Originally published on CBC.ca
Azzuri was about to take on Paraguay and I was at the Heart & Crown on Preston street, surrounded by the familiar blue of the four-time World Cup winning Italy.
Sitting there among the Italian fans, I got the sense that soccer for them is as much about family as the game on the field. They greeted one another with hugs and shared stories, often colourful, from both on and off the pitch.
And yet despite the festivities, Italy fans take their soccer seriously, expressing their emotions throughout the entire course of the game. They criticize their own players as much as they do the opposition. No opinion is held back, and they fairly praised the Paraguayans for their stern defense.
When a local reporter asked them to cheer for the cameras they refused, explaining, "we'll cheer when there's something to cheer about. Yeah, come back when we score." True to their word the Italian fans did celebrate when, in the 63rd minute, Daniele De Rossi flicked the ball into the Paraguaan net to level the score at one. With their faith rewarded, the Italian fans began to shout, "Hey we told you we'd score." When they discovered that the reporter had already left they had some words for her as well... except this time they were in Italian.