transcript

1-7: Italy: Football, Fascism, and the World Cup 

John Foot: [00:00:05] Match fixing. Straightforward, match fixing. “I’ll give you some money, you lose the match.

 

David Goldblatt: [00:00:13] This is my guest, historian John Foot. We’re in Italy. It’s 1980 and the scandal has just broken.

 

JF: [00:00:19] And one of the people involved in that scandal is Paolo Rossi.

 

DG: [00:00:22] Paolo Rossi is one of Italy’s best players.

 

Clip: [00:00:25] One of football’s baby-faced assassins. Butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

 

JF: [00:00:29] And he gets banned for three years.

 

DG: [00:00:31] So, the Italian football federation in a classic bureaucratic maneuver manages to get the ban lifted so he can play at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

 

DG: [00:00:45] Even then, the team is a complete mess. No one is expecting them to win anything. Rossi is out of shape. He’s out of form. The media are sceptical that he should even be included. And then the first three games really seemed to prove their point.

 

JF: [00:01:01] They are absolutely terrible.

 

Clip: [00:01:03] One writer described him as the ghost of Paolo Rossi.

 

Clip: [00:01:07] A draw with Poland and another with Peru. Surely they would do better against the rank outsiders, Cameroon.

 

DG: [00:01:13] Three draws allows them to creep through to the next round. Then, in the quarter finals, in one of the World Cup’s greatest matches, Italy beat Brazil 3-2 and it’s Paolo Rossi with a hattrick.

 

Clip: [00:01:28] Paolo Ross has done it! Paolo Rossi! Paolo Rossi was there again! Unbelievable!

 

JF: [00:01:35] Suddenly, Paolo Rossi starts scoring everything that comes near him.

 

DG: [00:01:39] Two more goals against Poland in the semis and one in the final against West Germany.

 

JF: [00:01:45] Nobody expected them to win. They win.

 

Clip: [00:01:48] Six goals in three games. Paolo Rossi, tournament leading scorer. Italy, champions of the world again, thanks to his goals.

 

DG: [00:01:57] I’m David Goldblatt and this is Game of Our Lives.

 

Clip: [00:02:00] Paolo Rossi, more popular than spaghetti.

 

DG: [00:02:03] And that was 1982. The third victory in the World Cup for Italy. A momentous national occasion. A story of redemption, even of resurrection.

 

JF: [00:02:14] It’s a story that works perfectly from the point of view of national identity.

 

DG: [00:02:17] Italian football and Italian politics have been closely linked for the last 70 years. Back in the 1920s and the 1930s Mussolini and his fascist regime embraced the game and used it as a political tool.

 

Clip: [00:02:32] Before the game commences, the great Italian crowd roars a welcome to Senior Mussolini.

 

DG: [00:02:39] In the 1980’s and 1990’s Silvio Berlusconi reinvented Italian football and used it as a platform to launch his extraordinary political career. His party is named after a chant, Forza Italia —

 

Clip: [00:02:53] Viva Italia. Viva forza Italia!

 

DG: [00:03:01] So, where are we in 2018?

 

Clip: [00:03:04] For the first time in 60 years, Italy's football team has failed to qualify for the World Cup.

 

Clip: [00:03:08] It is a deep humiliation. It's the darkest hour in the history of Italian sports.

 

DG: [00:03:18] That is the sound of Italy failing to qualify for the this summer’s World Cup, the first time since 1958. In the sports press, in the political press, it’s been described as a national tragedy — a cataclysm. So where does this moment fit into the longer narrative of Italian football and politics. Where does it rank amongst the other triumphs and disasters of the past. Does it really matter at all in contemporary Italy?

 

DG: [00:03:45] Here to explain and take us through Italy’s amazing football history is one of the best people for the job, who told our story earlier: Professor John Foot. He’s a professor of modern Italian history at the University of Bristol, author of Calcio: A History of Italian Football, which for my money is the best book on the subject in the English language.

 

DG: [00:04:08] I started by asking him why the World Cup has meant so much to Italians over the years.

 

DG: [00:04:16] They've won it four times. They've won in 1934, 1938, '82 and 2006. Let's go back first of all to '34 and '38. Why do those World Cups — what did they mean at the time to Italy and what sense of Italian-ness can we, can we gain from looking at them?

