Submitted by Monica Grover
When I got to Florence, Italy for my summer abroad in college, all I knew was that I didn’t want to get stuck in the study-abroad routine. I wanted to really connect with the locals. This seemed impossible since I couldn’t speak the language very well. However, I did love soccer and Italian soccer phenom, Roberto Baggio. That turned out to be enough.
Turns out purple is a good color for me. Purple is the color of the Florence soccer team, Fiorentina. It permeated the streets as swarms of people flocked towards Florence’s “Artemio Franchi” stadium on game day. Purple littered the roads where Fiorentina team posters proudly hung in pastry shops and banners swayed from cafe awnings. Purple navigated its way through crowded piazzas as the young and old wore Fiorentina’s team colors.
Soon, I was caught up in the obsession. I highlighted my hair purple and sported a bright purple Fiorentina jacket to reflect my love of the soccer team. I wrote about my favorite Fiorentina soccer player, Manuel Rui Costa, the Portuguese center halfback sporting jersey #10, for the team’s newspaper. I was not an American abroad, but embraced as a fellow Fiorentina fan.
My passion for the sport far outweighed my talent. But that too bonded me to my fellow fans. Moreno, a friend who owned a cafe, would explain, “Soccer is a sport of the average man.” It didn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, tall or short, anyone could play soccer.
Playing or watching, soccer was able to bring people from different corners of the world together.
While watching the 1998 World Cup qualifying match between Italy and England, the wine flowed as much as the laughter. With every move made by David Beckham, the English soccer star who married a former pop princess form the band Spice Girls, I joined the chorus of my Italian friends chanting “Spice Boy! Spice Boy!”
I was at home.