I have with my town the classic love/not love relationship (“hate” doesn’t exist in my dictionary). When I was away I missed it, but I knew that it was a transient feeling. When I was home, I felt sick with the desire to flee it.
Provincialism didn’t suit me. I’ve never been one wanting to know everything about everybody, to gossip and to talk badly without reason. It was a consequence of having very reserved parents. A few friends for Dad, even less for Mom.
I was the opposite, making friends everywhere. Mild but rebel character, unbelievably shy (the perfect testimonial for the expression “any chance you don’t take is lost forever”).
I took refuge in sports. Only guys, whom I found easier to relate to.
I’ve always had a theory on my behavior. Male/female universes never cross. Masochistic women, being loath to every rational simplicity, like to create problems where there aren’t any. We guys are so superficial, but when necessary we make rational decisions (but at the very last moment. Why do it beforehand, after all?)
But let’s go back to Mantova. A fascinating place, mostly in wintery, foggy nights. Sudden, quick lights breaking through that muffled eternity, bringing wandering souls back to the reality of an overprovincial town.
Not me, though. My home proves it. During my many travels I loved to look for objects to bring home to remind me of those holidays. Being a minimalist I didn’t like to fill my house with a lot of common souvenirs. Home is a place to feel alive, and has to be left empty enough for the next trip.
A full, complete home would have meant perfection but also the futility of other discoveries. A sort of personal Heraclitean "panta rei", everything flowing, reinterpreted by me.
What has always tied me to my town are two colors: red and white. “Bianc e rus”, as we say in Mantova. The colors of my team and of my heart.
I’ve spent at least 10 years of my inglorious soccer career at the stadium named after Danilo Martelli, player from Mantova, playing with the great Turin team, who died in the tragedy of Superga, and then another lifetime watching the matches from the bleachers. All the different minor leagues, then with “THE” team, playing in C league. There weren’t C1 and C2 back then. Just a unique C league. Like now. Life’s ebbs and flows. Or, maybe, a synonym for the actual and the past socio-political situation. But let’s forget economic references, to avoid easy tears…
At 16 I had the possibility to be bought by Milan. I refused, not for love of the other team from Milan, the black and blue one, but because I didn’t feel ready for a life made only of school and soccer. I still think it was the right decision. I played for fun, not for money. A lot less money than today, by the way.
Moving from the field to the bleachers was easy like the passage from puberty to adolescence. When you realize it happened, it’s too late to go back. I’ve followed my team in every stadium and league, from S. Lucia del Piave to Comunale in Turin, from Leffe to Brescia, often coupling soccer with gastronomy. I’ve never been a hooligan, but I’ve always screamed at our goals. Once I became sick I stopped going to matches in other cities, too tiring for me, but with my scooter I always went to the Martelli stadium until, one terrible day, my legs refused to go up the stairs on the bleachers. I was
officially very sick.
Once I went to a match with the wheelchair, but I didn’t like it. Repetita juvant, I tried to plan to do it again for Mantova - Spal, the most important match of the season. Everything was organized. Everything, save the weather. The night before the match it started to hail and rain a lot, and it continued non stop until one hour before the scheduled beginning. As soon as we canceled the special vehicle that was supposed to bring me there, a pale ray of sun appeared on Mantova. I was hoping the match would be postponed until the day after, and I planned on being there. A photo of the field, taken by Andrea while he went to get the tickets, seemed to confirm my hopes.
I hadn’t considered the wind that was pushing clouds away and drying the field. The match took place (being unbelievably rude, they didn’t wait for me) and Mantova won at the 88th minute. Did they get promoted to the upper league? Not yet. Everybody was waiting for the result of the Torres team, that would have hosted Mantova the following week for the last match of the season. Torres lost, but Forlì, that nobody had considered as a dangerous team, scored at the 94th minute, obliging us to tie the match with Torres, in Sardinia.
If I had been healthy I’d have bought the plane tickets to spend the weekend in Sardinia with Aiste, asking Andrea every possible information. Too bad ALS changed radically my existence. Thanks God there is Omino. Omino is Claudio, mythical sportscaster of Mantova’s soccer matches from time immemorial. Omino was the nickname from the time we played in the same amateur team at the end of my carreer.
I had to settle for following on the radio the most important match of the season. When, after the first fifteen minutes, Torres scored a goal, I thought that if I had been at the stadium I’d have kept on screaming my support to our guys. And so I did, metaphorically speaking, because with the tracheotomy I can’t emit a sound. Three minutes later we also scored, but those three minutes lasted an eternity. The few events from there to the end are not even worth mentioning. We were in C league!!! I imagined the cars parading, with red and white, horns screaming, huge flying flags, piazza Cavallotti full of people of every age, race, sex, because passion for sports has no limits. Like the disease, unfortunately. All equal.
p.s. for those interested to read more stories about me, please go to my blog marcosguaitzer.blogspot.it . Soon a book will be published with all the posts of the blogs, other people’s remarks and new material.