 

JF: [00:04:34] So, Italian fascism, which took power in the '20s understood very early on that football was a place to mobilize Italians as Italians and they were probably the first regime in the world I think to understand that and what they did was invest massively in the sport. They built hundreds of stadiums. They built up technical expertise. They built up the local game and the national game and they wanted to be the best in the world. And that was a very clear aim and so in '34 they organized the World Cup in Italy and they made sure they won it. Of course, there are dark stories of referees and fixing, nothing ever proved, but they built a team that was good enough not just to win in '34 but also to win the Olympics in '36 and the World Cup again in France in '38. So they did what they did was build a team that — at that time — that made football into the national sport before that it had been cycling.

 

DG: [00:05:27] And so it's one thing to say you know we're the best, we're the world champions, but what kind of champions were they? What sort of Italians were being or what kind of Italy is being imagined through the victories of this of this football team?

 

JF: [00:05:39] It's a war-like Italy. I mean, the teams of the '30s were managed by Vittorio Pozzo, who said very much, said "Football is a war and we are in the trenches," and used kind of fascist language, extreme nationalist language — shows, "Us against them." And you know, the whole fascist propaganda was "Us against them." Italy against everybody else. Autarchy. Ten million bayonets and that was, that was all being used in that way, and that identification was both as winners but also as war-like, as a warlike nation, that would beat everybody else on the pitch and transmit that into the next war whenever it came along.

 

DG: [00:06:19] How was this received, I mean, within Italy of course this would have been received relatively unproblematically by 1934 with most of the opposition silenced or imprisoned. How were the Italians in this mode of playing and this representation of Italy treated outside? I mean, for example at the 1938 World Cup?

 

JF: [00:06:38] Well, famously the Italian scene was often booed by anti-fascists and not just anti-fascists French anti-fascist, but Italian immigrant anti-fascists who of which there were many. And, in '38 the great fascist myth is that before one of the games, the fascist salute was being held by the Italian players and Pozzo said, "You hold that salute until the booing stops." Now whether this is true or not, again it's one of those myths, very powerful myth though. And again it's this idea of the war being translated into into the football field and vice versa. And a very strong Pozzo himself, had been in the war and he said, "We are the Arditi. We are the crack troops. We are the the symbol for the whole nation." And I think that transmits itself very much down into the way Italians saw the national team. They largely understood the game through radio and radio was very tightly controlled by the regime. They didn't see the games. They heard them and read about them.

 

DG: [00:07:35] Fast forward just a decade and it turns out that you know while Italy are pretty fantastic group warriors, actually as military machine, it turns out not to be quite so good. Italy is in ruins ten years later. The fascist legacy has been completely trashed. Italy has in fact changed sides during the war. What in the immediate period after the war does the Italian football team mean and how the people feel about the '34 and '38 victories which are transparently victories for fascism?

 

JF: [00:08:05] It's a great question and it's something actually not a lot of research has been done on. So, do we count those World Cups? And of course on the one hand, yes. Why would you not? Ok. They're in the trophy cabinet. We've got the two World Cups, we're the holders of the next World Cup, right. Bizarrely, in 19— after the war, the next World Cup as the holders. But that's a bit embarrassing, right? Because those are fascist World Cups. So Pozzo for example is marginalized and becomes a journalist and is really kicked out of the world of football. It's a bit embarrassing not so much purged but kind of a little bit embarrassing. It's embarrassing. And so let's not talk about it, but yeah they're still in the trophy cabinet and the Italian team after the war is actually very weak and Italians actually identify much more with kind of local teams at that point because the national team really can't hack it in the '40s and '50s. And it really doesn't take off until much later.

 

DG: [00:09:01] And indeed into the 1960s. I mean, the '66 World Cup is disastrous. Beaten by North Korea and they return home to — an angry — to an angry crowd. They're kind of a source of almost embarrassment it seems at that point.

 

JF: [00:09:12] Yeah. I mean Italy itself, and this is mirrored in football, takes a long time to recover from the ravages of war. Bombed, you know, famine, economic disaster. I mean, it takes a long time and it's clearly even the physical bodies of the footballers are ravaged by — many of the footballers had been deported and came back weighing you know 40 kilos. So it's kind of you can see it everywhere and it takes a long time to come out of that.

