Monday, February 9, 2009

Grazie Roma

There are a lot of things to say about yesterday's Roma-Genoa game at the Stadio Olimpico, but probably the most important is that I learned a lot about Italian culture there--maybe more than I learn just observing Italians on the street. Sports events are a great big culture bubble.

The first thing you notice is what they wear: black. Italians always wear black, and a sporting event is no different. Roma's colors are maroon and gold and the only way to tell that is by the scarves everyone wears. Guys, girls, kids--everyone has a maroon and gold scarf wrapped around their neck and tucked into their black leather jacket. It's a far cry from the sea of red at a Badger game or all the green and yellow at Lambeau.

Also, before you get inside the stadium you have to show them your ticket and if they feel like it, they can ask for ID (if you are foreign they ask to see a copy of your passport). This is because when you buy tickets, your names are printed on them to deter scalpers. Of course, they asked us for ID because we are obviously not Italian and we don't look like Roma fans at all (we are four women...Roma fans are typically 18-50 yr. old men of the working class).

Then we got inside. Stadio Olimpico is huge. It can hold 72,000 people, though yesterday it wasn't quite full. Being in the stadium is almost like being at an American sporting event, only with much less drinking and eating and way more smoking. I only saw one food stand which sold panini or hot dogs and coke and two guys randomly walked through the crowd selling cokes and things called cipsters (pronounced chipsters). Nobody really bought any food though, and besides the coke I don't think they sold anything else to drink...not alcohol anyway that I noticed. That is a huge difference from every American sporting event.

Now, Roma fans are notorious for fan riots and general rowdiness and our seats were kind of close to the crazy section. When the game started and they announced Genoa's starters the air filled with shrill whistling and boos. The whistling (which we usually associate with cheering but in Italy is like our hiss) was loud enough to hurt my ears. Then when they announced Roma's starters, the applause started. After every player announced the entire crowd would put their hands in the air and shout "Ole!" Next came the song. Before every Roma game they play their anthem, La Roma non si discute, si ama, which roughly translates to "Roma is not to be questioned, it is to be loved," and EVERYONE sings along. In pretty good voices too.

The singing doesn't stop there, though, they sing during the entire game. And after the game. And on the bus ride home. True story, we got on a bus after the game with some die hard Roma fans and they sang/cheered/chanted for about 15 minutes until their stop. That was a cultural experience in itself.

Once the game starts, they pay attention and cheer/clap when the team does something good or whistle/boo when something not so good happens. They also love to yell at the other team and they have a lot of hand motions reserved for the opposing team and the opposing team's fans. During the game some Genoa fans thought it would be smart to come near the crazy section and proceed to do their chants. This caused the crowd to totally disregard the game and instead focus all their attention on booing and cursing the opposing fans. It got so bad that the security guards had to make a human barricade between the sections to protect the fans and eventually they made the Genoa fans move.

Another big difference I noticed was the lack of a time clock/scoreboard. They would show the score after a goal was made, but that was it. There was no way to know how much time was left in each half besides having your own watch and counting down (each half is 45 minutes). This struck me because American sports tend to be time-centered (football, basketball) and we are big on knowing how much time is left in the game for strategic reasons. Not so much in soccer. This makes sense when you think about time in relation to each society as a whole.

When Roma would score a goal, the cheering lasted several minutes. There were hugs and more singing. Luckily for us, Roma won 3-0 so we didn't have to see what happens when the game doesn't go so well. At the end of victorious games they play another song, Grazie Roma (Thank you Rome) and it's actually quite catchy. Check out that video for the song and some clips of Roma games. I have my own pictures that I will post today after class. Ciao!

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