A Tale of Two Football Matches

We slept till nearly five and then hurried to shower as the Italy v France match was due to start at six. Back down the marina past the still closed hostelries we walked. In the awning of the bar where we had lunch a group of men were wrestling with a wide screen TV balancing it on a pair of dining chairs. All the blinds were down as far as they would go, but the blinds were of white fabric and there was a problem with reflected light on the screen. The younger men were hustling the tottering TV from side to side as the older men judged the relative merits of various positions. It looked a bit private, so we carried on and walked the length of the marina. Nowhere else showed any sign of life, so we turned back to the. By this time the TV was in place, with a row of men in vests sat behind a table in front of it, beers at the ready. We shuffled self-consciously into a table behind them all. The pre match parachute games were in full swing, blotted out by the team sheets, then the images of ranks of stern looking players blossoming onto the screen. John went in to buy beer. The proprietor came out with a couple of large books and jimmied one side of the TV up, placed the books on the chair and let the TV back down on top of them. The chaps and myself carried on watching proceedings set at a jaunty angle. The row of Spanish players were panned, singing their anthem, wearing white shirts with their flag spewed on the shoulder. The cameras swung onto the lineup of Italians. The proprietor wandered over to turn the volume up full and disappeared again. Buffon and the lads belted out their anthem with a strong backing from the crowd and nods and smiles from my fellow viewers. Our host came back with two more volumes to prop up the other side of the set ready for kick off. John arrived with a girl in tow helping to carry the beers along with an assortment of complimentary crisps and nuts. We were showing fellow feeling with Nastro Azzuros, but on the front table it was Tenants and Heinekens all round.

It was an exciting match if you were rooting for the Azure. For a start they were playing with a lot more vim than in the other matches we have seen them start. Running in numbers, passing the ball, shots on target, lots to excite the lads. The Spanish couldn’t seem to find their feet. I had a few pangs about the chaps over in Restaurant David, where we had watched some of the World Cup. As the match progressed more men and boys gathered around us along with a lady with a pram. They were a vocal crowd, full of excited shouts, groans and comment; when Italy scored all were on their feet with a roar that woke the baby. He wailed wide-eyed and they all turned to smile at him indulgently. His Mum picked him up and walked to and fro shushing him, and then his older sister arrived with her friends and took him off in his pram for a walk. At half time most of the audience disappeared too, John went to get a couple more beers, but was soon back as no one else had been in ordering. Where they all went we do not know, they had smoked freely throughout the first half and were gone a long time for a toilet stop. Back they all trouped in time for the restart and Spain took more possession and there were a few fouls that had the punters muttering and on occasion gesturing angrily at the set until their second goal settled things and they were all on their feet again, then they were happily shaking hands and dissipating, even before the final whistle. They have no time for pundits, interviews and someone else’s analysis here, though there is huge affection for Buffon, or Gigi as they all murmur with a fond smile whenever he has the ball. John did not think they would want to watch the England v Iceland game after that, so we went in and settled up before heading back to Lyra.

John made pasta sauce and I cooked the pasta, while he set our little TV to tune up. We also prop it up on a stack of pilot books, but our TV set fits on just the one pile. As the Italy game had been on Sky we hoped the England match would be on the free to air channel and in this we were not disappointed. That was untill we had thrown away the gift of a one goal lead and were two one down, playing some of the right players in all of the wrong places. It was hard to credit how promising we had seemed in our opening match against Russia and to compare how out of sorts Italy had seemed when they started. They had been lucky to win then and have now found their feet. We had been unlucky to come away from our first game with only a draw and have looked worse with each viewing since. The only awesome thing about this last match was the Icelanders’ war grunt. No doubt they were running up and down the oars in Reykjavik that night. We were just fed up and rather grateful we had watched the humiliation in the privacy of our own cabin.p1170497

On the BBC homepage next morning it was hard to judge which gloomy headlines were referring to Brexit and which to the football. We had thought about going to Rome today, but opted to do the laundry instead, living la Dolce Vita being contingent upon a ready supply of clean knickers. The laundrette itself was hard to find and when we found it the machines were domestic ones with unfamiliar symbols, we had to pay a girl in the chandlers next door to use them and she told us how to proceed. The driers were condenser types which threatened to set fire to the laundry had it not stayed so determinedly damp, so we have carted it back on board to drape over the rails and string from the rigging. It is oppressively hot in the marina, but through the entrance we can now see big waves rolling in and are happy to sit watching our unmentionables stirring in the breeze. Tomorrow we are off to Porto di Roma and hope to be near Ischia for the weekend.

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