 

DG: [00:09:37] And yet of course Italy managed, you know, to make it to the final in 1970, which is remembered in the popular football historical imagination as an almost exclusively Brazilian moment. But we forget actually, Italy made the final, hold them to 1-1 into the second half and are playing pretty amazingly. How is that team and that moment in Italy's World Cup history read?

 

JF: [00:09:59] By that time the post-war generation are becoming the players. The boom of the '50s and '60s is coming into the sport and it's — these players are becoming celebrities. Gianni Rivera, Sandro Mazzola, that 1970 which does amazingly well to get to the final and then gets eviscerated by the Brazil of Pelé. But I mean that team is the embryo of a team that will become a world beater again in the '70s. '68 European championships they've already won. They're going to be getting there towards '78 and '82. So, Italy has really got off its knees. It's now a world beater, it's making Fiat cars, it's making fridges, it's making TVs and it's you know booming, and that's being transmitted into its local teams — the two Milan teams and into the national team.

 

DG: [00:10:49] To what extent — the 1970s — I mean, we've talked a lot about the boom in Italy and of course the 1960s and 1970s economically are transformatory. I mean, it truly is an economic miracle, but there is also another side to the 1970s, the most intense social conflict inside Italy. This is the year of the hot autumn you know, of both right wing and left wing organized violence, of coups, of conspiracy. To what extent does that set a context for the 1982 World Cup?

 

JF: [00:11:20] The '82 World Cup is a time of political, social, and economic crisis. There's the years of lead, political violence, terrorism. A prime minister is kidnapped and shot in the middle of Rome, kept for 58 days. So, there's extraordinary things going on and it's a dark period in Italian history, so '82. It's extraordinary how the national team kind of kind of rises above all of that. Left wing people support it, right wing people support it, non-political people support it and there are these stories after the '82 victory of people getting flags out of their cupboards, which still have the royal emblem on them, cutting out the middle and going out to the streets. Suddenly it was ok, for a little brief period, to get your flag out.

 

DG: [00:12:06] And when you say national, is that from top to bottom because you know often one speaks of the nation of Italy and actually one's talking of the north or the south or some subsection. I just wonder how widespread it was.

 

JF: [00:12:16] Everywhere. I mean, it's worth pointing out this is a unique moment in terms of the media because this is — there's one TV channel you can watch this on. We will never have that again. And we didn't really have it before, so the World Cup final in '82 gets a 95 percent share in Italy. This is a record. It would never be beaten. Right. And I think that's wrong. I think it's 100 percent. I mean, the 5 percent? What are they watching? Who are they? I mean, it's an extraordinary thing. So that's just — that totalizing moment is an unrepeatable moment.

 

DG: [00:12:47] And sitting in the stands watching this extraordinary moment is of course the president of Italy, Sandro Pertini and he too I think he's part of the popular memory, as we know if you watch the video of the era or you know there's cutting back and forth after every goal. We're watching the Italian president every time and that's given 95 percent of the country is watching it. What an extraordinary moment. So, can you tell us a bit about who was Pertini, why and — why did he matter so much to Italians?

 

JF: [00:13:20] So he was president of Italy which is the head of state. He was a little, little man, quite old by then and he'd been involved in all the major moments of Italian history. He was in the first World War. He was an anti-fascist, a very strong anti-fascist, spent decades in prison. He knew Gramsci personally.

 

DG: [00:13:38] Gramsci was the imprisoned leader of the Italian Communist Party under Mussolini and one of the great theorists of course of western Marxism.

 

JF: [00:13:45] Exactly and he was involved in the resistance. It's said that he built the first barricade of the anti-fascist resistance. He kind of turns out like, sort of Forrest Gump, every single moment of history he's there. And he goes to the final and he makes sure nobody else goes with him. He goes on the day of the final, doesn't go to any other games and he's in the crowd and the camera just picks him out. And he is celebrating, all the Italians are. At that moment, Pertini is associated deeply with that victory and it's one of the great happy memories in Italian history. There aren't that many moments that everyone can agree on and that's one of them. They all agree that was great.

 

DG: [00:14:23] 1982 is also a moment it seems where, it sort of came out of nothing, but then it initiates an era of kind of Italian dominance and a deep excellence. It's not just dominance, it's like there's something very special and classy about Italian football over the next two decades. What brings that about?

