different and the tournament will not contribute to the economy as much as expected before the pandemic, but I am still looking forward to watching the games and will probably see them in a bar,” Apa said. .
Miringi was less enthusiastic: “I will have no choice but to go with him … and obviously I will support Italy.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism