World Cup 2006: Italians hit the streets after win

Rome, July 5:

Exhulting fans in Italy tore through the streets on foot, bicycles, mopeds and cars, shouting and honking their horns after the Azzurri made it to the final by beating Germany 2-0 early on Wednesday.

“Forza Azzurri!” they rejoiced as they hit the cobblestoned streets of central Rome, and set off fireworks. Some fans chanted “German, eat, eat, eat pizza!” as they marched up the capital’s central Via del Corso. Others splashed in the fountains, including the historic Piazza del Popolo, ANSA news agency reported.

Tens of thousands of people who filled the Circus Maximus in Rome to watch the game on a giant screen roared at the first goal in the final moments of extra time, and began chanting, clapping and waving flags when Italy scored again to seal the victory in Dortmund.

They were lively from the start, singing the national anthem before kickoff, then clapping and singing “Italia, Italia” during the match. In Milan, thousands filled the Piazza del Duomo, waving the red, green and white colours.

In Genoa, people lit fireworks and set off sirens, the Apcom news agency reported. The scene was similar in Palermo, Naples, Florence, and Turin. Fans in Venice converged on the city’s historic St Mark’s square, waving flags and setting off fireworks before groups of dejected German tourists, Apcom reported.

At the Vatican, German Pope Benedict XVI went to bed before the end of the match, wishing good luck to both sides and leaving instructions he be told the result on Wednesday morning, his personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, told ANSA. “Viva l’Italia, Viva l’America e Forza Azzurri,” (Hurray for Italy, Hurray for America and Go Azzurri!), said US Ambassador Ronald Spogli before the game at a party at his residence in Rome to celebrate American Independence Day. Spogli also set up a screen for guests who wanted to watch the match, and dozens stayed.

At Piazza Venezia in Rome, cab drivers who had partially closed off the historic square to protest new government measures to liberalise taxi licenses, reopened it at the start of the game to allow fans to circulate freely in case of a victory.

The win brightened an otherwise rough day for Italian soccer. A sports tribunal for the match-fixing scandal was asked to demote Juventus to Serie C or lower and strip the team of the Serie A titles it won in the past two seasons.

Prosecutor Stefano Palazzi also asked the trial to relegate AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio to Serie B. The four teams and 25 soccer officials — including referees — face charges of match-fixing and disloyalty. Italy’s squad in Germany has 13 players from the four clubs involved, and before Tuesday night’s game, media in both countries spared neither side.

All grievances generally fit under the aphorism: Germans love Italians, but don’t respect them, and Italians respect Germans but don’t love them.

German paper Bild Zeitung on Tuesday bade a premature — and ultimately wrong — “Arrivederci Italia!” and this week, Der Spiegel was forced into an apology after its Web site called Italians “parasites, mamma’s boys and slimy.” But the damage was done.

Italian fans had their own rallying cry: Avenge Bruno, the Italian bear which was shot by a hunter last week after wandering from the safety of an Italian refuge and into Bavaria, where officials feared he would eventually target humans after killing rabbits and sheep.

The shooting enraged Italians, and the head of the World Wildlife Fund in Italy on Tuesday called on the Azzurri to score one for Bruno.