 

JF: [00:14:43] There's a number of things, one is technical excellence which is has been there for a long time. Italians have training grounds, they have coaching courses, way before anybody else and they're doing that at a level of excellence that I think quite recently, and you see many Italian managers there still are around. The others have caught up. Second thing is money. There's money in the Italian game. Big business is investing. Fiat has always been there but a lot of big businessmen are putting money in. And in '86, a man called Silvio Berlusconi arrives and he buys AC Milan. He's a big kind of new kind of businessman. He sees TV, his private TV, advertising, you know, his consumerism and he, he's coming into the game, and he's going to transform it.

 

DG: [00:15:28] This is a showman. This is a man who starts his business career as a crooner on a ship. So what element of that does Berlusconi bring to the nature of the spectacle of Italian football?

 

JF: [00:15:38] It's genius, because he understands that football has to be watchable. It has to be exciting and he imposes an attacking style on his teams, which wasn't the natural style of Italian football. So, he doesn't just transform the package, he transforms the tactics. He brings in an unknown coach called Arrigo Sacchi, who discards Catenaccio and plays a pressing game, which is — now everybody plays. And it's fantastic to watch and he says, you have to play with two strikers. We try and win every game. So, it's exciting football. It's great to watch. It's fast and he knows that has to be on TV. He knows he can sell advertising through that and he knows he brings in the beautiful women around that. He's in the stands, it's power, it's sex, it's glamour all wrapped up.

 

DG: [00:16:26] To what extent is he also dependent on the ultra movement in Italy for providing a kind of, at the time, almost unique atmosphere in global football?

 

JF: [00:16:36] The stadiums are places — I mean I went to Italy in '87 and I lived there 20 years and the stadiums were just mind-blowing. I mean, I've never seen anything like it. I used to go to San Siro. You could walk in pay your 10 quid or something, you just bought ticket on the front of the — there was no booking or anything. You went inside a huge concrete bowl and there were the ultra in one end and they were just putting up massive banners, singing, throwing things at the pitch, deserting the match when they didn't like it. It was crazy. It was brilliant. It was so exciting, having come from quite scary hooligan-type English games where the stations were all falling down. This seemed like another world and it was you know, you couldn't take your eyes — you weren't watching the game, you're watching the fans half the time.

 

DG: [00:17:20] So it's an extraordinary combination of it seems three things Italy are really good at in the kind of '80s, '90s. You know, you've got this consumerist kind of showman that is Berlusconi. You also have this kind of undercurrent of a pretty unregulated civil society. I mean, the ultras are a product, you know, this is not just sort of spontaneous happiness. This is, you know, verging on organized criminality with the say so or at least the kind of you know benign neglect of the policing authorities in the clubs and then you've got this other aspect of Italy which is sort of brilliance at focusing on very small bits of economic activity and getting really good at them, you know. Italy you know, completely brilliant, at you know, high end glassware or certain kind of circuitry. And so to producing footballers. So it's quite a kind of, you know, all of these things are making Italy successful in the '90s, but they're also bringing problems and I wonder whether those are crystallized in the 2006 World Cup, which is on the one hand of course, a victory. But it's not a victory and it's not kind of celebrated in quite the way that the 1982 victory was. What's changed? And what's the story of 2006?

 

JF: [00:18:36] 2006 is another unexpected victory, again. Again has many similarities in some ways with '82. There's a corruption scandal, an even bigger one which is kind of wiped out by the victory.

 

DG: [00:18:48] Which is Moggi, which is systematic corruption of the refereeing agency transfer system, masterminded from inside Juventus but with this extraordinary network right across the game.

 

JF: [00:19:02] Indeed and, and a sort of system of power more than a more sophisticated system of corruption than bribing or match fixing, but something where you create a system of power where you can't lose.

 

DG: [00:19:12] When you say a system of power, I mean, how's that working? That's, that someone like Moggi had a whole range of incentives, disincentives, rather than just bribes. It's like what's going to happen to your career, rather than just here's money to do something.

