by Meredith Syms

Full disclosure – my late grandfather was born and raised in Italy.  As a little girl, I remember he played Italian folksongs on his old stereo while I danced around the living room singing finiculi finicula!  I still have family in Italy, so I was very excited to watch them play and win the Euro Cup Final – the first win since 1968.  My cousins were furiously texting the play by plays and we were cheering them on with cries of “Forza!” from America. 

I think European fans were particularly excited to celebrate after what has been a devastating nearly two years of illness, death, lockdowns, masks, and social distancing.  What a great opportunity to celebrate the light at the end of the tunnel.  I remember when Italy was ground zero in Europe for the pandemic and hearing there weren’t enough ventilators.  Now, England allowed Italian soccer fans to come in for the day without quarantining.  How far we’ve come!

I admit it was a stressful ending – the players faces as they approached the ball said it all – you live or die by the penalty kicks. In a nail biter shootout, England was ultimately defeated 3-2 in penalties.  England is to be commended for their performance and it was a very hard loss for them to be sure.  But does that justify the mayhem that followed? 

My enjoyment of the game was short lived as I woke to the headlines about people assaulting fans, destroying property, and even worse, spewing racial slurs at opposing team players and fans.  It was especially heartbreaking to hear the social media racist rants against the England players who missed the penalty kicks – insult to injury. These images echo scenes playing out in our streets and on social media all too often today in very different contexts.  You don’t like a particular outcome – well then go destroy some stuff and hurt some people.  While those who hold that view are in the minority, they can certainly cause a lot of harm.

Sporting events have traditionally been the one area where we are supposed to forget the troubles of the world beyond the athletic field and enjoy the spirit of competition and good sportsmanship.  Fans are longing for that in the wake of the pandemic.  It’s too bad a few continue to spoil the joy of competition for the rest of us. 

Clearly, we have some work to do before the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. We can do better.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *