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Posted by On 8:17 PM

The strange, sad mood in Italy as the national team misses the World Cup for the first time in 60 years


Supporters of Italy watch as its soccer team misses its chance to play in the 2018 World Cup after tying with Sweden in a qualifying match in November and losing on the aggregate score from the teams’ two matches. (PIERO CRUCIATTI/AFP/Getty Images) June 21 at 4:58 PM Email the author

ROME â€" This is a year when much of Italy feels upside-down, and so it’s almost fitting that the usual markers of soccer obsession are suddenly nowhere to be found.

Sports bars in Rome are full at dinnertime, but this time, it’s the outdoor tables that are most crowded, the ones with no view of the televisions. Soccer continues as the background soundtrack of daily life †" but in one suburban neighborhood on a recent evening, the action was coming from 13-year-olds on a community field, and the stakes were low, the tricolor flags were nowhere, and the adults at a nearby cafe paid no attention to that game or any other.

“I haven’t watched the World Cup, not a minute,” said Sabrina Battista, 37, a teacher sitting at the cafe. “It doesn’t exist this year.”

“We lost a moment of sharing,” said Chiara Caporilli, 39, sharing the same table.

“We lost a moment of beauty,” Battista said.

What Italy lost, of course, was the chance to feel sporting elation and torment and hope. Its national team â€" like those of the United States, Chile, China, Ghana and the Netherlands â€" failed to qualify for the World Cup. But in Italy, the absence cuts deeper.


Italian players are d ejected at the end of their FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier playoff. The second-leg match between Italy and Sweden at San Siro Stadium on Nov. 13, 2017, in Milan ended in a 0-0 draw. Sweden won the two-match encounter with an aggregate score of 1-0. (Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

The beloved Azzurri hadn’t missed a World Cup in 60 years. Four times, the team had won the whole tournament. Entire generations had grown up here considering soccer glory a birthright, a reflection of Italian creativity.

Italians have also relied on their national soccer team to help unify a country splintered by politics and closely held regional identities.

But this time, Italy is experiencing a most unusual kind of summer: one that is quieter, more subdued, and more partisan as well. As the World Cup kicked off this month, thousands in Rome were chanting in the streets â€" but this time, instead of celebrating, they were protesting their new government’s hard-line policies toward migra nts.

“Soccer is no longer the dominating issue,” said Darwin Pastorin, a Turin-based journalist who has written many books about Italian soccer. “People in the sports bar talk a lot about the government, about migrants. They are more concerned by the quality of the government than that of their goalkeeper.”

When Italians do reach for an explanation of their soccer decline, their answers include some of the unnerving factors that have flipped this country’s politics, enabling insurgents to charge in from obscurity and push establishment parties aside: economic rot, a failure to innovate. The Azzurri have seen their talent pool steadily dwindle since 2006, the year of their last World Cup title. The country has not kept pace with the Germans and Spanish in developing young talent.


Italian players inspect the pitch bef ore their match with Sweden at San Siro Stadium. (Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

After Italy failed to beat Sweden in November and officially lost its chance at the 2018 World Cup, the initial reaction was seismic. The team parted ways with its coach. Several marquee players retired. One front-page headline called the loss a “national shame.” Another paper called it the “apocalypse.”

More recently, when soccer has jumped to the forefront, it has been through the controversies of politics. The biggest soccer story in Italy now is about corruption in the construction of a major stadium in Rome. And the highest-profile politician in Italy’s new government, Matteo Salvini, got into a public argument this month with one of the country’s most famous soccer players, Mario Balotelli, who suggested that Italy needed to do more to help migrants integrate.

Fans say they have taken the Azzurri’s absence, after the initial shock, with a dark resignation. Several days ago, the Corriere della Sera, a national daily, published a slide show depicting mock photos of Italy’s 2018 World Cup experience. One photograph shows 11 members of the Azzurri on the field, but they are standing still, watching television. Another image shows the Azzurri’s “official” World Cup apparel, being worn by a fan. He is on a sofa, in loosefitting leisurewear.

The television ratings for the World Cup remain strong, but the enthusiasm is gone. The one place in Rome to find loud soccer-watching crowds is at the central piazzas thronged by tourists.

“It’s as if something is missing,” said Gino Mariani, 48, who helps run the Core de Roma sports restaurant in a southern suburb here.

“When the national team plays, that is the only time Italians are joined together,” said Dino Zoff, the goalkeeper on the 1982 team that won the World Cup.

That ’82 title endures as one of Italy’s most binding experiences, coming on the heels of mor e than a decade of terrorist bombings and political strife. Zoff, along with his teammates, returned to Rome on the presidential plane, and as they entered the city, they were greeted by an uncountable number of fans.

“It’s an almost instinctive kind of passion,” Zoff said. “It is the national team, not nationalism.”

Stefano Pitrelli contributed to this report.

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Source: Google News Italy | Netizen 24 Italy

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In boardrooms, there's a real fear that Italy could leave the euro zone

Lega far right party leader Matteo Salvini gestures during a press conference held at the Lega headquarter in Milan on March 5, 2018.PIERO CRUCIATTI | AFP | Getty Images Lega far right party leader Matteo Salvini gestures during a press conference held at the Lega headquarter in Milan on March 5, 2018.

Italy's battle with Brussels has triggered fears among executives that continental Europe's third biggest economy will soon vote to leave the euro zone.

Italy now has a right-wing populist government at its helm, with much of the power appearing to lie in the hands of interior minister and far-right L ega (League) leader Matteo Salvini.

Euroskepticism operates as a main policy of Italy's new coalition between Lega and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) party. It has criticized European Union (EU) guidelines on immigration, public spending, trade deals, agriculture and sanctions against Russia. The far-reaching discontent has led to suggestions that Italy could exit from the euro zone.