 

JF: [00:19:28] Precisely, it was about referees' careers, it was about selecting the right referee for the right games. It was about small things like bookings, you know, small little things that all gave you a little bit of an advantage. We're already pretty good. We're Juve, we're pretty good anyway. Give ourselves these little advantages, we're never going to lose. Okay. And so that all came tumbling down and the same year as the World Cup, Italy won against the odds and I think the interesting thing about that is not so much the victory, which was, which was you know I was there, the party afterwards was a big party. It was by then Italy had become a country where many people didn't like Italy at all. There were separatist movements, there being a lot of corruption scandals. There was a lot of anti-political populism around and that, that kind of, it seemed like a blip more than the '82 one is always remembered as a good memory. 2006, it fades away.

 

JF: [00:20:25] And I think the second thing that's happening there is that localism is starting to undermine the power of a national team, being Juventino, being Interista, being Milanista. That's your identity. That's the identity of 26 million Italians who say they are fans. Half of Italians. And the national team — it's because there's some Juve players. It's because there's some Milan players. And if we lose, it's because there's too many Milan players or too many Juve. But it's losing its luster. Ok. And that's kind of something happened in globalization there. Something's happening where it's the World Cup is less important than it used to be.

 

DG: [00:21:02] And is that because is that also something about the nature of Italy itself? As you say localism is has been on the rise for maybe two decades. Can you just flesh what actually does that mean in Italian kind of everyday life and in Italian politics?

 

JF: [00:21:16] So from the late '80s, early '90s, separatist movements start to grow, particularly in the north. Not happy with the centralization of the state, talking about place Padania, a separate nation with their own flag, their own army, their own language, their own symbols. Very powerful. I mean, these people are ministers. They take national power, not on their own, but powerful social movement. Probably the biggest social movement in Italy to emerge in the '90s.

 

JF: [00:21:44] And you know this feeds into football. There are people at football who chant "Garibaldi you're a disgrace. You should never have formed Italy," during a football chant. And lots of this comes out as racism, because Italy is a country very much not at ease with itself in the late '90s, 2000s. It's, mass immigration has started for the first time. There are 4-5 million foreigners arriving and Italy doesn't know how to deal with this multicultural society. It doesn't have the tools, it doesn't have the language. And this also, you see this being transmitted into everyday racism on the terraces and that's still going on today.

 

DG: [00:22:24] So, since 2006, it's almost like as you say that was a blip in a kind of longer period of decline. I mean, if we look at the kind of numbers of people attending football initially, successive Italian teams in European competition, the national team itself. All the indicators suggest both absolute decline and of course, most shockingly, relative decline. I mean, who would have believed that you know, Huddersfield versus Crystal Palace would pull more global viewers than Inter vs. Milan. But I would say that's probably where we are today. Where did that come from? Is that merely just the others accelerating past them or is there structural and secular decline within Italian football over the last couple of decades?

 

JF: [00:23:11] So like Italian society, like Italian politics, the people at the top generally haven't got there because they're good at anything. They generally got there because someone said you can have that job or patronage or — the people at the top running the game not necessarily the presidents of the clubs, but the people running the football association, the game, are generally people who are incompetent and not just incompetent, they usually are quite corrupt. So that that has fed down into a lack of renewal, not just in Italian football, but in Italian society. So to build a new stadium in Italy is an extremely difficult thing.

 

DG: [00:23:48] Because?

 

JF: [00:23:49] Because planning regulations, local politics, the stadiums are often owned by councils who don't want to give up that that patronage.

 

DG: [00:23:58] The rental that they're getting off it.

 

JF: [00:23:59] And that visibility and the power that provides power, it doesn't provide money but it provides power.

 

DG: [00:24:04] What's the problem with the stadiums that they've got?

 

JF: [00:24:07] Most of them are old crumbling, dangerous, uncomfortable, and you know don't have very nice toilets you know, it's not a nice experience. I mean you might, as old nostalgic football fans, as I'm sure you are, you'd probably quite like going to these stadiums, but the sort of new generation, the premiership generation doesn't really like going to the stadiums where they might get hit on the head by a policemen, which they're not used to happening for no reason.

 

DG: [00:24:33] Or hit by a flare from the ultras, who of course still do like the crumbling stadiums. What's going on with those guys?

