Saturday, June 21, 2008

Soccer, Borders, and Continents

I can't believe it's been almost a month since my last post! School just got out yesterday (I'm a teacher, for those who don't know) so now I feel like I can breathe. And post. Definitely post.

Well, it's that time again, when grown Italian men are glued to the television, and shouts can be heard throughout the city during certain hours of the evening--shouts of joy and anguish, depending. That's right, it's the European Cup Soccer Tournament (if you didn't guess this, don't feel bad...I only know this because I'm married to an Italian).

As I type this, Russia is playing Holland, and they're tied 1 to 1 (note: Holland beat Italy 3-0 at the start of the tournament. Ouch.) So my husband is glued to the television, and I say: "Hey, wait a minute. Is Russia part of Europe?" I think not. Geographically, they're in Asia. At least mostly. Right?

But husband shakes his head. "No. Russia has always played in the European Cup."

I raise an eyebrow. (Actually, I don't know how to raise my eyebrow without pushing it up with my finger. But I've always wished I could. So just humor me...). So I raise an eyebrow and say: "But that doesn't make them European. Russia is in Asia." I thought some more, concentrating on raising my other eyebrow. "Although it sounds strange to say they're Asian. So what are they?"

My husband: "They're in the European Cup, aren't they? They're European."

For him, that's good enough. The European Cup Soccer League (or whatever their governing body is called) has spoken.

I'm not convinced. What do you think?


Rose Green said...

Nah...Russian's in Europe. Moscow and St. Petersburg are, even if large swathes of the rest of the country cover Asia. It's where the population concentration is that counts. Besides, Peter the Great did all he could to pull them culturally and technologically in Europe; we can't let his efforts go to waste.

I am completely uninterested in sports, but I am finding myself tuning in every night. I think it's because the only time Germans let themselves fly their flag and be patriotic and proud to be DEUTSCH is during sporting events. (Otherwise we get the whole collective guilt thing.) It's really quite beautiful to see the German flag flying. So, it's not just a sport--it's our national honor at stake. :) (And we're in the semifinals, so as you can imagine, soccer's a hot topic at the moment.)

Plus, it reminds me of the Quidditch World Cup. I always feel better about sports when I can approach them through literature. :)

Good luck to Italy!

Natalie said...

See, now your explanation sounds so much more convincing than my husband's, Rose! I guess it's just hard to imagine a country with most of its land in Aisa as Eurpoean. But you're right about the vast majority of the population being in Europe. I wonder if Russia will ever join the EU.

Turkey is another example, straddling the Europe/Aisa border, but they're considered European, as well.

How nice to see the Germans come together for's much the same here. Soccer matches are when Italians are at their most patriotic. It's funny, because in the U.S., we only really get that feeling with the Olympics.

amber said...

Rose Green said...

For some reason Turkey seems more of a stretch to me than Russia. Most Slavic countries are firmly in Europe; most Turkic countries are firmly in Asia. Hence, Turkey is Asian, right?

The Eurovision contest messes with my mind geographically, too. I'm sorry, but Israel is NOT in Europe. (Nor is Azerbaijan.) But whatever, I guess they add variety to the contest, right?

Julie_c said...

I think it's more like when we Americans proclaim our baseball finals as the World Series and we don't invite any other countries. It's just a nice sounding name.

Let's just say Russia was invited as a special guest.

Luisa G from Toronto said...

I discovered your blog somehow, somewhere while searching the 'net. I'm an Italian Canadian of Triestine background. I still have relatives who live there also in the Carso (Prosecco). I spent almost every summer in Trieste with my nonna until she passed on last summer. Your blog is so refreshing and true....I so understand what you're saying and your descriptions are right on the mark. I chuckled to myself reading all your entries and for a moment you brought me back to the city that will forever leave a place in my heart. Viva la e po bon!

Natalie said...

Thanks for the link, Amber. Geographically, Russia is mostly in Asia, but for political and soccer purposes (!) I guess we have to say it's European, although it's not a member of the European Union. Here's a link:

And Rose, I know what you mean about Turkey...apparently (according to the above link) they are candidates for EU membership.

Julie, that's a great way to think about it--I never thought about the World Series not really being the "World" Series, yanno? Baseball is huge in Japan, so shouldn't they be invited, too??

Luisa, your post made my day! We're about 10 0r 15 minutes from Prosecco, near Basovizza. Do you plan to come back and visit Trieste in the near future? Let me know if you do (we'll be here in the summers)...I'd love to treat you to a coffee!

Luisa G from Toronto said...

Just as I discover you and your blog, you're headed back to the States! I look forward to the pics you'll be posting and reminiscing with you. What do I miss about Trieste. I miss my nonna--she is and will be my heart forever. I miss walking the 5km stretch of the 'Napoleonica' from Prosecco to Opicina. I miss the view of the city and of Miramare from "La Vedetta d'Italia". I miss walking the Molo Audace and looking up to the 'formaggino' that is Monte Grisa. I miss bus 42. I miss Piazza Unita' and the smell of the Triestine 'cappuccino'..which, everywhere else is called a macchiato. I miss the topolini at Barcola and driving to Sistiana to spend the day at the beach.
I am not going to Trieste this summer. I hope, (fingers crossed) to go back next summer...I'm a teacher too!
I assume you're fluent in both your husband American too?

Natalie said...

Ciao Luisa,

What a lovely list of things Triestino. I will try to post some photos of those things--cappuccini grande are one of the things I wish I could take with me! Starbucks just doesn't cut it.

My husband is Triestino, so we're a bi-lingual family. I speak to the kids in English, my husband in Italian, and he and I tend to mix the two with each other quite a bit. I'm sure you speak Triestino, no? While I understand the dialect, I'd feel silly trying to speak it with my American accent! :-)