Sunday, January 30, 2011

Italian Hockey

Yesterday, Vicenza's calcio (soccer/football) team was playing in home turf, but surprisingly (nay, SHOCKINGLY) some in our group didn't enjoy watching soccer. So instead, we went to Asiago to watch the town's highly-rated soccer team beat Val di Fasso's team to the ground. But hockey, you ask? Although it may not make much sense for a Mediterranean country to indulge in such a cold-weather sport, participation is largely limited to the northern parts of the country, where alpine culture is very much alive and the locals tend to classify themselves more German than Italian. Going north along the Italian peninsula, Asiago is one of the first major towns that truly display its historic affinity to German culture, with some communities even speaking Cimbrian. Hockey in this context does not look or feel out of place at all.

It was the first time that I went to see hockey, and the experience was good overall. But the best part however were the fans: insane! Shouting, whistling, chanting, these guys are passionate over a sport that I never would have imagined Italians would be bowling over. American spectators are by and large dedicated to their teams, but these guys have an almost maniacal obsession with every hit, every foul, and every point scored. There were no jitters here--everyone stayed glued to their seats throughout the game, including the children. The stands right behind the Asiago goal were the rowdiest, chanting nonstop throughout the game, and waving the team's colors whenever the team scored (or it looks like the players are getting tired). The one very big difference with American hockey however were the players. They screamed at each other, got pissed-off to the point of a shoving match, but no fist-fights. Frankly, that is one of the biggest draws of the sport, so it is a little underwhelming that no brawls broke out.

In fact, the fans, although spirited, also stayed relatively calm and respectful. When a player from the opposing team was carried away on a stretcher, he was applauded. (His departure on a stretcher wasn't what they were clapping about. I didn't really sense such nastiness with the fans.) When the referees and the opposing team came out, there was no booing. A nice environment such fans make, especially for people like me who get turned-off by American sporting events due to their tendency to devolve into drunken messes. Hopefully Asiago makes it to the championship. I wouldn't mind going back and cheering them on alongside their usual life-long supporters.

If you are interested in watching the team play, visit their website for game schedule.


  1. I am relieved to know that there are a few others countrymen of mine who aren't crazy for our football. I liked it once, but now it's a parody... By the way: go Asiago!

  2. The draw of football has always been and will always be a mystery to me. When people ask me about the culture of tailgating, Super Bowls, college football, I kind of just explain the whole thing as a cultural anomaly. And yes: Go Asiago!