The Italian community of Bedford want their home country to triumph over England in today’s Euro final match at Wembley.
If it hadn’t been for the gray skies and the threat of rain as they sipped espressos and chatted football in front of La Piazza Caffe, Luciano Lambiase and his friends might be in Naples or Rome.
But the retired factory engineer, 66, and his childhood friends Pasquale Spadaccino and Franco Bulzis, both 73, discuss the upcoming Euro 2020 final in the town of Bedford, in southern England, home to one of the country’s largest Italian communities.
“It’s coming back to Rome,” Lambiase said, predicting his national team would beat England in the final at Wembley on Sunday.
“It has always been a mystery to us what ‘It’s Coming Home’ means,” he added, referring to the popular anthem written by comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner that English fans sing at matches. .
“This is the first time they have played in a [Euro] final and we won four world cups, ”he added.
Liberato “Libby” Lionetti, 55, who runs La Piazza in Bedford’s market square and whose patrons include fans in English shirts, was more diplomatic in his predictions.
Hoping for a modest 1-0 victory for Italy, he said, whatever happened, football “was definitely coming back to Bedford”.
Before the game, the atmosphere in the city was “very tense, everyone is excited,” Lionetti said.
Whatever rivalries may be during the match, after “everything will be fine,” he added.
“It’s only 90 minutes, or the time it takes for your team to win. And then that’s it and the next day is another day. You just get away with it. “
The older men drinking coffee outside the cafe said they hoped the game would go off without incident.
But they did recognize that a final between Italy and England brings back memories of the abuse they suffered as young men in international games in the 1960s and ’70s.
Italian community of 14,000 people
Lambiase, Spadaccino, and Bulzis arrived in Bedford as children in 1956 after their fathers left Italy’s southern Campania region to work in the city’s then thriving brick-making industry.
Today, the Italian community of 14,000 people still runs grocery stores, cafes and restaurants in the city.
The three men say that in the poverty of the early postwar years, football tied the Italian community together when they had little else.
“We are fortunate to live in one of the most diverse parts of the country and will always celebrate this diversity and the great Anglo-Italian relationship we have in Bedford,” said Sharn Basra, Deputy Chief of Police for Bedfordshire. .
“Please enjoy the game responsibly, come home safe and all hope for a suitable final at what has been a great tournament for both teams.”
At the city’s Club Italia, the drinks were freezing and Italian tricolor flags adorned the tables and walls.
Bartender Michael Bianco said Sunday night was going to be “absolutely crazy”.
Manager Francesco Derrico added that if the national team won, the Italians at Bedford would make it a night out.
“If we lose, we stay at home, we eat pasta. If we win, we go out and celebrate.