Italians celebrated the Eurocup title as a new beginning, not only for their youthful national team, but also for a country that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
A cacophony of honking cars, fireworks and chanting fans filled the night in Rome as thousands of people took to the streets after Italy beat England in a penalty shootout on Sunday to win their first major trophy since the Cup. of the World 2006.
“We are coming out of a difficult year and a half that has left us exhausted, like other countries in the world,” said Fabrizio Galliano, a 29-year-old Neapolitan who watched the game on a big screen in central Rome.
“This means a lot. Sport is one of the things that unites us, among all the things that separate us. But to finally be able to feel that joy that we lacked, it goes beyond sports ”.
Many Italians saw the European Championship as a relaunch for a country that spent much of the last 16 months in various stages of lockdown.
Italy was the first country outside of Asia to be hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and suffered immensely, particularly in the spring of 2020 when hospitals in northern Italy were overwhelmed with patients and the death toll skyrocketed. Italy has registered more than 127,000 deaths from COVID, the highest in the 27 countries of the European Union.
“It has been a difficult year for everyone, but especially for us, who were one of the first countries to be hit. This is a sign of a new beginning, ”said Michela Solfanelli, a 30-year-old events producer based in Milan.
Most of the virus restrictions have been lifted since the spring and those that remain were largely ignored by the mass of Italian fans who danced in the streets of the capital chanting “we are champions of Europe.”
David Bellomo, a 23-year-old from the southern city of Bari, noted that this was Italy’s second major victory this year, after Italian band Maneskin won the Eurovision Song Contest in May.
“Thanks to Eurovision and thanks to this game and to football we have managed to come back this year,” he said. “We almost got a triple,” he added, referring to Matteo Berrettini, the Italian tennis player who lost the Wimbledon final to Novak Djokovic earlier in the day.
Shoulder to shoulder, fans nervously watched the penalty shoot-out on two giant screens set up in Piazza del Popolo, an elliptical cobblestone plaza on the edge of Rome’s historic center. A deafening roar rose to the sky as Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma saved England’s latest penalty.
Among the sea of blue shirts from Italy was an immigrant family from Senegal, who arrived from the town of Zagarolo, an hour from Rome, to experience the final with the crowd in the square.
“I am not Italian, but I can feel the emotions. I’m sorry, like I’m Italian, “said Falilou Ndao, 42.” We really love this country. “
His 13-year-old son Yankho, a football fan and player from Italy, was impressed by the team.
“They showed courage. They never gave up, even when they were down by a goal, “he said. “It is well deserved. They have been playing very well the entire tournament. Go Italy!”
Although people are still required to wear masks in crowded situations, the police made no attempt to intervene when crowds of naked fans stormed out of the square, singing the national anthem and lighting flares. Fireworks erupted overhead as fans raced through the city waving Italian flags from their cars.
Dr. Annamaria Altomare, a 39-year-old gastroenterologist, watched the show with a friend from a safe distance. They were among the few who wore masks.
“We want to avoid the delta variant in this mess,” he laughed.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism