Italy: Country Pulse (June 2010)

Azzurri feeling blue

Italy played their final warm-up match in Geneva on Saturday June 5th against Switzerland before flying to South Africa, where they will start by playing against Paraguay in Cape Town on June 14th. Italy, the World Cup holders, were defeated 2-1 by Mexico in Brussels on June the 3rd in a pre-tournament friendly. Mexico is playing the opening game of the 2010 World Cup against hosts South Africa on 11 June in Johannesburg.

The mood in Italy is not sunny – hardly anyone believes in a repeat of the 2006 victory. There is little confidence in Italy’s team this year as coach Marcello Lippi and his players were whistled at and booed at their match in Sestriere. Also, Lippi’s decision to leave Antonio Cassano out of the team is very unpopular. Marcello Lippi is quoted as saying “Do I suspect some Italians will cheer against us? No, I am absolutely certain of it.

Be it for political reasons or because a certain player wasn’t called up: certain people have said as much, loud and clear.” So there is little hope that the World Cup will change the muted atmosphere back home in Italy.

Mounting Assaults on Gays

The Coming Out bar in Rome, inches from the brightly lit Coliseum, is becoming the target of far-right attackers. British newspaper, The Guardian, reports how there has been a string of assaults on gays, immigrants and even tourists that have been attributed to extreme right-wing groups. The recent assault near “Gay Street” was the eighth incident of homophobic violence in Rome in just nine months, including the wounding of a gay man by a veteran neo-fascist, two attempts to burn down a gay disco, and an attack on a night bus in the trendy Trastevere district, where a black man and a homosexual student were beaten up.

With almost a third of young Italians out of work and immigrants now accounting for 7% of the population, racist attacks in Rome have become a regular occurrence. “Today, young people are less ideological and more interested in identity, in opposing anything and anyone who is different,” said Michele Sorice, a sociologist at Rome’s Luiss University. Also, the Italian habit of maintaining a “bella figura” is giving way to losing control through drinking.

City officials said they were considering a repeat of last summer’s ban on drinking in Rome’s piazzas to cut violence. “There is a simply a different atmosphere here to towns up north like Venice and Padua,” one punter at the Coming Out bar comments. “People on the far right here feel they have political cover.”

Generation Wars

The deteriorating relationship between Italians and their parents has been illustrated by the case of a man who hired a private detective to expose his nearly blind father as a benefits cheat. “Papa can walk, he’s not blind, he’s only faking,” said the bitter son as he delivered the compromising photos to a magistrate to push for prosecution.

The case is an example of the conflict between generations as parents are getting fed up with the 59% of young Italians aged 18 to 34 who will not fly the nest. In January a judge in Bergamo, near Milan, ordered a father to pay living allowances to his 32-year-old student daughter. Now, 10% of Italians who claim disability benefits are suspected of fraud as police in Naples arrested 53 people involved in an alleged scam involving supposedly-blind claimants riding motorbikes, driving cars and reading newspapers.

“It will be up to the judge to decide, but reading between the lines, this is the sad story of a family unit in tatters,” comments Italian daily Il Giornale.