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From Goal.com (thanks so much, San Siro!!)
A Love Supreme: The Incurable Disease

22/03/2005 10:53:00
There is no stronger bond of loyalty in football than that between the true fan and his or her team. And with relatively few honours up for grabs each season and a large number of clubs competing for them, the natural condition of the football fan lies somewhere between regular disappointment and perennial hope, with (for the lucky ones) the occasional ecstasy of glory.
Fortunately, the sheer elation of experiencing (it’s so much more than just seeing) our side score a goal is enough to sustain and nourish our blind faith week after week, season after season. It’s both a life sentence and something that provides context for our lives. And to celebrate this passion, Goal.com is launching a new series in which fans give a flavour of what drives their obsession. Terry Quilico gets things underway with his essay on what it’s like to be a devoted Torino fan from thousands of miles away….


THE INCURABLE DISEASE

Although once infected, the illness is year-round, the worst symptoms exhibit themselves from September through June, growing stronger as the months go by. A weekly cycle varies little, except that the manifested symptoms will often be complete opposites: On the night of the first day, the patient doesn’t sleep, thoughts racing from one extreme to another; from despair to joy. On the first day, the mind is focused on one thing only, breathing becomes shallow, emotions are at an all-time high, and for 90 minutes the mind shuts down completely. On the second day, abject despair takes over, or less likely, an unexplained ecstasy. On the third, a feverish examination of the events of the first day takes place; however, logic is not present in the process. On the fourth, the role of the almighty in events is scrutinized. The fairness and justice present or absent from the world is contemplated. The fifth day witnesses the return of the intellect, with a detailed examination of what took place on day one, and why it will or won’t take place again in two days time. (With an intensity that can only be compared to Einstein formulating his theory of relativity.) On the sixth day, tensions rise until once again a sleepless night looms…

The disease (which is well known to everyone reading this) is “soccer fever”, or more appropriately in this case, “calcio fever”, or in this particular iteration, “Torino Calcio fever”, as that team is the true focus of my addiction; an addiction without rational explanation. One can understand the love of a fan for a home-town team but such affection for a team thousands of miles away, in a different country, borders on the incomprehensible.

There is a connection, although it is tenuous at best: My grandparents emigrated from Piemonte, from a small village about 30 km outside of Torino so perhaps they were fans…Well, no, they left bella Italia around 1899, and Torino Calcio wasn’t born until 1906.

The base of support for the “Granata” or Toro is in working class areas of Torino proper, with many tifosi from the ranks of Fiat workers. But why not support the bianconero instead? If logic were to play its part, I could just as easily support the “zebras”. Life would be sunny most of the time, and success, if out of reach, would only be a multi-million Euro player trade away.

Perhaps, it is the history of this fabled team that first attracted me. “Il Grande Torino” as they were once known after World War II, were practically unbeatable, once having ten players simultaneously selected to the Italian National team, and winning 3 consecutive “scudettos” or Italian championships in a row, and on their way to winning a fourth, when their Fiat aircraft crashed into Superga, a hill on the outskirts of Torino on May 4, 1949, killing all on board.

The team can be said to have never recovered from this tragedy, winning only one scudetto during the 1975-76 season in all the intervening years. (Another personal connection: 1975 was the year my son was born.)

Torino has a history of movement between the top two divisions. Machiavelli & Dante could not have envisioned such pressure and suffering visited upon teams, players, and fans with visions of which circle of hell you will be assigned to, always looming.

Currently, Torino is in Serie B with 21 other teams, all struggling for promotion which is only available to the top 3 teams, and all desperate to avoid relegation to Serie C.

In the Spring of 2002, I convinced my wife, Darlene, that we should spend our vacation in Italy: “We can visit the Vatican, and see the treasures of Florence. I will be able to go to the village in the Alps where my nonno and nonna grew up!”

All sound reasons, but, all false. As any true pilgrim, I knew it was required of me to pay homage at the Stadio Del Alpi, to worship from the Curva Maratona. So that was it; a two week vacation based on a 90 minute soccer game.

