By Peter Alegi | June 26th, 2012 3 Comments
July 11, 1982: the World Cup final at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid. Four years earlier, West Germany had drawn 0-0 against a young, enterprising Italian side in the second group stage of the 1978 World Cup — the Argentinean Generals’ Mundial. (Video highlights here.)
1978 was also the year of the assassination of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro (who was held for a month in an apartment building adjacent to my elementary school), and the inauguration of President Sandro Pertini, a dedicated socialist and former anti-Fascist resistance fighter. We didn’t know it back then, but “The Years of Lead” were about to come to an end. Football — or calcio as we call it — was about to show us that the road to the future went beyond Left and Right.
With the pipe-smoking Pertini enjoying the 1982 final next to King Juan Carlos in the VIP section of Real Madrid’s majestic stadium, the Azzurri demolished the (West) Germans 3-1. Not everything went perfectly that night. Graziani’s injury forced an early substitution and then Cabrini — my mother’s favorite player — missed a penalty: the only time I ever heard my uncle, a man of the cloth, swear audibly.
The second half was all Italy. Physically and mentally fatigued after their penalty shootout victory gainst Michel Platini’s France in an extraordinary semifinal (highlights here), Germany caved in. Paolo Rossi opened the score with his sixth goal of the tournament and then Tardelli made it 2-0, celebrating it with such emotional abandon that we imitated it for years on playgrounds and pitches around the land.
When Altobelli added a third late in the game Pertini leaped out of his seat, waving his arms, rejoicing, telling everyone around him that “adesso non ci prendono più!” (Now they’re not going to catch us anymore!). Breitner got a consolation goal, but it didn’t matter. When the Brazilian referee theatrically picked up the ball with his hands, raised it above his head and blew the final whistle, match announcer Nando Martellini pronounced to the masses that we were “Campioni del Mondo! Campioni del Mondo! Campioni del Mondo!”
Millions of Italians thundered in a massive impromptu street carnival the likes of which had not been seen, the elders told us, since Liberation. Giving in to pleas from me and my friend Fabio, my uncle, in his clerical collar, honked his rickety FIAT 127’s horn all the way from our parish in the Marche hills to coastal Pesaro so that we could experience these historic celebrations. A quarter of a century later, another generation would experience the intoxicating feeling of World Cup victory . . . and Germany, once again, would play a key role in Italy’s success story.
Come back tomorrow for the final installment of Germany’s history of failure against Italy.