World Cup 2022: Italy deprived of the desert, the tifosi on a diet without football

All of Italy, from coach Roberto Mancini to millions of calcio-mad tifosi, is about to suffer for a month watching the best nations compete for the World Cup in Qatar, without the Azzurri champions of Europe and without Serie A to console themselves. « The wound will bleed to the end« , admitted Mancini, still stunned by the defeat in the qualifying play-offs against modest North Macedonia (0-1), in March.

The Nazionale, reigning European champion, misses the big world meeting for the second time in a row. Unheard of for the country sporting its four-star world champion jersey (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006). On November 20, a few hours after Qatar officially kicked off their World Cup against Ecuador, Italy will play an uninteresting friendly match in Austria, four days after another trip to Albania. Cruel.

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The absence of the Azzurri in Qatar is a « shame« , estimated this summer Roberto Baggio, finalist of the 94 World Cup, not understanding that they did not benefit from a « guaranteed placeas European champion.

Annoyed or resigned, the tifosi are preparing for this strange end to the year, without Italy at the World Cup but also without a championship, Serie A taking a break from mid-November to early January to free up the many foreign internationals who will play the World Cup. « The disappointment, we have forgotten it a little thanks to AC Milan (Italian champion in May), but she will come back during the World Cup« , sighs Gianluca Meloni, 31, Sardinian supporter of the Rossoneri crossed near the San Siro stadium in Milan. « It’s hard not to be there for the second time, it’s a moment when, despite everything, the nation comes together“, he adds.

« We will watch the matches, despite the sadness. I don’t know yet who we will support, maybe Argentina« , adds an Inter Milan tifoso, Luigi Giarrusso, 67, from Brescia, accompanied by his eight-year-old grandson who has never yet been able to see Italy play in the World Cup – the last game Azzurri in the finals dates back to June 2014, a 1-0 loss to Uruguay in the group stage. »La Nazionale, we still love it, it will come back… », he adds.

The StageUp research firm, which has measured the audience in Italy for various sporting and international events twice a year since 2000 and the ratings of national teams, has not noticed a loss of love for the Nazionale. « The June 2022 wave assigns the national football team 28.3 million interested parties, a number in line with October 2021“, explains to AFP its president Giovanni Palazzi, about this survey carried out among 1,800 Italians aged 14 to 64.

If we are far from the peak recorded in 2006 after the last world title (34 million), this figure proves that the Nazionale and football in general still have a solid core of fans, according to this expert. And this popular base shelters the Italian Federation from too great an economic shock, even if there will perhaps be a « miss to win« linked to the bonuses and possible sponsorship contracts of « last minute“which she could have benefited from in the event of good results at the World Cup, underlines Giovanni Palazzi.

Some less prominent sports could, however, take advantage of it to gain some media exposure time, such as volleyball or rugby. Football Italy will also console itself with its few representatives expected in Qatar: a few referees, soldiers taking part in the security of the event and the equipment manufacturer Kappa, which supplies Tunisia’s jerseys. She will also remember, on the day of the final, December 18, that the gold trophy awarded to the winners was born in 1971 in Italy, created by the company GDE Bertoni.

« It’s a part of Italy that is always guaranteed to be at the World Cup, and even on the podium, in first place.… », observes for AFP Valentina Losa, the director of the Milanese company, which also produces the medals and the official replica of the trophy (in gold plated) that the winners keep. The disappointment, it will not really pass « than by winning the next“Global, in 2026, Mancini has already pointed out, summing up the state of mind of an entire revengeful country.

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