Throughout the entire trip I would explain to everyone I met ad nauseum in my halting Italian, that this was my first visit to the land of my ancestors, and that I was a follower of Torino Calcio. (The first comment would always bring forth great approval, while the second would invariably result in a sad shaking of the head.)

On the day of the match we left from the Jolly Hotel after a hearty lunch (“Why didn’t you tell me that carpaccio was raw meat?” queried Darlene.) We had instructions from our waiter to see if we could buy his son an Inter Milan jersey, and two of the staff at the front desk, who were Toro supporters, told us that because of the marathon being run in the city that day, our tram to the stadium could not be caught at its usual stop.

Soon we were hopelessly lost, but a woman “of a certain age”, as the French say, spotted my team scarf, and took us in tow, as we endeavored to keep up racing down the baroque architectured, tree-lined boulevards. Arriving at the stop, we were joined by dozens of tifosi. Quickly, our new friend sent everyone over to meet the Americani, and to hear their impressions of Chicago (Michael Jordan and Al Capone shared top billing among the Torinese).

As time went by, and the tram wasn’t coming, telefonino’s snapped out with urgent calls to the transit police who showed up in a few minutes saying that they too, did not know where our streetcar was. This in turn brought out the phones again, this time with calls to the polizia proper, who showed up with lights flashing and sped off down the street in pursuit of our missing conveyance. As kick off time was approaching, we were all getting more and more agitated—One fan implored, “Don’t tell Bush about our inadequate transportation system.”
Finally, it arrived amid many insults from the waiting passengers. At first, the driver wouldn’t open the doors as he feared bodily harm, but cooler heads prevailed, apologies were proffered, the doors parted and we were on our way.

As we were late, everyone sprinted toward the gates hoping to make the kick off. We stood aside as squads of carabinari in full riot gear marched into the stadium as my long-suffering spouse looked at me with a “what have you gotten us into” expression in her eyes.

Before the game, I had resolved to buy the best seats in the stadium, but being ignorant of the layout, where each gate opened to its own section only, with movement between sections fenced off, we found ourselves in the least expensive seats on the first level in the Curva Maratona…Above us, the “Brigata Rosso”, the ultra fans of Torino Calcio were chanting, beating drums, blowing bugles, waving banners (obscene and otherwise), and lighting flares which the fire brigade were at pains to extinguish as they cheerfully tossed them down on us hapless fans in livello 1.

It has been said that “soccer is not a matter of life and death. It is more important than that.” For the next two hours I know that everyone in that stadium felt just that. Every passion known to mankind was on exhibit. It was grand opera, war and peace, love and hate, ceaselessly until the final whistle, and in the end, this 1-1 tie left us with little consolation. (A victory would have moved us closer to “salvezza” or another year in the top division).

As we made our way through the city back to our hotel, Torinese would spot my scarf and inquire as to the score, taking consolation or sorrow from the result.

Days later, on our last night in Italy, in our hotel in Milan, after reveling in the unbelievable beauty of the Duomo, Darlene asked me to explain the offside rule, which, after years of standing on the sidelines of my games and our son Derek’s matches in grade school and high school, she wished to master. So with oranges and apples on our cocktail table, I laid it out. When she rearranged the fruit and said, “OK, now lets say that the apples are Torino, the oranges Lecce, and this was that play late in the second half”, it was at that point that I knew that soccer fever was definitely a communicable disease.


Terry Quilico


how I inbreathed when I read it...
I love this kind of spirit!!
Forza to all of us who watch Toro from abroad!!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
From where? :D
I'm far away too, as Emil and chinaren!
 

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Yuumei, I have lived all my life in Wollongong, Australia. My parents came to Australia from Torino and I have been there myself six times.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
So you're close to Chinaren :D :D
 

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Wow, that sounds exactly like me. Grandparents from a town outside Torino, but unfortunately I have never had the opportunity to see Toro play, as I live thousands of miles away and have only visited the city once, when I was too young to understand what supporting a football club meant. But great article, its especially fun to see other Americans (assuming the author is one, which it seems like) that support Toro. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Well, I have a thread (now a sticky) called "Who art thou, brethren", to present ourselves ;)

In Toronews.net this week there's an interview with an American Toro lover ^_^, in the homepage.
 
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