Germa(i)ne words on Italians

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As an Australian-born feminist and possessor of an educated Continental palate, author Germaine Greer does not often get the chance to digress into sport (see also 16 Dec 03). But with the fastiduous Fabio Capello having been hired to graft Italian flair onto a stylistically maladroit England side, Greer spots the opportunity to write about the man from San Canzian d’Isonzo, Gorizia, whose name translates as “Mr. Hair.”


In the Independent on Dec 16, Greer—who has baked bread for Karl Pilkington and served a brief tour as a Celebrity Big Brother housemate—applies a corrective to English assumptions about Capello and his ilk and to other misreadings of the Italian soul. Rather than confirming the stereotype of Italian men as fiery and impulsive, Capello demonstrates stolidity and a valetudinarian impulse. (These are Greer’s words.)

“The best of Italian cannot survive transplantation to England,” Greer says, meaning pasta, coffee and other fruits of the land. Perhaps the point pertains also to football in the Continental mode, given the belief in various quarters that England knows best:

Though an Englishman will call Firenze Florence and Genova Genoa and mispronounce every ordinary Italian word he knows from addio to zabaglione, he will never mispronounce an Italian word that has anything to do with football. British football fans can even say “Serie A” correctly, and that’s not easy for Italians.

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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