Why was I with Sweden last night? A note from an Azzuri fan

Heja Sverige!

Had been known as the loyal fan of Gli Azzuri since the first day I understood football, I received some comments from my friends and family regarding last night qualification result (in case you missed it, Italy didn’t make it to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. And guess who beat them? Sweden. Yes. Sweden. Surprising, huh?), and the fact that I was in Sweden’s side this time. Some of them argued that it is simply because I am now living under the Sweden’s sky, so it’s just make sense for me to support their national team. Maybe they’re right. It’s one of the possible theories. But actually, that’s not the only reason why I support #hejaSverige last night. My loyalty is not that “cheap”, you know? 😀

In fact, my decision to go with Sweden in the 2018 World Cup is an accumulation of a long contemplative road. Ahem. The road of my love over football in general and the Italian team in particular.

Just so you know, I’m in love with football since 1998 when the World Cup took place in France. I, my self, was born and grew up in a sport-lover (and player) family. My dad used to play in local matches when I was a kid. He was a primary school teacher but football was also his passion so I remember watching him playing for couple of times in my childhood. Meanwhile, my brother is really into volleyball since forever. He is now even organizing a volleyball club and school in my hometown apart from his permanent job as a civil servant. He also likes football (though not as much as he loves volleyball) and he used to have subscriptions to some Indonesian football newspapers and tabloids, from which I learnt about football and its players. So, the love for sport is inherited in my blood.

But, it was during the 1998 World Cup when I started to play favourite. I chose Italy because Serie A Italian league was the only league that I frequently watched. My favourite club was Lazio. If you wondering “Why?”, mainly because I like their jersey colour, haha, and also because at that time, Lazio had Simone Inzaghi who was my very first crush :D. Lazio remained my favourite club until I went senior high school. But, their performance was going nowhere at that time and I found other clubs were more promising. So when Alessandro Nesta moved to AC Milan in 2002, I declared myself a milanista (and married to a milanisti years later 😀 ).

I am a milanista ever since, despite the fact that I don’t recognise any of their current players because I don’t watch the Seria A league anymore. Haha. But AC Milan is forever in my heart. And that is the reason why I visited San Siro last summer (for more story about this, kindly click here)

Then, the more I learn about football, the more I realised that football is not just about good looking players and fun games. Football is about fairness and respect. It’s not about winning or losing. It’s more than that. Some people even say that football national team actually represents its society. And that is what I couldn’t find in Italian team lately. They love playing victim. They involve diving almost all the time. I am just so tired with their negative attitude and corrupted system. Especially after the 2006 scandal, which made AC Milan has not been able to be fully recovered as a big team. Also lately, I’m disappointed with their racist behaviour and decision to only include “pure” Italian players (oh please, this is 2017!)

While in Sweden, football is not as huge as in other countries. In terms of victory, compare to Italy, Sweden is nothing. Their best result was in 1958 when they finished second in the World Cup. But, I like their idea of fair play and persistence that embedded in their team, also in their everyday lives. Cheating is not in their dictionary. I can see and feel this every time I watch them playing. Also when my kid is having her training in a local club in Lund.

The man behind Sweden’s team

For them, playing football is like living a life itself. It should be done in dignity. Thus, it just doesn’t make sense for them to boo other countries’ national anthem. For them, it won’t lower your pride to clean a room. For them, everyone deserves the right to be respected.

So, when my daughter said she wanted to join a local football club, I knew it was not about being the best soccer player in the world. I mean, I am not projecting her to be the next Zlatan or something. But, I believe that playing football in Sweden will give her some sets of values that are valuable for her future. From her team, she learns discipline, playfulness, commitment, fair play, and respect. And those are the most important things about football, I believe.

Last night game was a proof that even a team that is famous for their defensive football must admit Sweden’s resilience and total defence. It was boring, I agree, but facing the four times World Cup champion like Italy, what option does Sweden have? Italy had more skilful players than Sweden. On the paper, Italy would win easily. But, Sweden’s victory is an evidence that in football, determination and teamwork are important. It’s not one man show. It’s a full package. Besides, it also proves that we can still play clean, and win.

So, for those who questioning about my feeling last night, honestly, I was having a kind of mix feeling. I was crying. I cried the tears of happiness for Sweden (they finally made it to the World Cup again after 11 years), and also tears of pity for Italy (especially for Buffon who once again showed up that he is a man with class). As I said to my husband the other day, I might be heartbroken to see Italy lose, but I would stand by Sweden, proudly, for their fair play and good attitude.


Because after all, I just want to kick dirty play and racism out of football!


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