And suddenly, the French began to love the Nazionale / Euro 2020 / Demies / Italy-Spain / July 4, 2021 /

Among all the unexpected surprises that have punctuated this exceptional and atypical Euro, one fact deserves to be highlighted: a large part of France, and no longer just the few usual zealots (by inclination for a club or patronymic origin), has fallen. in love in front of the Italian selection. From TV sets to bar terraces, the same enthusiasm is evident towards our transalpine friends. A reality that seems to undermine decades of contempt and hate. Autopsy of a new bromance.


Is it so far? Berlin. July 9, 2006. The Blues lose a second star who nevertheless stretched out their arms to them, following the provocation of Materazzi, who manages to make Zinédine Zidane lose his temper, logically excluded. A blow that comes to remind a generation that, in the end, Italy, much more than Germany, remains normally « Our enemy » , our croquemitaine, in the field. Previously, our grandparents and parents had suffered a long litany of defeats against the Nazionale, conjured during a friendly match in 1982, by the grace of Michel Platini and Daniel Bravo, irony of immigration.

The Blues had ended the curse, and since then, every time we took out the Azzurri, a somewhat petty form of satisfaction invaded our rosy pride. Previously, the French teams watched the big houses of La Botte stack European trophies and humiliate them on occasion. Ask the people of Nantes and Bordeaux, not to mention the discovery of the ultras and sometimes their violence. It took a Seville 1982 for us, out of spite and anger, to encourage Dino Zoff’s partners in the face of the Mannschaft. But since the final of Euro 2000, then obviously that of 2006, all the Italian misadventures were relief. Tackled by Knysna, we could not celebrate the exit from the pools of the holders, or « impostors », of the title after a pathetic draw against New Zealand and a defeat against Slovakia. But their absence in 2018 sounded like revenge on history.

Pride and Prejudice

Behind this vision of Italian football, necessarily a lot of prejudices and, in the hollow, an idyllic vision of ours. A Serie A reduced to the invention of catenaccio or, under the Berlusconi era, to a money machine and dubious embezzlement (betting scandals, match-fixing and doping). Opposite, we were obviously the homeland of the beautiful game in Europe, even if it means losing in eternal romantics of the round ball. Without seeing to what extent we were gradually transforming into an Italy bis, to finally bring back titles and glory (and suddenly, the demands on football champagne sank strangely), with a solid defense and geniuses ahead.

In 1998, the executives of the France team practically all played in Italy, from Deschamps to Zidane, via Thuram and Desailly. In 2018, the coronation in Russia still owes a lot to Didier Deschamps, certainly since fallen from his platform, because « 1-0 Italian, Juve, it forges a coach » as Flynt raps so well.

Italy is us

So, despite everything, why this slightly amnesic swoon, which also relates to solitary pleasure by proxy, in front of this dream eleven led by Mancini? Perhaps because, since 2018, France has found a new “enemy”: Belgium. This rivalry was built on somewhat different assumptions. First, the side « Bad losers » of the Red Devils. Then, their claim to take on the role of defenders of the “offensive game” against the Blues refusing the battle. Their status is also annoying, supposedly overvalued by a FIFA ranking still suspected of not rewarding good teams. The war of ego on social networks, between Francophones, has been particularly cruel for three years, and necessarily rarely objective on both sides. Likewise, we watch with restrained rage our British comrades approach their unbearable « It’s coming at home » , which already feeds in retaliation the dream of invading the Channel Islands and annexing Cornwall.

Perhaps also that a large part of the French find in these Azzurri the reflection of our Blues « Ideals » , and football that we loved to see them lavish, at least as we loved to talk about it afterwards. A united team, carried away by a destiny and an intimate conviction that can be read as soon as they sing their hymn. Training at the bedside of a country that is also seeking to regain morale and pride. A rebirth that also seems to correspond to that of Serie A (Inter, Atalanta, etc.). A constant taste for attack and play. Like France in the past, Italy was not expected. She has nothing to prove. She plays without being afraid of losing, with the desire to win. The ball is not a matter of possession, but of movement. So, frustrated by the Blues whose mastery seemed to come down to their tactical sense, despite the return of a Benzema as a virtuoso, we all became tifosi of Verratti’s band. All Garibaldians finally. Garibaldi this hero of Italian unity born in Nice, and returned to fight alongside France against Germany in 1870, before supporting the Paris Commune.

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    By Nicolas Kssis Martov

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