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After watching yesterday’s game, Italy VS Germany, I felt that I should try and put into words the emotions felt throughout this tournament.

By: Gabriele Biondo

I would love to also translate this post in Italian but because of the length, I’m going to leave it in English. I already know this is going to be a long post and if you read the whole thing, thank you in advance. Truth be told: The Azzurri shirt brings fans together. I am grateful for all the memories and new friends that I have made throughout this tournament.

There are many reasons on why I want to write this post. One of them being because regardless of the result yesterday, I always want to remember the passion I felt. Firstly, before I get into yesterday’s game something must be said. I believe that years from now we’ll look back at this game to give future generations of Gli Azzurri the hunger, hope, and determination to push further. Thank you for playing your hearts out with pride while wearing the Azzurri jersey. Going into this tournament many thought we wouldn’t even get passed the group stage. Not only did we prove them wrong, we topped the group.

This may have been the “weakest” Italy team in terms of quality, as some say, but I think we proved them wrong as well. Have to give a lot of credit to our coach, Antonio Conte. Not only was he able to bring this team together as a family, he was able to perfectly orchestrate tactics and ideas. I truly believe he has instilled a hunger into this Italian team that will serve useful for future tournaments. It is upon this Azzurri team that future generations of Italians should make reference to as a turning point. Even when the odds were against us, they were able to push through and make it out of our group. We were able to beat Belgium, Sweden, and Spain. We were also able to challenge the current World Cup champions, Germany, and push them all the way to a penalty shootout.

This itself was absolutely remarkable. As with all the games throughout this tournament, I was a nervous wreck. Those who do not watch calcio, it is much more than a game. It’s not “just a game” it’s a way of life. Italy VS Germany has a history behind it, and for this reason is why this game meant a lot more than the rest. Looking back, I’m grateful I had the opportunity to watch this game with both young and older generations of Italians. Not only have they seen much more from the Azzurri than us, they were once in our position. I’ve only seen about a handful of international tournaments. As I grow up I hope to be able to experience what they have in the past, Italy in all its glory. Prior to Euro 2016 I was able to watch each of Italy’s qualifying games. It’s truly great to be able to see the team play throughout qualifying all the way to the big event.

I’m happy I took all the pictures I did in these past few weeks as this is what I will look back to. The memories of screaming my heart out for this team. Now back to the events that took place yesterday. The day began with what seems like a tradition now, a BBQ outside the Italian caffè where I’ve watched all the Euro 2016 games. Once the teams took to the field my heart was racing, like always, anxiety was at an all-time high.

As the Italian national anthem began, we got up from our seats to sing our anthem. Naturally, I started to sing it as well because of the felt pride I felt for the team and our anthem. They say “dance like nobody’s watching” well I watch Italy games like nobody’s watching. Sitting right front and center, all my focus is on the TV. It’s not unusual for me, along with the others, to scream and live each moment of the game as if we were at the stadium. This is perhaps the biggest reason why I love watching games with a crowd. Trust me when I say this: watching an Italy game with a group of Italian’s is one of the best things you can experience. Losing my voice when an Italian player hit the ball in the back of the opponent’s net is a guarantee. However, yesterday’s game was a bit different.

I have never felt so passionate for this Azzurri squad. I have to thank Conte for this as well. He made me fall in love with the Azzurri all over again. One thing I should mention about Italians is that we are very superstitious. One of my newly developed superstitions throughout this tournament was wearing my Italian flag around my neck before and throughout the game. Watching Gli Azzurri has been frustrating in recent years but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re Italy, it’s never easy for us and frankly we play better when everything is against us. When I saw that our defense was able to tame the German attack I felt (ever so slightly) at ease, but always on the edge of my seat. Throughout the game you’ll always hear me yelling, complaining, or celebrating (sometimes all three) and that’s a guarantee. When Germany scored in the 2nd half my heart sank as I slowly thought that surely meant game over. Credit to the Germans for maintaining a majority of the possession thought the game.

However, Conte’s Italy did not give up. They fought to look for that chance, that one chance that would breath life back into the game. Many may not have noticed, or even will remember, but about 5 minutes after Germany scored they had a huge chance to make it 2-0. This would’ve surely sealed our fates and crushed my heart. Who made the difference though? Italy’s goalie the one and only: Gianluigi Buffon. Buffon’s save in the 68th minute kept Italy in the game. Then, as if by some miracle, about 8 minutes later after that save Italy were awarded a penalty.

When the referee pointed to the spot, I was ecstatic. I screamed “RIGORE!” (PENALTY!) at the top of my lungs a few times and jumped for joy. Being that I was in the front row of chairs, I turned around and saw all the expressions around me, I wasn’t the only one who was ecstatic. Tensions were high for this penalty as it would surely have determined our fate. With the fact that my heart was racing like crazy, and having just screamed like there was no tomorrow, the anxiety I had watching that penalty being prepared to be taken was like no other. I knew I couldn’t sit down when it was going to be taken, and because I was in the front standing up wasn’t much of an option either. So what did I do? I fell to my knees, held the Italian flag around my neck as tight as I could, and looked up to the TV. During the setup of the penalty I believe I repeatedly screamed something along the lines of “FACCI CANTARE BONUCCI! FACCI SOGNARE!” (Roughly translated: “LET US SING BONUCCI! LET US DREAM!”). I knew after those few seconds I would either be distraught or ecstatic.

Bonucci made his run towards the ball and my heart surely skipped a beat. When the ball hit the back of the net I jumped into the air and started to scream, along with each and every other Azzurri fan in that room. I continued to celebrate and hurtling over some chairs to reach where my cousin and other family members had been sitting to celebrate with them. Honestly, I can’t even write the right words to describe the amount of joy I felt throughout those few minutes.

Seeing a crowd of 20-30 people jumping, cheering, and celebrating together was a beautiful sight. The minutes that passed after that penalty were excruciating, hanging on to the edge of my seat and hoping to see Italy hold on or score another goal to put us through. 90 minutes of play came to an end and we were headed to extra time. Watching a game as a fan, extra time is never fun and watching extra time with Italy playing is so much worse because of the anxiety they give the fans throughout those extra 30 minutes. Slowly but surely, the moment of the game which I didn’t want it to come down to had arrived.

What comes after 90 minutes and extra time should the score still remain a draw: the dreaded penalty shootout. Penalty shootouts are a complete lottery, and one of the most nerve-racking things to watch. Yesterday’s penalty shootout was like no other. Between the amount of penalties missed/saved and the ones that found the way to the back of the net, it was an emotional rollercoaster. I honestly don’t know if I celebrated harder when Italy made a penalty, or when Germany missed one or had it saved by Buffon. Either way, when I did celebrate I screamed (naturally) and also hugged, jumped, and celebrated with the people that were sitting next to me. It was unfortunate for us to go out this way, but I have to say we exit this tournament with our heads held high. I think it’s safe to say that this Azzurri team restarted a fire in each and every devoted fan. I can’t say this enough: I’m so PROUD of this team.

You made a whole nation proud and believe again in the Azzurri. This Azzurri team showed that through the darkness, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel and that the future is bright. Thank you Italy for allowing us to dream and believe in you throughout this whole tournament.

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