By Jonathan deBurca Butler
Italians love their football. Come June the streets and piazzas up and down the straggly old boot will be awash with the tricolore. And if the azzuri progress through the competition the air will be filled with the ritual honking of horns and the jaunty national anthem Fratelli d’Italia.
Not all the country is behind the world cup holders however. This week the 22-year-old son of Lega Nord leader and current government member Umberto Bossi, caused controversy when he declared that he would not be supporting Italy in South Africa this summer.
“I won’t be shouting for Italy,” said Renzo Bossi in an interview with Vanity Fair Italy. “We need to think about what being Italian means. I identify the Italian flag with something from five hundred years ago.”
His father, who was central to the establishment of the separatist party back in 1991, is no stranger to controversy and the son who was recently elected the youngest councillor in the northern district of Lombardy seems set to paddle a similar canoe.
The current Italian team manager and Lombardy native Gigi Riva was dismissive in his response.
“If he’s not happy here,” said Riva. “He can always leave. It’s a stupid statement. If that’s the way he starts his political career, he won’t go very far. Perhaps he wants to make a bit of a name for himself by saying something controversial. But Italy comes before him and will be there after him.”
Riva, who is also known as ‘Rombo di Tuono’ (clap of thunder) and who scored 35 goals in just 42 games for the azzuri said that winning the world cup in 2006 saved the country.
“It gave a positive image of Italy to the world,” he said in response to Bossi’s statement. “Something that politics hasn’t.”