Saturday 03 Dec 2016

The Wonder of Soccer
AJ Robinson

Growing up in the Boston area, my sport was hockey. Back when I was a kid, the Boston Red Sox weren’t very good, the Patriots less so and I didn’t care for basketball. For people who knew me that seemed odd, as I was always so very tall. I just couldn’t get into the game. Hockey was fun to watch. I couldn’t skate, so I couldn’t play, but I loved the game.

Then there was soccer, which I loved to play. Yet, I didn’t know how popular the game was, as it was not big in the United States. I’d never even heard of the World Cup.


Then I went to Italy.

My Mom was from Florence. I’d not been to Italy until I spent a month in England as a sort of exchange student. While in England, I went to Italy to meet my Mom’s family. There were more uncles, aunts and cousins than I could count, and most didn’t speak English. Conversations were difficult. It was while staying with them that I learned about the World Cup. To most of the world, it was the Super Bowl, the World Series, and the Stanley Cup all rolled into one.

One night, right about in the middle of my visit, there was a very special game: Italy versus Switzerland. We watched it on the television and I got quite the education as to what was important in Italian society.


Soccer was important!

As Cousin Bibi made clear, most of Italy was watching that game. I had to admit, it was exciting. It was especially fun to watch my Cousin Silvano, as he jumping and up down and waving his arms, during the game.

The Italian players would start down the field. Silvano would stand. They’d cross the midpoint of the field. He moved closer to the screen. They closed in on the goal. He was very close to the television.

He was cheering and urging them on. They would shoot and they would miss. Throwing up his arms, he spun away from the screen and sulked back to his seat.

This went on and on a number of times over the course of the game. Each time they missed a goal, his sulk got deeper and more grumbling. Then the worst of the worst happened. The absolute worst thing that could happen did happen.


The Swiss scored first!

Oh, Silvano was not a happy camper. He stomped about the living room shouting and carrying on, and all the while Bibi tried to calm him. I finally asked Bibi just what he was saying, as he seemed to be quite colourful in his language.

It took Bibi a moment to come up with an answer, as I think she was trying to avoid offending me. She explained that he was questioning the parentage of the Italian players. I laughed. It made me think of a Bill Cosby comedy routine where he said that his wife, while in the throes of childbirth, told a bunch of people that his parents were never married.

Silvano managed to calm down and resume watching the game, but it wasn’t until Italy scored that he was happy once more. If I recall correctly, Italy went on to win that game and eventually the Cup, which greatly pleased the family.

These days, I watch the games whenever they’re on, but my Mom has lost interest. I think with the passing of Bibi, she’s kind of lost interest. For myself, I will always remember my introduction to the World Cup; how devoted the fans. Oh well, at least my relatives didn’t paint their faces, as do football fans in the USA.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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