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The World Cup and Castagneto Carducci

Castagneto Carducci is a hill town in the central part of Tuscany within sight of the sea, along what is often called the Etruscan Coast. How was the Italian team's success celebrated in Castagneto? What is the signficance of the fact that the team is composed of World Champions?

On the night of the World Cup Final, I was fortunate enough to be able to participate, in the company as it happened, of a recently-met Japanese-American friend, Yasu Yori Okuda, reatively new to soccer and to Castagneto, in the public viewing of the match between France and Italy. The principal street of Castagneto is normally closed to traffic in the afternoon and evening and Sunday was no exception. Outside each bar, of which there are three within a very short distance, a number of large, flat-screen televisions were set up. Tables and chairs were set out along the length of the Corso to accommodate the expected numbers of townsfolk and tourists. The late afternoon, during and after the siesta had been a hive of activity. The atmosphere was one of growing expectations and of eager anticipation. The number of Italian flags (rarely seen in Castagneto) increased dramatically during the course of the day.

We joined the biggest and noisiest crowd outside the Bar Centrale (decorated with one large French and one large Italian flag of equal size). The men, women, youth and children of Castagneto and tourists from Germany and elsewhere (inlcuding three or four from France) participated fully in the televised events from the singing of the national anthems through to the final penalty shoot-out that brought the Italian team victory. The Bar did a roaring trade in beer, sandwiches, soft-drinks, water and ice-cream. The staff were run-off their feet but remained happy to serve throughout.

With every Italian attack the crowd, some of whom had modestly painted their cheeks, rather than their whole faces, in the the Italian national colours, yelled its support. The Tuscan dialect here can be thick and difficult therefore for an outsider to follow. The intentions however were clear, even if the witticisms (and insults) were lost on me, as the emotions were universal. I am not qualified to write on the game itself as my intentions were to observe and report the experience rather than to comment on the game, though I had time to enjoy it like everyone else. It was not however as robust a match as that between Germany and Italy which had animated the Corso earlier in the week.

Before the start of the game, Yasu Yori had said to me that he hope that Italy would win (he was wearing a blue shirt, the team's colours, with the single world 'Italia' printed on the front), for no other reason that to experience the crowd's elation. He was not to be disappointed. On the penalty shoot out that brought the coveted prize home to Italy, the whole of the Corso let out one prolonged shout of joy. People leapt to their feet. Flags were flourished. Neighbours hugged one another. Strangers shook hands. Some people had tears in their eyes. Young people danced with joy and later wandered around the little town flourishing flags. In the midst of the celebrations, Davide, of the Bar Centrale, produced a large bottle of champagne and sprayed the delighted crowd with its foam. This was the Corso, often a place fo great excitment, in a mood of national celebration that had not been experienced in years.

Castangeto, permanent population of around 900 people, was at one with towns and cities across Italy and around the soccer-playing world. It felt so good to be here. The experience was particular and national but it was also human and social and warm and inclusive. Nobody was left out. A group of young Germans who were fascinated by the celebrations watched the events unfolding with their eyes glittering with delight. The three of four disapointed French visitors at the neighbouring bar were greeted by cries from two of the Italian crowd of 'Viva la Francia' and these were recieved with answering smiles of delight. Castagneto remembered its manners!

Before midnight the tourists and the elderly people of Castagneto had departed as normal, leaving the main part of the town in the possesion of the young and of the workers in the Corso. Small groups of friends and co-workers gathered around their usual spots. Yori went to his friends at the wine bar. I went to Sa Di'Danda in the piazza and was invited to join the staff there, who have over the last three years, become my friends. I was offered white wine, salami and cheese. Even as the celebrations continued, though in this lower key, the Corso was being prepared for the morrow. Tables and chairs were being removed and the street was given its first sweeping. This street, famous for its sense of the passeggiata, is central to the economic well-being of the hill town and high season is short. The discipline of the tourist trade re-asserted itself. Nothing had changed and yet everything had. It is something to have a national football team that is composed of World Champions. We often forget that Italy as a national entity is still relatively young. Here was an event that united with joy, in the midst of economic problems and political change, the north and south, region with region, the young with the old, and the left with the right. Castagneto, how I love you!

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