Am back in Roma after a few days in the sweltering London heat. I have arrived back to a different city, a patriotic place. In the past hour or so, Italian flags have begun to appear on apartment terraces, hanging between the geraniums and drying laundry. And, earlier today, the street corner squeegee window cleaners were selling flags for a fiver. Forget bug-splattered windshields. Time to cash in on that rare bout of Italian nationalistic fervor. Business, well, at least interest, was brisk. I overheard one woman inquire: quanto costa? Five euros, the squeegee-man-entrepreneur replied. Five euros? Ciao! She crossed the street and could be seen haggling with the next windshield watcher/flag vendor. He too was holding firm at five euros, a pleasing site to me as I often suggest to Xtina that these boys could benefit from some basic labor organisation skills. My theory is they need to work in teams to maximise revenues. One person carrying the squeegee sponge, the other a clipboard. A perplexed driver would no doubt stop to question the clipboard holder about his purpose, creating the necessary diversion for the partner to swoop in and clean the windshield. Xtina is unconvinced. In Xtina's eyes, any attempt to manipulate the market -- whether it be the stock market or squeegee market -- is frowned upon. As for me, I like ingenuity. Even if it's just to clean up dead bugs.
As I was just saying a moment ago, we are just a few hours from Italy's opening World Cup match against the mighty Ghanaians. I have been living here 18 months (this is my first World Cup in Italy) and this is the first time I've seen a single il tricolore flapping in the breeze. Apparently, they only come out every four years in these parts. And only for the national squad. Tomorrow everyone will go back to muttering unpleasantries about the government and returning to their local identity: Romani, Marchigiani, Piemontesi, never Italiani. But tonight, it's time to support the Azzuri.
Italian football spirit is a strange thing. The general public seems to save up their support for match day. Whereas in England, we learned this weekend, they've been flying the flag of St. George on every imaginable object. In Exmouth Market, a garbage truck cloaked in the giant English red cross rammed into a curb and popped a tire on Friday, causing a spectator to remark this doesn't bode well for Sven's boys. (The whole scene was doubly perplexing for Xtina. She wanted to know why the English flags were out long before England played its first match, before the opening ceremony even. Me: because they won't be able to fly them in a week's time.)
As for me, I'm pulling for whomever is playing the Italians. Rooting for Team Italia is like pulling for Enron. Italian football is corrupt to the core. I was hoping Team America (F*** Yeah!) might prove a decent opponent after the promise of 2002, but their whimpering 3-nil defeat to the impressive Czechs is a bad start. So tonight, I'm rooting for Ghana! GOOOOOOOOO GHANA!