11 December 2011

Nastiness and bullying: England special

Readers of this chapter are warned that it’s obviously based on generalisation. Which means, those with a tendency to hide beneath the fig leaf of “but we’re not all like that” can save themselves the trouble. And the same with the trite cloak of “but this happens in other countries too”. Yes. Of course. But nowhere near as bad.

I thought long and hard of ways to water down what I’m about to type. But quite simply, denial doesn’t take you far.

And so here it is: England has long turned into the nastiest, most malicious (as well as the angriest) place to be in. This is true on so many levels that it’s actually extremely difficult to knock together a coherent and orderly argument.

And almost every time I wonder about the underlying causes beneath each specific streak of nastiness and bullying, I’m afraid what pops up are the words “tabloids” and “press” and the increasingly poisonous job they’ve been carrying out.

09 December 2011

Football culture


There is no question whatsoever that football is Italy’s national obsession. Unlike the other countries covered by this blog, in Italy no other sport comes anywhere close to football both in terms of popularity, passion and impact on national culture.

And so, for instance, you find that rugby may be growing in popularity a bit (especially in the North-East of the country), volleyball is probably more widely played than anywhere else in Western Europe, and cycling is also quite an institution around the Alps.

None of them, however, can compete with football, not even one bit.

To start with, Italy boasts three daily newspapers almost exclusively dedicated to football (all other sports are relegated to the back pages). The most famous of all is La Gazzetta dello Sport, a paper traditionally printed on pink paper and a true national icon.

Within days of visiting Italy, you’ll clock that 99.9% of all bars in the country will have a fine selection of local newspapers freely available for their customers to peruse while sipping on coffee and stuffing their gob with a croissant – and La Gazzetta dello Sport is no doubt the most popular rag on display.