Indiana University Overseas Study

The Real Church


In Italy, soccer is more religious than church. Someone’s “Sunday Best” is their beloved soccer club’s hat and scarf layered over a jersey of their favorite player. A favorite squad is a family affair, a preference passed down from generation to generation.

Bologna squad warming up

Bologna squad warming up

Soccer is not a pastime—it is a passion. A passion that can even become dangerous.

Fans for opposing teams are gated off from each other, police and military police alike guard the streets and entrances. To buy a ticket, they enter your passport information; likewise, to enter the stadium, you need your passport. But after passing the double line of police and a cursory check of bags and pockets, you enter the stadium.

The game I attended was a Serie A match of Bologna vs. Roma. The stadium corners were packed with students and city-dwellers covered head to foot with red and blue—Bologna’s colors. On the opposite end was a modest section of Roma fans, decked out in maroon and orange.

The players emerge onto the field alongside screams and whistles and claps. A few balls are passed and warm-ups are performed- a glimpse of their real practices. Then, the game begins.

For true fans, the game is spent on their feet. Chants are roared with choreographed gestures, the words only interrupted by derisions of the other team; flags are waved, scarves are raised, voices yell insults to the referee.

Fans raising their scarves in anticipation of a corner kick

Fans raising their scarves in anticipation of a corner kick

When Roma scores, the announcer mentions the name, his voice tinged with disappointment. Then when Bologna scores…

“CRISTIAN,” the announcer yells. “PASQUATOOOO” screams the crowd. “CRISTIAN!” “PASQUATO!” “CRISTIAN!” “PASQUATO!” The calls bounce back and forth between the biased announcer and his raging crowd, the Bologna player’s name echoing throughout the stadium.

The game ended 3-3, a spectacular result for Bologna against a team that is traditionally higher tier. The fans flooded out, into buses and cars until the stadium was abandoned again, awaiting the next Sunday for its devoted followers.

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