A few weeks ago, I received an email from a colleague explaining that Sampdoria has invited us to the stadium for free. They needed some teachers to chaperone, and I said I’d be interested. There are two major football clubs in Genoa: Genoa and Sampdoria. Both play in the same stadium, a 15 minute scooter ride from my apartment. I always felt I’d be a Genoa fan because, well it has the name! And a bunch of my friends and colleagues support Genoa. I guess Genoa is like the Yankees of NY. The others support Sampdoria. (The Mets of Genoa?). I can’t compare to US soccer teams because I don’t follow them, and NY doesn’t have two. Anyways, fans are fiercely supportive of their club and the rivalry, so when Dave announced the tickets were for Sampdoria during a group assembly, some cheered, and about half the crowd booed: Genoa fans. With all my weekend travel, I never made it to a Genoa game, although I gladly accepted this opportunity and rooted for Sampdoria.
I looked up their colors, Blue, White, Black and Red — fusing the colors when they combined two clubs into one team at some point in the past. Since a lot of my friends were Genoa fans, they said they’d root for Fiorentina, so I didn’t wear colors for either team — trying to be neutral. Silly decision, ultimately. So, 170 people total lined up near Gate 7: parents, students, and teachers to enjoy a game on this warm, sunny Sunday. As we walked in to our seats, they handed us some Sampdoria swag, including a flag to wave, a clapper to make some noise, and even a snack! (Good marketing, Sampdoria!). We sat together in our neatly formed groups, a few players jumped over from the warmup to pose for a picture with all of us, then jumped back to complete their warm up.
I love soccer. I really do. Why don’t I ever watch games live or on TV? I say this every time the World Cup rolls around. “This is the year I’ll get into Soccer!” I always declare, after many evenings cheering along side friends (usually during European travels). I watched in Switzerland in 2002; I randomly ended up in Cologne for Day 1 of the 2006 World Cup then later cheered along in the city square of Dubrovnik as Croatia played; and in 2010 I was living in Norway and rooted for Spain along with my Spanish friends in outdoor viewing areas, all the way to victory where fans jumped into a fountain in their underwear! So much fun.
So, as the team ran out onto the field, and my hormones raged a bit — I wonder where they hang out!— I got emotional. Why? I can’t exactly say. Missing Yankee games? Memories of watching live soccer games with friends in high school, in Belgium, and the many years of playing Ultimate Frisbee. For my time in Genoa, sports really aren’t part of my life, and I guess I just missed that — and was happy to be a part of it for a bit.
With a big smile on my face, the club moved our seats to the sunny side, with a brief tour through the backstage / press area. Along the way, they handed the kids pencil cases with rulers, erasers, etc. Adults received plaid baseball caps. There was a bit of chaos as 170 people dispersed and didn’t really know where they were going, but we enjoyed the sunshine and the atmosphere, clapping our noisemakers, waving flags, and getting oh so excited when — is it a goal? no. almost! — By the end, no score. 0-0. Although the crowd did go wild when they announced that Genoa was losing to Verona. Also, my Italian is good enough to recognize there was quite a bit of swearing all around us from all ages. Some of my 9th grade students, in between texting and catching me up with their boy gossip– told me it made them uncomfortable that “everyone was taking their shirts off. Is this the naked sections?” Just the guys, and not with our school group. But still.
Even though I don’t follow soccer, don’t follow Sampdoria, don’t know the players . . . I still had fun and felt connected. I got to spend time in the sunshine with a bunch of my students outside of the classroom. I got to see another side of Genovese culture, and new neighborhoods I hadn’t yet explored, walking through them after the game as fans celebrated outside with beers, and music, and . . . just loving life. With my Sampdoria swag, I felt part of it, one of them just for a little bit. One of those days when I wasn’t “the other.” I’m glad I got to experience this.
Now, filled with sunshine after this beautiful day — off to do some grading. I’m still smiling.