Italy’s rebirth: EURO 2020


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Giorgio Chiellini lifts the trophy after the EURO 2020 final.

It was March 9, 2020, when Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, announced a national lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19. For a couple of months while Italy’s astonishing tourist attractions were empty, only one sound was heard, echoing for miles: the sirens from the ambulances rushing patients to hospital and the army’s trucks moving corpses. The hospitals were overcrowded; nurses and doctors were forced to work 24 hours a day and risked their lives for the good of the nation. During the first wave of Covid-19, which lasted two months, almost 30,000 people died, half of whom were only in the Lombardy region, in the northern part of the country. As of today, almost 130,000 people have died in Italy because of the virus. However, the most concerning part about these statistics is that 1 million people in the Italian workforce have lost their jobs between February 2020 and February 2021. Without any doubt, COVID-19 has brought countless serious issues that hit Italy particularly hard.

COVID-19 not only affected public health, but also cultural and economical aspects of Italian life. Italy’s widespread soccer culture, for example, was hit hard when the national soccer league shut down in spring of 2020.

Since soccer is Italy’s national sport, the country was ashamed and shocked when the national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup; it was the first time they had not qualified since 1958.

Three years later, on June 11, 2021, the UEFA EURO 2020 tournament began. The Euro soccer tournament consists of the clash between national soccer teams from every country in Europe. This was the perfect opportunity for Italy to demonstrate its real strength. The Italian national soccer team qualified to the round of 16, by coming in first place during the group stages, without conceding a single goal and winning every match. During the round of 16, Italy beat Austria going on to the quarter-finals where it met Belgium, considered to be the toughest national team. The match finished 2-1 in favor of Italy, thanks to the goals of Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne. In the semifinals, Italy faced Spain, winning on penalty shootouts and reaching the final.

July 11, 2021, was the Euro 2020 final. Italy was facing England at Wembley, playing in a stadium filled with English fans, since Italians could not travel to London due to COVID restrictions. After two minutes England got the lead with a banger scored by Luke Shaw. Italy struggled to play well as every player felt the pressure from the English crowd. Then at the 67th minute, Leonardo Bonucci scored the equalizer, sending the game to penalties, since neither team was able to find the winning goal. Gianluigi Donnarumma saved three penalties, allowing Italy to win the Euros.

Every Italian was out in the streets celebrating with friends and also strangers. At that moment everyone felt proud to be Italian and the world truly saw the bond and unity the Italian people have. Winning the Euros was not only winning a cup; for Italy winning the Euros was demonstrating to the world how you can rise from your own ashes.

The national team dedicated their victory in the Euros to every person who had suffered from COVID: to those horrible months that looked hopeless, to the loved ones who did not make it, to everyone who fought for ten minutes of sleep blinded on their desks, ready to start saving another patient, to the coffins on the army’s trucks, to the days gone by with the only noise being that of ambulance sirens, to the courage to recover, to fight, to smile, to the courage of staying together.

Every Italian can say that the national team represented their willingness to fight, to show the world that you should never give up, and that you should always find that strength from the anger inside you to turn things around. This was the meaning of this amazing victory, which will remain in the pages of history.

Matteo Pozza, a native of Milan, Italy, is a huge Italian national soccer team fan. He arrived in Portland Aug. 13, 2021, and is studying at Cleveland High School as an exchange student for the first semester through January, 2022. He is also an avid fan of Inter.