 

JF: [00:24:41] The ultra are kind of very much still around, and in some ways, they're the only people really going to the games. And, their kind of mantra is "We are against modern football," which translated into their the way they understand themselves is, "We still want our power base." And their power base is the curva, the part of the stadium they control where they can do whatever they want and transmit messages in a kind of narcissistic way. It's all about them. So they're still very powerful. They are powerful social movements in Italian society. They have extreme visibility. Their messages get sent to the front pages of the press, the fans have said — they're not the fans. They are a tiny part of the fans, but the fans have said this, the fans have said that, the fans don't want this player, the fans don't want this manager.

 

JF: [00:25:30] And nobody has managed to shift them, partly because they threatened the people who want to shift them with violence and partly because nobody has the political will to deal with that issue. There's been no Hillsborough as well. Now, Hillsborough is obviously the turning point in British football, because it transforms the system and the premiership kind of comes on the back of that transformation. There isn't that. There's nothing like that and I don't want there to be that. But you know, sometimes it takes something like that to overturn a structural situation.

 

DG: [00:26:02] I mean, of course they threaten violence, they have interest, but how can it be that you know, clear regular decade-long flouting of the rule of law continues to be possible? How does that work in Italy?

 

JF: [00:26:17] It is extraordinary when you think about it. I'll give you an example: Roma stadium, the Roma ultra are a very powerful ultra group, very powerful. They control the enormous curva and the authorities tried to put some barriers in between the fans. The fans went on strike, not for one week, not for two weeks, for a year. The ultra didn't go to the games — "We don't want barriers," because the barriers, they saw that as the thin end of the wedge. And they were probably right. "You don't touch our curva." They won. They took the barriers out. I mean, that their power is — they have complete control over that, over the presidents — and no president's ever taken them on. And any president who has taken them on has ended up with a police guard. So, we're talking about a powerful force and it needs a structural set of reforms to get rid of it.

 

DG: [00:27:09] Which sounds like Italy as a whole.

 

JF: [00:27:10] Exactly.

 

DG: [00:27:13] And is there any, is there any sense that you know an event as dramatic as not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup could trigger a similar kind of debate or a similar renewal beyond the kind of the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

 

JF: [00:27:25] I don't think so. I'm afraid not. And also, I just come back to my point about my theory. I don't have massive evidence for it, but I think it's building, is that the national team is as a mobilizing force, is in decline. So the recent non-qualification, there was a kind of ritualistic front page apocalypse headline, a couple of people were sacked or resigned. But it's you know, it's gone. No one's talking about. I mean it'll be interesting when the actual World Cup starts. What do Italians do? They'll turn on their tellies. Oh, we aren't there. You know, maybe the kind of identity crisis there.

 

DG: [00:27:58] One last thought. One way of thinking about the course of Italian football over the last 30 or 40 years is that in the 1980s the 1990s, Italy was in many ways well-equipped both domestically but also in how it handled globalization to produce a successful Serie A and a successful national team and a vibrant football culture. It seems that 20 years later, Italy is not dealing with globalization very effectively, both in its wider economy surviving under competitive pressures. But above all, in not making a positive out of the extraordinary levels of migration that have happened, that you know, I mean if you look at England's under-17 and under-20 World Cup winning teams, particularly the under-17s you know this is a very mixed race team. This is modern England, this is modern, multicultural England. You don't see that in Italy and I wonder, why is that? And is there any chance of that being turned around?

 

JF: [00:28:58] It's been very difficult for the Black players in Italy, even those born in Italy, to be accepted as Black Italians and it's still a huge barrier to that, and a player like Mario Balotelli who became a star with Inter at the age of 16, born in Palermo to Ghanaian parents, adopted by White Italians, who grew up as an Italian, he has a strong Brecchian dialect, accent, you know. For him, he met with the most incredible levels of racism in the stadiums, but also at the level of the press. When he scored — he scored the winner in the semi-final of the Euros for Italy against Germany in 2012 — and Gazzetta Sport reacted by by printing a cartoon of him depicted as King Kong, which they claim was not racist. So, the barriers he has had to go through have been extraordinary and he in many ways is a pioneer and I think that that lack — it's going to take 20-30 years for that to work its way through. And there are a lot of good Black and immigrant players who have come through the system, but they're they're powerless and that's true —

 

DG: [00:30:09] Where are the tribunes inside Italian football? I mean if they are powerless where are the allies? Where are the supporters? Where are the White players and managers and coaches speaking out for something different?

