The lyrics of the football anthem “Three Lions (Football’s coming home)” regained relevance in 2018 when England reached the World Cup finals and the country dreamed of returning to the league of champions.
On July 11, 2021 however, it was the Italians who turned their long-awaited dream into reality, altering the English phrase into an ironic leitmotif that quickly went viral: “It’s coming Rome”. After a long hiatus of 53 years and some close calls, Italy had won the Euro Cup in the era of Covid.
Unaware of its visual significance when I captured it, a beautiful Armani mural on Via Broletto in Milan turned out to be the first image that I made for this photo gallery. An iconic red Vespa and a solitary motorcyclist turning slightly to the right contemplate the entire “Azzurri” Italy team. However, the image in no way foreshadowed the crowds that would emerge on the night of July 11 in every street across the Italian peninsula.
I had been following the progress of “gli Azzurri” in the European tournament through the videos at the bottom of this page. At the Martinic Theater in the Ortica neighborhood, I watched the final match projected on a large screen, together with 500 hundred other people who posed unwittingly for my camera.
There was a nervewracking sudden death penalty shootout, and then came the explosion of the party. I jumped into a taxi and arrived 10 minutes later in the most central area of Corso Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires Street), where the traffic was already blocked and it was impossible to continue on to Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square). The same empty streets that were shrouded in heavy silence a year before with Covid were now invaded by the multitudes, and the bright three-color flag of Italy was hoisted aloft everywhere and waved all night.
Many Italians decided that evening to leave their homes for the first time since the long Covid period began. The triumph of the “calcio”, as the Italians call football, was the reason to come out and celebrate life, especially considering Italy was the first victim in Europe of this unexpected evil.
And so, within a radius of 300 meters, I took all the photographs and videos here, sharing the celebration of an entire country lit up with such an epic and symbolic triumph. “Football is not a metaphor for life or politics, but the national team always ends up looking like the nation it represents.”, the journalist Aldo Cazzullo wrote in the Corriere della Sera after the victory.
At the other end of the world, in Buenos Aires, where I also would have liked to have been with my camera, thousands of people celebrated their victory in America’s Cup final at the symbolic Obelisk monument, a game played in the legendary Maracana stadium against Argentina’s historic rival, Brazil. The last time that many people had gathered in the same place had been in November 2020, after the death of Diego Maradona. Argentina, a country hard-hit by the pandemic, celebrated all night long with a surprised and intense joy.
The song “Brasil Decime que Se Siente” (Brazil, Tell Me How It Feels) was the song that accompanied the procession of honking horns and flags that lasted almost all night in Buenos Aires, as though it had been a World Cup victory. This song always fills me with nostalgia for the Brazil I lived in in 2014, and now neither the pandemic, the cold of the southern hemisphere winter, or the late hour could stop the celebration.
Italy and Argentina in the month of July 2021, almost at the same moment and in the same way, rediscovered the joy of life through football. Football helped defeat the loneliness, the fears, and the uncertainties of a very difficult moment of modern history.
My friend Fernando González Casanueva and I decided to unite both
countries’ celebrations into one, and thus the video that I invite you to watch, “An Italian Tango” was born.
Pablo Munini © Milan, July 2021