Welcome to Part Two of my story about growing up with the Italian game. If you missed Part One you can catch up here. It was the summer of 1980 and after watching the European Championships staged in Italy myself and friends were looking forward to the season ahead following our teams in the domestic league’s in England. We spent most of the days playing Cricket and then Football as the season drew nearer. My birthday in June was pretty special I was lucky enough to have been brought a snooker and pool table measuring 6 foot by 3 foot along with a set of both snooker and pool balls. The table would take pride and place in our spare downstairs room which we actually called the front room due to it being located at the front of our house (no science needed right). We lived in quite a good sized house, it was a council house with 3 bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, upstairs toilet, bathroom, downstairs toilet, the front room and a huge garden front and back.
My father worked at a coal plant in Wingerworth near Chesterfield along with my grandad before moving to work as a car mechanic were he was in his element because he loved cars and would always be repairing one for somebody. My mother was an housewife who looked after me and my younger sister and brother. We used the spare room has a games room it was a good size and big enough for the snooker table and cues meaning we could get around the table easily to play our shots. We had a Subbuteo pitch set up in there so we were very lucky in that respect none of my parents smoked or drunk alcohol and always put us first after putting the food on the table and paying the bills. I spent hours in that room especially during the dark evenings of the winter months honing my skills on the green baize whilst listening to the football on the radio. I would always have a notebook and pen on hand something that as always and still is something that I have done from being young. It’s weird I have this thing about stationery but I think I am past the counselling stage. (Love a nice pen and notebook).
Football was my passion and I never missed an opportunity to play the game be it with either a few friends or with the older lads and men from the village in a 20 a side game on one of the local pitches were at first I would get kicked to pieces by the much stronger testosterone filled sweaty chaps until I found my feet and gained the respect of my elder warriors. My legs would be covered in bruises but it was part of growing up playing the game back then and if you showed weaknesses you would almost definitely get another kick. It was a process that naturally happened you started off being the young kid who was the new little shit who everyone tested their best Norman Hunter or Chopper Harris horror tackle on to becoming one of the lads who the older blokes protected to eventually becoming one of the older blokes yourself, you learned to look after yourself and it felt bloody good the first time you took a kick and then gave one back and survived to tell the tale you knew you had arrived. We had a good school team with a few of us being picked to represent the district, it was full on Football heaven.
Once the 80/81 season was underway again I was back searching for the Italian games again on the satellite which was now very much part of my week. The Red and Black stripped shirt team who I had adopted (Milan) had been thrown out of the top division for match fixing so I only got the odd glimpse of them on Italian TV that season but I was enjoying watching the other teams on highlight shows on Rai and the occasional full game either on Rai or some other stations that sempt to show the same team whenever a full game was shown which was rare but I was happy to watch any Italian Football on any channel on the hotbird frequency. I would copy the names of the players in to my notebook and it didn’t take long for me to start recognising this new galaxy of players. I also soon found out that the Italian stations I was tuned in would be showing the Italian teams in Europe midweek and before long I had a tv schedule penned in my notebook which made things easier for me getting my fix of Italian Football.
The Italian League was what I was enjoying the most and soon enough I was telling my friends about the players that I had discovered during the season. My notebooks were full of names and I was filling the pages with everything I came across and pretty soon I had developed a system of documenting that I have followed to this day with a few tweaks here and there. It was coming across my old notebooks with all my Italian Football stuff that finally prompted me to share my story with you.
I was also still tuning in on the radio but with a complete lack of the Italian language it was very difficult to keep up with the score updates that would interrupt the commentary game. Completely out of the blue this was all about to change when one morning that school was closed due to something wrong with the roof my dad asked me if I wanted to go with him to take my grandad to work at the coal plant and then call in to the newsagent’s at Clay Cross on the way back were my dad would collect his car magazines that he had on order. I said that I would go and shared the back seat with one of my grandads friends from the village that also worked at the coal plant. He was a boxing man and knew everything and anything about the sport and was never short of a supply of Polo mints for the journey ahead.
Once the drop off was completed we made our way to the newsagent’s and once parked my dad gave me a £1 note yes a note not a coin for me to spend on what ever I wish. I don’t remember if I spent that note but what I do remember is the small pennant hanging on the wall behind the cash till with the words Juventus printed in black letters. The old lady behind the counter saw me looking at the pennant and I asked me if I liked football, I remember telling her yes and her asking what team I liked, I was quite shy back then but proud to announce Nottingham Forest she smiled and said Nottingham the Champions of Europe and pointed to the pennant saying one day Juventus will be the Champions. She told me it was her husbands team and that they were from Turin, I took the opportunity to tell her that I watched and listened to the Italian football but that I didn’t know the scores because I did not know the numbers in Italian when listening on the radio. The lady smiled and took a pen and wrote the numbers from zero to ten on a white paper bag followed by the Italian translation next to each number. The Old Lady had just made my Calcio journey that little bit easier.
It was an other Old Lady who made a big impression on me though during the season this time it was Juventus and their defensive line that included the no nonsense Gentile and the elegant Scirea who were featuring a lot during the season with Juventus going on to win the title.
I was now also fluent in zero to ten and translating the scores on a Sunday afternoon from my radio something that I continued to do until the late eighties when all of a sudden my Italian Football experience rose to a new level.
Thank you for reading this 2nd post in my Italian Football story and hope you will return soon to read Part Three but until then arrivederci.