giovedì 8 marzo 2012


Yet another blog!

“In heaven’s name, why?” you ask.

Easy. The best possible reason in the world.

To celebrate the sport played in heaven, Rugby Union, and how our small group of supporters live it. 

And to record how we’re continuing to face life in the stands since the demise of the club we loved. 

Because it’s cathartic for me to do this. And it could happen to you. So you might just want to know.

There are 9 of us who meet up at games . Six men and three women. Six Italians, two Englishmen and an Irish woman, who all support Rugby Parma FC. 

We were one of the top five clubs in Italy until two years ago. 

                                                      Winning the Coppa Italia in 2006

During a heady 5-year period, we won three Italian Cups and a Super-Cup and occasionally made waves in England and France.  And then, our world imploded.

Italy put two teams in the Magners League (now the poetically-named RaboDirectPRO12), which had until then been made up of the top Irish, Welsh and Scottish teams.

And when Italy did that, the club we loved ran out of money.  So they joined forces with a smaller local but solvent club called Noceto Rugby and formed a new team – Crociati Rugby – to play in the now downgraded top domestic league. 

So…. New team, new name, new colours. 

Then the team bearing the name and the shirt we loved so much was resurrected as an amateur team playing in a minor local league.

We were steered towards one of the Magners League teams, the purpose-formed franchise Aironi Rugby, since Rugby Parma were one of its founding partners and because it represents Emilia Romagna (our region) and Lombardy.  Some of us said we wouldn’t watch them.  But we’ve all trundled along to their games obligingly enough.

So…three teams to support now.  And it does seem like two too many.

                                     Betta and friend in happier days at the world-famous
                                                 XXV Aprile Stadium in Parma's Moletolo district

And then there’s another reason I’m starting this blog -  to try and let people know what Italy’s really like and what it’s like to live here.  And to find out myself.  Because although I’ve lived here for a lifetime, I’ve never really thought about it consciously, never articulated it.  But I still occasionally read or hear the old stereotypes that don’t do justice to the people or the country.  You know the sort of thing - a nation of hot-blooded, earthy, simple people who are friendly and fun to be with but at the same time slightly mad, imprecise and disorganized, who can’t govern themselves and drive badly.  And I know it’s not like that.

So I’d like to get past these simplistic, outdated notions   – what the Italians themselves call the pizza, mandolino e  birra image of the place – and celebrate the real character of this wonderful country.  And I’m hoping that unearthing this is a journey I can undertake with you through the questions I’m inviting you to ask.  Because if you want to know something, I’ll try and give you an answer, which will make me analyse the place and the people and look at them with fresh eyes.

                                        It's not always sunny here - Bologna mid-February