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‘Strength from darkness’: How Italy inspired their community in Euro 2020

Those who’ve left the squad through injury are immediately honoured after every win. While Spain were gripped with nerves before the penalty shoot-out in the semi-final, Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini was busy cracking jokes, goliardia in action. Already, the team have been hailed as Italy’s most positive football side in modern history. That this development was born out of their indignation of missing the 2018 World Cup has been seen as a symbol of the country’s resilience.

“Economically, we aren’t going well. In terms of politics, we don’t know who’s running the country at this stage but for us Italians, we are our best in toughest times,” said SBS Italian Radio and football commentator Dario Castaldo. “This team itself has this spirit and ability to go beyond limits. There is a rejuvenated pleasure of supporting a team that is happy to fight.”

Fans celebrate in the streets of Milan after Italy beat Spain on penalties.

Fans celebrate in the streets of Milan after Italy beat Spain on penalties.Credit:AP

In the eyes of many, this Azzurri have never looked more typically Italian. Beyond the collective spirit, enigmatic forward Lorenzo Insigne toys with defenders the way Commedia Dell’Arte character, Arlecchino, conducts his mischief onstage. Chiellini has been characterised as a centurion leading a Roman phalanx while their coach Roberto Mancini has become a fashion icon on the sideline wearing his Armani suit.

“There’s a lot of interest in this team because of how people can identify themselves with these players more than they did with [Roberto] Baggio, [Francesco] Totti or [Paolo] Maldini in the past,” Castaldo said.

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That has permeated throughout the diaspora in Australia. They have been cut-off from their ancestral home since February last year and, like all migrants here, face an ongoing uncertainty of returning to see their loved ones. However, the gathering of community during these Euros has provided a small sense of togetherness and a chance to celebrate their identity. While Sydney is in lockdown, they will cause gridlock elsewhere if the Azzurri pull off their remarkable turnaround on Monday morning. Even if they don’t, this team have already inspired a football-mad community that’s been bereft of joy.

“There is a strength within the group built from the darkest moment and that has been able to unify everyone. That is why it is so inspiring,” Castaldo said.

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