Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sunday Sign of Hope 7/09/06

Explosion of joy in Rome as Italy win World Cup

Why? Cause I'm Italian that's why. And, this is a reminder of what national pride truly is. And finally something exploded without it being either a political statement or involving a Muslim.


Rome erupted in a damburst of joy, firecrackers, flags and tearful embraces as Italians celebrated their country's World Cup triumph after a nail-biting penalty shoot-out against France.

In scenes echoed up and down the country, delirious supporters flocked into Piazza Venezia in the centre of the Italian capital to vent their delight and relief, scenes echoed in piazzas across Italy from Milan in the north to Messina in Sicily.

People splashed around in the Trevi Fountain waving Italian flags, as ecstasy took hold of young and old, natives and tourists alike.

In nearby Bibo's Bar across the road from Prime Minister Romano Prodi's party headquarters, delirium broke out after Italy's full-back Fabio Grosso buried the decisive penalty.

"It's been a match of intense suffering but we've won it now, and everything's great," shouted waiter Carlo Dilizio, 47, above the din as fireworks rent the moonlit sky.

"I bought an Italian flag in 1982 (the last time Italy won the World Cup) and I took it out of the drawer the other day to show my son. And I said, let's write 2006 on it, and hope," said Carlo, tears of joy filling his eyes.

An Italian TV commentator declared that watching the tense match had caused great suffering: "soffertissimo!"

Italy's 87-year-old President Giorgio Napolitano attended the final in Berlin with French President Jacques Chirac, and said Chirac had been the first to congratulate him.

But it wasn't a moment to crow: "At certain times, one has to be a little elegant," he told Italian TV.

Prodi, like millions of other Italians, preferred to suffer at home. "We won by the width of a post," said the prime minister with a smile, referring to French player David Trezeguet's missed penalty.

At the ancient Circus Maximus, the park where Romans once held chariot races, more than 150,000 people who watched the game on giant screens erupted into a cacophany of noisy revelry.

"I don't believe it. It's a fairytale, it's just great to win after suffering so much. It's magnifico!" bayed 29-year-old Chiara.

"It's the most beautiful emotion of my whole life, we're the world champions," shouted Giovanni, 23.

It was time to toss away Italy's traditional inferiority complex, and banish bitter memories of losing to the 1994 final to Brazil in a penalty shoot-out.

But for some, as the match ground on to extra-time and then to the dreaded penalties, the tension was almost too much to bear as old insecurities came flooding back.

"If Zidane scores another goal I'm jumping in the river, I swear," said Francesco Pignolo, 30, watching with friends at an open-air bar on the banks of the Tiber.

The final triumph was almost operatic. And like all good opera, there was tragedy as Zinedine Zidane, arguably the month-long competition's finest performer, lost his temper and was sent off for a vicious head-butt on Italy's Marco Materrazi.

"Red, red, red," shouted the crowd in Bibo's as the referee reached for his card.

But the sending off left a bitter taste with Italians, as Zidane has been idolised in Italy after his years as a player with Juventus of Turin.

"France have played a great World Cup but there's a badness there that's come out at the end. I loved Zidane as a player and a man, but now I take it all back. He's a 'bastardo' for what he's done," said Carlo the waiter, a self-confessed "Juventino" or Juventus supporter.

The wonderful delirium with which Romans embraced victory, and each other, after the game was a stark contrast to the eerie quiet which becalmed the capital's normally chaotic streets during the match.

Tourists suddenly found themselves blissfully alone for a couple of hours as the Eternal City became a hushed open air museum.

"It's been really amazing not having any cars or anything," said Sophie Alidina, of Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire in England, strolling the quiet streets with her mother, Jenny, who said the calm was "an unexpected bonus".


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