June 14th, 1990. The day I realized I would forever hate the Italian National Team and everything that is Italian Soccer.
2 days before the date, my parents had sent me back to Mexico where I was to spend the summer at my grandmother’s house. I wasn’t too crazy about the idea, before I left, my parents made sure I had new clothes and shoes for my time there. Among all the clothes that I got was a knock off Adidas US Soccer jersey which was about 2 sizes too big. I showed up to my grandmother’s house wearing it and it didn’t take long before the jokes started. Cousins, uncles, aunts, and half brothers reminded me of how bad the US Soccer team was, my older sister, who I had not seen in over a year went as far as making a prediction that Italy would crush the US 10 to nothing… that’s of course if Italy didn’t use their starters.
The thing I really loved and hated about Mexico is that unlike back in the US, everyone knew what was going on in the World Cup, women followed it and the man became overnight professional annalist of the sport, it was kind of beautiful in a very annoying way.
That afternoon came and I was sitting at my Aunts house in front of what had to be at least a 35 inch Sony Trinitron TV. There I was ready to root for a team that was more popular in Mexico than it was in the US… for all the wrong reasons of course.
The Italians looked cocky, all smiles and a lot of grab ass action going on during the warm up. From what I recall, it seemed like everyone on the stands was waving a giant Italian flag. Prior to the start of the game, the men doing the commentary began making their own predictions, one said Italy would crush us 8-0 and the other said that the Ref was probably going to have to stop the match at halftime the way they do with Baseball when the game gets out of hand.
The match began, and like any other die hard 10 year old, I sat there nervously biting on the collar of my oversized jersey. To make the situation worse, the neighbors decided they were going to come over and watch the game on my Aunts brand new television. Right away, this stupid toothless man begins taunting me over my jersey and tells me that the only reason the US was playing in the world cup was because Mexico was cheated out of it by FIFA. At the time I didn’t know any better, so I believed him. Then he kept going, and going, and it was all directed towards me, “HEY ASSHOLE I AM ONLY 10 YEARS OLD!!!” But I didn’t say that.
10 minutes into the match the Italians put one in, I don’t recall how the goal went down so much but I do remember that after they scored, they went into their grabs ass routine and kissed each other on the cheek, what a bunch of queens those guys were.
For the next 35 minutes or so, every time the Italians got on the attack, someone in the room would say something like “here comes the second goal, watch, watch” … or to be more specific “mira, mira, hay biene el otro gol”
Halftime came and I couldn’t take any more of it, well, not the game, my family and their stupid neighbors. I ran back to my grandmother’s house and tried watching the game on her small black and white TV. It wasn’t a Sony Trinitron but it did the trick. The reception wasn’t the best so I took a metal hanger from the closet and McGyver’d myself a great second half.
There I was again, in front of the TV, praying for a win instead of a tie (yeah I was a bit ambitious on my request), I cursed the few words I spoke in English every time they did a close up on an Italian player or fan, just in case my grandmother happen to be near the room. Sometime during the second half the US earned a free kick, and right away I remember Paul Caligiuri stepping up to take it. He was one of the few players whose name and number I remembered from the previous game. He lined up, took a beautiful shot that went over the Italian wall only to be deflected by Walter Zenga. The ball did rebound back to who I later came to find out was Peter Vermes and Tab Ramos, but the Italians would have none of it and a defender managed to clear it out of the box.
It was the closest we had come all game and it was the closest we would come all tournament, but yet, somehow I felt a great amount of pride after that match. The tone of the commentators had changed drastically throughout the game and when the 90 minutes were up the Italians weren’t smacking each other on the ass saying “moto bello”.
That was it, that was my memory of that match, that was the day I knew I would forever hate the Italians, 4 years before I celebrated Baggio’s choke artistry, 16 years before I cursed at Daniel De Rossi’s filthy elbow on McBride, and 19 years before that punk Giuseppe “Benedict” Rosi dropped 2 on us… but more on that later.