According to the latest CNBC Global CFO Council quarterly survey, published Thursday, the fear is being felt in boardrooms worldwide with almost 77 percent of global respondents having some sort of concern that Italy will turn its back o n Europe.

The CNBC Global CFO Council represents some of the largest public and private companies in the world, collectively managing more than $4.5 trillion in market value.

Syngenta CFO: Level of uncertainty dampening business investments Syngenta CFO: Level of uncertainty dampening investments decisions

Almost two of every three chief financial officer respondents said an Italian exit is likely to negatively impact their companies over the next six months, while the figure jumps to 90 percent when asked about the effect of such a move on the wider European economy.

The council's global economic outlook for the euro zone remains positive with 20 out of 42 respondents saying that t he region's gross domestic product (GDP) is "improving." The overall rating for the euro zone in the latest survey is rated at "stable."

The C-suite financial controllers were also asked about the impact of the 2016 vote by the United Kingdom to leave the EU. Britain officially leaves the political and economic alliance in March next year.

Almost 63 percent of respondents said that the Brexit vote had already had a "negative" effect on the U.K. economy with almost 12 percent claiming it had been "very negative."

But when considering their own c ompany, nearly 70 percent of the executives said there had been "no impact" whatsoever.

(Note: Forty-three of the 103 current members of the CNBC Global CFO Council responded to this quarter's survey, including 20 North American-based members, 17 EMEA-based members, and six APAC-based members. The survey was conducted from June 1 to 17, 2018.)

Source: Google News Italy | Netizen 24 Italy

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Italy warns EU partners on migrant deal ahead of summit

Europe Europe Italy warns EU partners on migrant deal ahead of summit

Migrant boat off Libyan coast, 27 Jun 17Image copyright AFP
Image caption The EU is still struggling to intercept migrant boats off Libya

The Italian government says it will not sign up to an EU plan for tackling illegal migration to Europe if it does not make help for Italy a priority.

The leaders of 10 member states plan to meet in Brussels on Sunday in a push to tighten border checks and stem the flow of non-EU migrants inside the bloc.

Four Central European states - critics of EU policy - will boycott the talks.

Italy is now the main arrival point for boatloads of migrants - mostly Africans fleeing chaos and violence in Libya.

But Italy has now refused to let in 226 migrants rescued by the German charity Mission Lifeline off Libya.

And last week Italy's refusal to let in 630 migrants aboard the rescue ship Aquarius triggered a diplomatic row with France. The new Italian government accuses charities of undermining EU efforts to curb the influx of migrants.

"We need help now," Italy's right-wing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said.

"If we are going to Brussels to receive the HOMEWORK already prepared by the Frenc h and Germans... the prime minister would do better to save the cost of the trip," he tweeted.

  • Is Italy taking in thousands of 'non-refugees'?
  • Who is responsible for migrants at sea?
  • Med migrant crisis: A mess - or cynical politics?

Where are the tensions in the EU?

Sunday's talks come amid serious divisions in the EU over migration and asylum, overshadowing an EU summit to be held on 28-29 June.

The Visegrad Group - Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary - refuse to take in any refugees from Italy or Greece.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Sunday's summit was "against the normal customs of the EU", so the Visegrad Group would not attend.

Earlier it appeared that Italy too might boycott Sunday's talks. Mr Salvini's warning was prompted by the leak of a draft declaration which, according to Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, has now bee n withdrawn.

"I just got a call from [German] Chancellor Angela Merkel, worried about the possibility that I might not attend," Mr Conte wrote on Facebook. "The chancellor clarified that there had been a 'misunderstanding'. The draft text released yesterday will be shelved."

The migration issue is also threatening Germany's coalition government. Bavarian CSU leader Horst Seehofer backs the tough stance adopted by the Visegrad Group and Austria.

A long-time ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, he objects to her "open door" policy which let more than a million asylum seekers enter Germany in 2015-2016.

Why the tough words from Italy?

Mr Salvini, a Eurosceptic, heads the anti-immigration League party, which accuses the EU of leaving Italy to struggle with an unfair burden of asylum claims.

Italy's new coalition government wants to deport half a million undocumented migrants, many of whom are housed in squalid reception centres. More than 600,000 have reached Italy from Libya in the past four years.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Italian coastguard brought more than 500 rescued migrants to Sicily on Tuesday

Speaking on Italy's Rai national TV, Mr Salvini said it was "unacceptable" to be told "we will help you in one or two years, while you keep those who arrive and we will send you others".

Prime Minister Conte says measures to curb the flow of migrants to Italy from North Africa are the priority - not transfers of migrants from one EU country to another.

Among them are refugees from the war in Syria or other conflicts, who generally have a right to a sylum.

Why doesn't the EU stop the boats coming?

Italian warships are spearheading Operation Sophia, an EU anti-smuggler mission patrolling a vast area off the Libyan coast.

The EU has stepped up co-operation with the Libyan coastguard to intercept migrant boats. But people-smuggling gangs have flourished in Libya's chaos, charging desperate migrants thousands of dollars per head.

The EU Commission has proposed "regional disembarkation platforms" in North Africa, where the UN and other agencies could screen those who have a genuine claim to asylum in Europe. Those not eligible would be offered help to resettle in their home countries.

But processing centres outside the EU must not become a "Guantanamo Bay" for migrants, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos warned.

The EU also aims to beef up its Frontex border guard force to 10,000 staff by the end of 2020.

The EU's controversial Dublin Regula tion states that an asylum seeker's claim should usually be handled by the country where he/she first arrives.

The regulation - currently under review - enables EU countries to deport asylum seekers to the country where they first landed. Italy and Greece object to that policy, saying they are shouldering an unfair burden.

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Source: Google News Italy | Netizen 24 Italy