I don’t follow sports or sports clubs, but since moving and living in Italy, I have been exposed to the culture of Italian soccer.
Here the sport of soccer is a way of life. Who you follow on the soccer field will determine who your friends are, and you will form connections and alliances based on who your team is.
Families usually share their passion for a specific team. Sometimes a son will rebel against his father and choose a rival team.
It’s not that intense; nobody will be disowned or unfriended because they choose a particular team, and there aren’t any bad guys.
But it is serious business; once you choose a team, you’re in it for life.
The big three teams in the Italian series A are AC Milan, Inter and Juventus. Usually, people follow one of these three unless connected to other city-based teams like Napoli or Roma.
AC Milan and Inter are both teams from Milano. While they are competitive, they will often align to berate Juventus, which is from Torino and is often seen as a big rich and somewhat pompous club.
My Sicilian family have been firm Milanisti for as long as I can remember; they were there in the ’90s when Berlusconi owned the club and spent time and money creating a seemingly invincible team. They were still with Milan over the last decade when the older players retired; the team struggled to rebuild their younger players when the club was sold, and coaches came and went nearly yearly.
Even my preteen son is one of only two Milan followers in his class. The times have been rather slim for AC Milan, so not many youngsters have been following unless the family indoctrinates them. Sometimes it is difficult to go to school if your team loses because all of the others will give you some serious flack.
Watching a game with the fans is an experience to witness; there are many commentaries, yelling and shouting, especially when the goals happen.
It has been eleven years since AC Milan’s last Italian championship victory, so when they won the final this year, it was a very happy moment in our household.
In our little town, and I’m sure in many others, there was a parade of cars with Milan flags flying, everyone donned their sports shirts, horns were blowing, and stereos were blasting. In the local square, people were chanting, more flags waving and even cake.
Seeing the excitement in my son’s eyes was a treat as he participated in his first-ever victory parade. The next day he proudly went to school with his Milan jersey.