It is universally known that football is the most popular sport in the world. However, some nations have a passion for the sport that is parallel to none. Italy is one such nation. Walk into a household on a Sunday, and you will find the family huddled around the TV, watching a football game, playing it, or talking about it.
The football community in Italy is very strong, so much so that it is deeply embedded into the social fabric and considered an essential cultural element. The national team’s phenomenal international success has also contributed to making football the most loved sport in the country.
This article offers an overview of football in Italy, including its history, evolution over the years, and current status in the country.
History of Football in Italy
Italian football has a long-standing tradition, and the locals have immense pride in their team. When British expatriates introduced football in Italy at the end of the nineteenth century, the locals were quick to embrace it. The first football club was formed in 1893. The first national football team was made in 1899 when an Italian team of players played against a team from Switzerland.
However, the team played its first official match in 1910 against France in Milan. The national team first came into the limelight when it won a bronze medal in the Olympics in 1928. The team also won first place in the Central European International Cup in 1930 and 1935. A year later, the team won a gold medal at the Olympics.
Italy did not participate in the first edition of the World Cup but went on to win the subsequent two editions. The most prominent member of the team was Guiseppe Meazza, who is considered a legend.
A great calamity hit when ten of the team’s players were killed in a plane crash in 1949, and in the following years, the team’s performance was marred and heavily criticized due to one loss after the other.
This changed when Italy participated in the UEFA European Championship in 1968 and won the tournament. Two years later, the team played at the World Cup and reached the finals, where it lost to Brazil. The 1970s saw the emergence of a new generation of Italian football players, of which Paolo Rossi stands out among the rest. He won the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball Award at the World Cup in 1982, where Italy won the tournament. In the following decade, Italy could not attain significant success in any international tournament despite coming close.
This changed when the team reached the finals in Euro 2000 and finished as runners-up. The team’s fourth win in the World Cup came in 2006. Post the World Cup; there was a decline in the team’s performance; however, the team managed to win a few tournaments and made it big in 2020 with a win at the European Championship.
In recent years, Italy’s performance has seen a noticeable decline as it failed to qualify for the recent World Cup. However, despite the decline, Italy is one of the most prominent football nations, as the residents closely follow their teams and leagues. The people not only like to watch football but also love to play. At present, there are more than 4.3 million registered football players in Italy.
Italy’s National Football Team
The Italian men’s national football team is one of the oldest teams in the world and has been playing officially since 1910. The team is currently in 8th place in the FIFA rankings but has retained the number one position on multiple instances in the past. The national team is the second after Brazil to have the maximum number of wins at the World Cup, having won four times. It has also won the Euro Championship twice.
The women’s national football team, nicknamed The Blues, has been playing internationally since 1968. The team is currently in 17th place in the FIFA rankings and has played in the World Cup four times, and its best result to date is reaching the quarter-finals in 2019. The team has also played 12 times in the Euro Championship and finished as runners-up twice.
Domestic Football Competition in Italy
The football league system in Italy comprises nine national and regional competitions, out of which the top three are professional, and the lower six are amateur. The highest football league in Italy is Serie A, which is one of the best leagues in the world and is in fourth place in Europe.
Established 125 years ago, the league presently comprises 20 clubs. The most popular clubs in Serie A include Juventus Torino, AC Milan, which is also the current champion, and AS Roma. The league follows a relegation and promotion system with the second division, Serie B.