CAST your mind back to July 9th, 2006. Italy had just won the World Cup. Charlemagne was in Rome and joined the rumbustious football fans marching through the centre. A great victory, he said to the young woman next to him. “Yes,” she shot back. “And all the better for having been won against the French.”
France and Italy are no exception to the rule that a country’s relations are often trickiest with its immediate neighbour. The final had seen an Italian flattened in a style that would have made Asterix and Obelix proud. In extra time, with the French unable to penetrate Italy’s tight defence, their star player, Zinedine Zidane, turned on the man marking him, Marco Materazzi, and head-butted him. Mr Zidane had been provoked: Mr Materazzi later admitted that he “spoke about his [opponent’s] sister”. But it was still a brutal piece of retaliation, and Mr Zidane was sent off.
Italians–or at least Italy’s chattering classes—feel as if they are getting…Continue reading