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English Football - A Love Affair

Maggio 2013
Gli italiani sono innamorati del calcio, questo si sa, ma per tanti questa passione... parla inglese. Andiamo a conoscere la realtà dei ‘branch’, le associazioni di italiani che tifano per le squadre inglesi. E in giugno, si sfideranno a Milano in un torneo!

di Luca Bonomi; interview by Mark Worden

File audio:

Italian fans of Newcastle United
Italian fans of Newcastle United
Alma Swanson
Alma Swanson

When it comes to World Cup titles, Italy (with four) is second only to Brazil (with five). And yet many Italian fans prefer to follow English football clubs (even though England has only won the World Cup once). Many of these teams have officially-recognised fan clubs in Italy and their members are prepared to spend large sums of money travelling England to see games.


The Italian love affair with English football goes back to at least the 1970s, but it took off in the 1990s when Italian fan clubs were founded for Chelsea, West Ham, Liverpool and Arsenal. Since then many others have followed suit, thanks to the power of the Internet and its social networks.


But why would an Italian football fan want to support an English team? A love of England and its language is undoubtedly one factor, but there are others: the atmosphere at English matches, the amazing fans, the sporting culture, the fact that in England enthusiasm is more important than tactics. Unlike their Italian counterparts, the English play their hearts out until the final whistle: they never give up, no matter what the score. Nor do the fans: the grounds are always full, whether we’re talking about Premier League or non-league clubs.


There are, of course, differences in style among the fans in Italy. Some are more “Italian-style” (supporting both an English and an Italian team), while others are more “English-style” (one team only!) but all these fans share a great passion and this will be evident in next month’s 7-a-side tournament (see below). 




Speaker: Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

English football teams like Manchester United and Liverpool have fans around the world. In the case of countries like Malaysia it isn’t hard to understand why, but they also have fan clubs in Italy, which has some pretty good teams of its own. Not only that, there are even Italian fan clubs for minor, non-league English teams like Truro City in Cornwall. So why do Italians like English football so much? We asked Alma Swanson, an image consultant and personal style coach who often gets together with her friends in Italy to watch Liverpool play:

Alma Swanson (Standard British/Liverpool accent)

Well, I’ve asked my Italian friends this, and they tend to tell me it’s because they love the atmosphere of the stadium, they love the way it’s so friendly and so passionate and, whether the team is winning or losing, there’s always this support.
The style of football also is quite different, isn’t it? The Italian game is much smoother and tactical and almost like billiards, whereas the English game is more passionate and masculine and hands on. Maybe that’s ‘cause I’m a girl!

And why do Italian fans choose one English team over another?

Alma Swanson

Most of the time it’s because a particular player was very important, they liked the player, like it could be Wayne Rooney, they’ve seen him play for England, or something like that, or maybe they’ve been on holiday, they may have been to London and gone to an Arsenal game or something, you know, but mostly it’s out of friendship, they may have a friend – like I know if Liverpool gave me £10 for every scarf I sold! – so they may just have a friend who’s from that city, and they get into it, so they may go together to a match or something.


In many ways it’s surprising that Italians support Liverpool when we remember the Heysel disaster of 1985, in which 39 Juventus fans died during the European Cup final. Four years later 96 Liverpool fans died in the “Hillsborough disaster” during an F.A. Cup semi-final in Sheffield. But, as Alma Swanson says, safety at English soccer stadiums has improved dramatically since then, something that doesn’t appear to have happened in Italy:

Alma Swanson

I think one of the good things which we did in England and the UK was to stop fans from travelling, taking the passports off them, some of them for life. It was very severe what the authorities decided to do, to take away the terraces, the standing terraces, to do something about the violence in the stadium, lock people up, name them and shame them, and unfortunately in Italy we haven’t got to that, and there’s a still a lot going on, it’s still quite violent. 

If you want to see a video of our interview with Alma Swanson, click here.


Next month Milan will host a 7-a-side tournament for Italian fans of the 20 English Premier League teams. It will take place on June 1st at the “Centro Sportivo G. Catozzi” in Via Madruzzo. For more information, please visit: http://quellichelapremierleague.com

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You’ll Never Walk Alone. “Non camminerai mai da solo”. Questa canzone è diventata l’inno ufficiale del Liverpool F.C. nel 1963.

If Liverpool gave me £10 for every scarf I sold. “Se il Liverpool mi desse 10 sterline per ogni sciarpa che ho venduto”. Qui troviamo un esempio di second conditional incompleto: la frase intera sarebbe If Liverpool gave me £10 for every scarf I sold I would be very rich (“Se il Liverpool mi desse £10 per ogni sciarpa che ho venduto sarei molto ricca”), ma non c’è bisogno di completare la frase perché è una specie di detto.