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The Game of the Century

(La partita del secolo)

The bond between Italians and soccer is a great love story. The sport and its traditions carry immense importance for Italians all around the country. Soccer in Italy is almost a religion. Being Italian is synonymous with being a soccer fan and the National Team has the power to unify the entire nation.

Sir Winston Churchill, famously said: “Italians lose wars as if they were football matches, and football matches as if they were wars.” But nothing encapsulates the spirit of soccer patriotism better than what happened half a century ago!

On June 17, 1970, an epic event (not just a game!) changed the history of soccer and of a nation. The semi-final of the World Cup took place at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City with 102,000 supporters ready to watch Italy play against West Germany. At the end of regulation time, the score was even at 1–1, forcing the match into extra time. In the end, Italy prevailed 4–3 after five goals were scored in extra time. A victory, and more importantly, an iconic moment still alive in the soul of a nation today.

The game was made even more epic with every minute that passed. In Mexico the kick-off was at 3 pm, while the match was seen live in Italy at midnight. At two o'clock in the morning, moments after Italy’s victory, roads all across Italy were invaded with people and cars waiving Italian flags. For one night, the social tensions and political divisions of the complicated historical period called Anni di Piombo, (years of political incidents of domestic terrorism) were suddenly forgotten by 30 million Italians. The nation was united as one when the Italian midfielder Gianni Rivera scored the game-winning goal at the 111th minute.

The game was so dramatic and intense that a few days after a plaque was placed at the Stadium Azteca to honor the “Partido del Siglo” (or "Game of the Century" in Spanish). In Italy, the memory of that awe-inspiring game has been honored, celebrated and relived many times over the past 50 years. Some examples include, Topolino (Mickey Mouse), the famous comic series, memorializing the event with a drawing of the winning goal. A Italian theater even came out with a comedy entitled “Italia Germania 4 a 3”. In 1990, a movie called “Italia Germania 4 a 3” portrayed three friends that met 20 years later to re-watch the game. But the game is a pretext to re-experience the spirit and the ideals of their youth now overwhelmed by a bitter awareness of the changing times. In addition, there have also been a number of books describing the emotions of the Italian nation that night.

And if you were wondering: “What about the Final of that 1970 World Cup?” Sadly Italy lost that game 4 -1 against Brazil...but the final is only statistics, the Italia - Germania semi-final game is a thing of legend!

YouTube: Game Highlights & Commentary, 5'03" (IT)

Article written by Francesco Maifredi in collaboration with the ICC Editorial Team

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