Dissociation Football

Italy’s performances under Mancini and specifically at this Euro tournament have broken records and brought joy to Azzurri fans everywhere. But not to all fans. Although I fell in love with football because of the Italian national team, I do not feel the same emotions with this team. Whether it is a lack of heroes, or Mancini’s endless quantity rather than quality callups, or perhaps the overall state of Italian football that eventually left them out of World Cup 2018, I’m not sure. Perhaps it was the three hour television squad announce, or the pale blue Armani seersucker suits. But I do know that I have a serious case of dissociation football. 


Dress code grinta casual

Perhaps it is a lack of heroes. In 1994, there were defenders who were already legends in their own right. They were not accused of rape, forced to pay fines for tax evasion, or glory hunt for money or trophies. They did not dive, grab their faces, and peek at the refs to try to earn calls like so many of the world’s best players do now. They didn’t spend more time on social media than on the pitch or seek lucrative endorsements. They were heroes. They just played football. 

You know their names. Baresi. Maldini. Costacurta. Tassotti. Or heroes at other positions, like Baggio, Donadoni, Albertini, and Massaro. All players who are still associated with the beautiful game even today. Sure, there were the occasional little scandals, no one is perfect. But overall these heroes had character and integrity. They were loyal and they honored the shirt, as did so many of the people who wore the Azzurri shirt over the years. The same is true of the heroes who lifted the 2006 World Cup. There were players like Nesta, Gattuso, Pirlo, and Pippo Inzaghi. Players who sweat blood and stirred your emotions when you saw them represent their country. They were heroes. And I am quite sure they would have taken a knee without question in this climate, too.


Heroes, bandiere, plus Amelia and Zaccardo

In a tragic and ironic twist, that same year, Calciopoli happened. Italy managed that as poorly as they manage any controversy, much like pouring gasoline on a fire. Without vision or a willingness to move forward, build new stadiums, invest in youth, or other infrastructure within calcio, Serie A went from the best league in the world to a league known for corruption.

All of the off the pitch drama continued to fester, but for every footstep forward, there were two steps taken backward. Ultimately, this caught up to the national team as well. Going from Prandelli to Conte to the all-time low of Ventura, there was no direction or method to choosing a national team manager, let alone developing football as a nation. So, for the first time in 60 years, Italy missed out on the World Cup in 2018.


Even in loss, he inspired more loyalty in his little finger than this year's team

Mancini promised to change that, and he has. But the way he went about it was by calling up just about every eligible Italian player in every division along the way. So many players who are definitely not worthy of the Azzurri jersey played as he built his team like The Bachelorette chooses a fiancé. Building a system and then putting players into it is certainly a very wise plan on the pitch, but it doesn’t do much to build excitement or a loyalty to the players amongst the fans. Even more distancing for me personally is that there is not a single Milan player in this year's squad. I get that people who are Italian or have Italian heritage love that their team is winning, but it's not the same for me.

You see some players in this squad who clearly deserve to be there, and have the added character to perhaps stand as a hero. Others come off as more lucky to be there, or talented but mercenaries. There are players who have been so criticized by fans that they have lost credibility, no matter how hard you try to avoid the social media trap. Then you have incidents like Immobile’s immaculate recovery last week, which simply reaffirm tired old stereotypes such as Italy being divers. Contrast that with Kjaer's incredible heroics for Denmark, and you may understand my detachment with these Italy players.


Let's be real, Neymar would have jumped up faster

Don't get me wrong, I will be happy for Italy should they win tonight, and thrilled for them to lift a trophy just two years plus a pandemic year after missing out on the World Cup. That really is a feat, particularly understanding Italian culture. But it won't evoke the same passion and emotions in me as when Italy actually lost in 1994. Maybe it’s just because they are more concerned with posting selfies on Instagram than they are worried about their actual loyalty to their clubs or their fans. Today's players give mercenary an all new meaning. Whatever it is, I find myself experiencing dissociation football.


This post inspired by the music of Garbage's "Empty"


Dissociation Football Dissociation Football Reviewed by Elaine on 4:00 AM Rating: 5
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