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  • Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Should We Give Up on the Italian National Soccer Team?
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    OCTOBER 11, 2004 - While Italian Americans celebrated Columbus Day weekend, I was tuning in to Italian soccer as the national team continues its qualifying matches for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. I should have known better than to waste my time watching our beloved soccer team screw up once again. This time the Italians conceded a goal to Slovenia in the 81st minute and lost the game – and the top spot in their group – one to nil. That's why I must write a Dear John letter to Gli Azzurri, my first love.

    Cari Ragazzi,

    I'm so angry with you right now. I can't believe that you let that ball in the goal against a team that you should have beaten with ease. But, more than that, I can't believe that you can live with yourselves after breaking my heart over and over again. I put all my faith in our future, and you just keep disappointing me. Do you think that's fair after I loved you more than I've ever loved before?

    I still remember our first time together. It was the winter of 1990 in Napoli and I got a Kinder chocolate egg filled with stickers of Roberto Mancini, Roberto Donadoni and Franco Baresi. That summer, when I was back in New Jersey, I remember watching the World Cup in Italy on television and seeing the first glimpse of the star that would be Roberto Baggio. It was magic.

    For a while things just seemed to be getting better. There was Alessandro Del Piero and Christian Vieri waiting in the wings to pick up wherever Baggio would leave off. You promised to give me the world. But you always came back empty handed. You continue to let Antonio Cassano and Francesco Totti act like little babies stomping off the field or avoiding the media and their public. Still, I stuck with you – through the good and the bad. That's what we do for love.

    But I'm not sure I can endure anymore pain. You've taken the life out of me. Don't put Gianluca Zambrotta in front of me with those puppy dog eyes. Don't let Gianluigi Buffon offer a hug or wink. It won't work this time. And forget about putting Fabio Cannavaro naked on the cover of another magazine. (Okay, that might work!) Seriously, as Matchbox 20 says, “We just can't get back to good.” I don't think you could do anything to convince me that things will be different this time - unless, you started winning again.

    Perhaps, one of you will get to the Wizard, fill up on heart and courage and follow through on last-minute heroics like Baggio did against Nigeria at the '94 World Cup. Or someone could just clear the ball Paolo Maldini-style - just once! Please, please. I won't say this is the end for us. If you truly reciprocate my love, you'll make me believe again.

    Signed, Your one and only

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