Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Italy smiteth Australia

So I watched Italy beat Australia 1-0, on a cheap-ass penalty kick in the 93rd minute, from a sidewalk bar in Gubbio. I won't turn this into a travelogue, but this bears some telling. (The intrepid Special Lady has returned home, healthy and on schedule, and she shall be sorely missed.)

The crowd grew surlier as Italy blew several chances, and it reserved special rancor for Toni, who looked like he was playing pretty well to me. When one second-half misfired shot flew over the goalpost, a guy in the front overturned his table, sending glasses flying and children screaming in delight. Cars drove past and stopped in the middle of the street to watch the game, halting traffic. As the final minutes ticked off, it looked like it would go to a shootout, and I was prepared to get my English-speaking ass kicked all over the cobblestone streets. And then Grosso went down, and Totti ("I kicked the ball, and there it was in the back of the net") scored, and there was pandemonium.

Children scattered all over town, hugging and pretending they'd scored. Old men hugged. I even got a hug (I held on for an uncomfortably long time). Lions lay down with lambs. Tractors, cars, scooters drove past with Italian flags. Firecrackers went off. In a centuries-old Eugubian ritual, old women festooned a naked virgin with prosciutto while prepubescent boys fucked melons. It was incredible.

For the next two hours (two hours, seriously), the traffic circle hosted the most boring party ever: an endless rotation of teenagers in cars & scooters, waving Italian flags, shouting, honking. No alcohol, surprisingly.

On to Croatia, if my sorry legs can stand the hills on the way to Ancona.