It’s been some time since I last posted. The series of earthquakes that has rocked Emilia Romagna since May has thrown my schedule to the wind. With every earthquake I have taken flight with the children to the mountains. But that’s another story, one that doesn’t belong here and one that I have written about elsewhere – if you want to read more, visit: http://www.italia-magazine.com/blog/movers-and-shakers.
No one knows who coined the phrase ‘The Beautiful Game’, but with Euro 2012 underway in
football is on everyone’s mind here. The Azzurri
– the boys in blue – make their debut this evening against one of the
tournament favourites, defending World and European champions, Spain. The
feeling here is not exactly one of optimism, though that’s not surprising.
Football – soccer if you prefer – in Italy has always been taken with a
healthy degree of seriousness. It’s never just a game – it’s much more than
that. Beppe Severgnini once wrote that ‘you cannot claim to know Italians until
you have seen them at work inside a soccer stadium’.
One of the most memorable moments in my life was the day my father took me to my first football game. I was barely tall enough to see over the railings. It was the European Cup leg between the legendary Italian club Juventus and the little known Glentoran, a local Irish squad. The match was played at the Oval in
I think we were the only Juventus fans in a green sea of 25,000 Glentoran
supporters. That didn’t deter my father. Football was different back then – the
atmosphere was electric, spirited but good-natured. Casio scored for Juventus
about 30 minutes into the first half. My brother and I broke the silence,
practically exploding with joy – my father, perhaps wisely, was less vocal in
his celebration. Five minutes before the end of the game Juventus conceded a
penalty. Dino Zoff, the legendary Italian goalkeeper, quickly put an end to any
possibility of a fairy-tale ending for the Irish when he saved Feeney’s shot.
But still, the Irish did well, managing to stave off the much-anticipated
slaughter, losing by only one goal. I have to point out though that they
weren’t so lucky when they travelled to the Stade
Communale in Turin
for the return leg, where they conceded 5 goals to the Italians.
We’ve met tonight’s opponents 29 times at international level. There’s not much in it.
won 10, drawn 11 and lost 8 times. But anyone who knows anything about football
will tell you that although the Italian squad has been under-performing of
late, and although the Spanish are on a high, the boys in blue are never to be
discounted. They’re not considered the second most successful team in the
history of the game for nothing.
Food and football have much in common in
Everyone’s passionate about them and everyone has an opinion. I’m watching the
first half of the game with friends around the corner in the bar. Assuming
all’s going well, we’re relocating to the living room at half time. Ellie’s
under instructions to keep an eye on the score line. Assuming all’s going well,
she’s serving bruschetta over the second half. The post game discussions will
take place around the BBQ in the garden. Hopefully when it’s over we’ll be
celebrating, not commiserating. But however it turns out, football makes
Italians hungry – I bought in a good supply of meat!
P.S. Next week
Italy meets the
in the second leg of their group matches. Although I’m a Republic of Ireland Belfast boy, my loyalties aren’t divided,
least, not quite. At the bar I’ll publicly be rooting for the Italians, but at
the same time, if things don’t turn out as expected, I still remember the words
of Amhrán na
bhFiann – that’s “The Soldiers’ Song”, the Irish
national anthem, for anyone that didn’t study Gaelic at school! I might even
whip up a pot of Irish stew... just to show there’s no hard feelings. Afterall,
it’s only a game!
Italian Barbecue Kebabs
400g Luganega sausage, cut into chunks
400g pork loin, diced
2 thickly cut slices of pancetta, cut into 2.5cm dice
1 large red pepper, seeds removed, flesh diced
1 courgette trimmed and diced into rounds
A few sprigs of thyme leaves, chopped
A sprig of rosemary, chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
To make the kebabs, thread a piece of pancetta onto the skewer, followed by a piece of pork loin, pepper, courgette and then sausage. Repeat this sequence once more, finishing the end of the kebab off with a piece of pancetta. This amount of ingredients should make about 8 kebabs. You’ll want two kebabs per person, unless extra hungry.
To cook, lightly brush the kebabs with olive oil and sprinkle generously with rosemary and thyme. Season each kebab with salt and pepper, then place on a hot griddle or over barbecue coals. Cook the kebabs for 10 to 15 minutes, turning and basting regularly. When cooked, sprinkle with a little extra thyme and a drizzle of olive oil and serve with more Mediterranean vegetables.