 

JF: [00:30:20] Nowhere. I mean, it's very depressing from that point of view. There's a lot of lip service paid to, "Yes, so we've got to do something about this terrible problem of racism." I mean, the racism in stadiums is literally a problem of 30 years that has not been, you know it has been, you know, kick people out of the stadiums, but this comes back to the question of the ultras as I said before. Nobody is going to go into the curva and pick out someone who's being racist when 20,000 people are being racist and so it's at that level of decision-making and you get an absolute bizarre system of fines. They say, "Oh one part of this team is racist, another part wasn't, so we're just give them a small fine." You know, nobody knows what to do about it. Nobody has the political will to do anything about it and the Black people and immigrant people in Italy have no voice.

 

DG: [00:31:06] So once again Italy is in a kind of strange socio-cultural stalemate. Is there anything you can see on the horizon either in football or indeed in Italian society more widely that might begin to break it?

 

JF: [00:31:21] Well, one of the outcomes of decline is that there are lots of good young players still coming through the system and that didn't really demonstrate itself in the qualification period, because of the dreadful manager. But you know, if you don't have all the best players coming to play in your league then your players will get space and there is true, and then terms of the coaching excellence and the technical excellence, they're still up there with the best. But otherwise, there's a lot of foreign money coming in and we haven't thought about that. And that is not really being digested. Milan is owned by the Chinese. Inter is owned by the Koreans.

 

DG: [00:31:57] Is it Indonesians? An Indonesian guy and part by the Chinese as well.

 

JF: [00:32:02] Roma by the American Fenway Group, and that really hasn't, that cultural change hasn't really been transmitted. So Roma are trying to build a new stadium in Rome, which is not an easy place to build a stadium. If they manage to do that, that would almost be a revolution. So, let's see if these foreign owners can actually change things. I mean, I find it very difficult to envisage, but you know that money is there, although in the case of Milan, we don't know if it is exactly there.

 

DG: [00:32:26] Where do we think it might be?

 

JF: [00:32:28] There are strong doubts that the purchase of Milan, the money that was promised is not actually money.

 

DG: [00:32:37] Well that wouldn't be the first club to be bought on that basis.

 

JF: [00:32:39] I don't want the lawyers to come and get me.

 

DG: [00:32:42] And with that as truism of modern football, it just remains to say: John Foot, thank you very much for being with us.

 

JF: [00:32:50] Good to see you.

 

DG: [00:32:52] Seriously, let's do this during the World Cup.

 

JF: [00:32:53] Yeah, whenever you want. Maybe we can kinda pretend Italy are playing. It's all surreal.

 

DG: [00:33:07] John Foot.

 

DG: [00:33:10] Italy won't be at the World Cup. But we will be. We're taking a little break right now to gear up, but we will be back before the tournament kicks off in Russia this June with Season 2 of Game of Our Lives.

 

DG: [00:33:25] In the meantime, catch up on Season 1 if you missed anything. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. Enjoy bonus clips from the show, World Cup highlights, and some of our all-time favorite goals. Now, we've talked a lot about favorite goals on the show, and we'd like to hear about yours. So, send us a little voice message on (707) 794-2817. That's (707) 794-2817. And if you're not in the United States, just add us as a contact on Whatsapp and send us a voice recording at the same number — but it's +1 (707) 794-2817. So yeah, tell us about your favorite goal — and while you're about it, tell us about your favorite foul. Your favorite dive. Your favorite act of corruption in global football. We would like to hear them all.

 

DG: [00:34:22] Ok, here we go. This show is a production of Jetty Studios. Our senior producer is the lovely Raja Shah. Our producer and sound designer is the miraculous Meradith Hoddinott. Our editors are the hardworking and fastidious Casey Miner and Kanishk Tharoor. Kyana Moghadam does social media. Graelyn Brashear does audience development. Graphic design is from Sophie Feller and podcast operations are from Jordan Bailey. Game of Our Lives is recorded at The SoundTown Studios in Bristol, UK, with engineering by Richard de Mowbray. Music is by Bang Data. You can hear more from them at bangdata.com. Our executive producer is Julie Caine. Our general manager is Kaizar Campwala. I'm David Goldblatt. And we'll see you next season.