On June 24th, at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time fans along Commercial drive watched in shock, awe and disbelief as Italy was knocked out of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. The Slovakian side chose a decisive game against the World Champions to register their first World Cup win. They did so in impressive fashion and hats off to them. But now what? What does that mean for Vancouver? Can Vancouverites enjoy a World Cup without Team Italy?
That may seem like a strange question but if you think about it any talk of football (soccer) in Vancouver usually comes with a vision of passionate Italian fans celebrating up and down Commercial Drive waving flags and dancing. The Italian passion has helped to enkindle the football culture in Vancouver and encourage the appreciation of the sport in our city. The fanfare is addictive and Vancouverites from a variety of cultures head to the Drive, slip on their Italian jerseys and become just as much a part of the excitement. This is especially evident in Vancouverites with origins from countries that traditionally do not make the World Cup for example India, Pakistan and China. These fans join the party and instantly get a winner to cheer for and who better to join than the aficionados that introduced them to the culture of the sport. This unique form of cultural tutelage is very Vancouver and has become a major piece of Vancouver football culture.
Last World Cup this reached a pique as Italy went all the way, allowing the celebration to continue the duration of the tournament. The same cannot be said this year. Where will Vancouverites turn to now that the beloved Italian horse no longer adorns a saddle?
Now I do understand that Vancouver is a diverse city and is home to a medley of cultures. Brazilian fans, Croatian fans, Spanish Fans etc will be able to carry on just fine. What about those fans that equate the Italian teams success with World Cup football fun? Will the city still have that buzz that Italian football brings? I think it can.
This is our chance to break free of the trance and comfort of cheering for the Italian side. The nursing stage is over and with the Italian elimination Vancouverites can now escape and embrace football without the Italian inspiration that seemed so necessary in the past. We in Vancouver are seasoned now and can and will continue to appreciate the exciting football the World Cup tournament has to offer. I believe our love of the game is real enough to sustain an Italyless World Cup. What better time to test this than right before the Whitecaps join the Major League of Soccer and professional football comes into our very yard?
If you are uncertain how to move on or how to proceed, here are a few tips. Visit the Deutsches Haus on Victoria Drive and join in on the Germans celebration. Or head to the Portuguese club on Commercial Drive and sing praises to Christiano Ronaldo and company. Or spend an early morning at Cascade Lounge on Main Street and celebrate with the British as they try to stay alive against Germany. Or go celebrate with the fans from a medley of cultures at Eh! Restaurant on Alberni Street. The point is Football is an international game we are an international city, multifarious in design. As we learned while hosting the Olympic Games everyone does it a little different. Go out and enjoy those differences. The love of the sport has been seeded and can now blossom in Vancouver.
Thank you Vancouver Italians and Italian fans alike for the kick start to our football culture. We can take it from here. I hope.