My brother Pedro was the first to show interest in futbol. He is 8 years younger than me, so for a long while I was a part of what is likely the only family not at all interested in a sport that is a passion in Mexico.
Then, I met my husband Luca. Very early on he explained he was from Milan, and that Milan had two teams: Inter, and AC Milan. He was a fan of Inter. He showed me the logo. He narrated a brief history of how both teams were constituted. I nodded.
Inspired, I told him it might be fun for me to be a fan of AC Milan, figuring it could make for a more interesting family dynamic. He looked at me silently for a while, with one of the most solemn expressions he has ever mustered. “If you did that” he finally replied “you’d be going against three generations of Penati tradition.”
“Forza Inter”, I said.
Once that had been established, I dedicated considerable effort to finding this sport interesting. I have failed over and over again.
Imagine, I tell Luca, the degree of evolution required to take a piece of wood, transform it into a violin and have that somehow become a Bach concerto. Or contemplate the imagination implicit in going from a coffee bean on a tree, to harvesting, toasting, grinding, adding boiling water, straining, and arriving at the heady, sensual drink we all know and love. I mean, who conceives these things?
So all things considered, I explain, having 11 sweaty men follow a ball, kick it around, and sometimes head bump it is kind of.... well, Neanderthal –ish.
Far from seeing it my way, Luca hurls the only insult he’s ever directed at me. “Dushka. You are such a snob”.
Since then, my only brief but promising flicker of interest in the game happened at the Milan airport, where running down a staircase I caught out of the corner of my eye the Dolce Gabbana ad where players were photographed in their underwear. Who knew soccer required such stringent physical conditioning.
On Saturday, May 22, 2010 Inter played against Bayern Munich in Madrid. The winner would win the Champions League, the most prestigious trophy for clubs. We all got together at Luca’s parents’ house in Milan. I stared at the screen, determined to show an ability to follow this obsession that consumes the man I love. I fixed my eyes on the ball. Players ran to the left. Players ran to the right. Players ran to the left. I fell asleep.
During my nap, I jumped up twice to screeching screams of GOOOOOOOL! My husband went to the Duomo to celebrate Inter’s victory (along with 100,000 other people), the first such event in 45 years.
The next day, he bought Inter t-shirts, flags, socks, sweatshirts and a scarf. I encouraged the shopping spree, looking on adoringly.
Alas. The bottom line is that soccer is the place where I will always in the sidelines. Or, will I?
Luca watches games from the sofa in our living room. I tell him I will go into the kitchen to prepare something for him to snack on while he inhabits this mysterious, far away place.
“No, bring a book and come sit by me” he says. “You bring me luck”.
Photo: Luca's grandmother. Photo taken on her 100th birthday, the day Inter won the Champion's League.