Italy and sport: the passion that binds together a nation struggling to find its real identity


Sport Italia: The Italian Love Affair with Sport, by Simon Martin

Published by: I B Tauris

What's It About?

Italian sport, as the title would suggest, but rather more than that.  Sport Italia is an expansive history of modern Italy viewed through the country's passion for sport.

As such it offers a completely new portrait of Europe's most alluring and most paradoxical country, a land of contrasts, of conflicting traditions and regional disparities once described as not so much a nation as a geographical expression.

Tracing Italy's sporting history at its high and low points, from its idealistic beginnings to its hijacking by political figures from Mussolini to Berlusconi, author Simon Martin interweaves elements of Italian history, its politics, its economy and society with the key moments in Italian sport.  In doing so he offers a fresh interpretation to the story of modern Italy, explaining how and why sport holds such an important position in both politics and society, and why it is at the heart of the nation's identity.

Football in particular offers many examples of the deeply embedded relationship between Italian sports and politics, from the story of Achille Lauro, the shipping magnate and one-time owner of Napoli, who used his association with the club to help keep him in power as the mayor of Naples, to the socialist President, Sandro Pertini,  who shamelessly attached himself to Italy's World Cup winning team in 1982, playing up to the television cameras at the final against West Germany in Madrid and inviting the team to the Presidential Palace on their return to Italy.

Martin is strong too on the rise of Silvio Berlusconi, who placed football at the heart of his political career, using the success and popularity of the football team he owned, AC Milan, alongside his vast Italian media and television empire, to enhance his own standing.  He took the terrace rallying cry of 'Forza Italia' as the name of his political party.

Others have tried to interpret the Italian character through food or art, opera or architecture.  Martin's deeply researched academic text contends that sport has influenced political attitude and cultural difference on a much broader scale, and has been much more effective in creating a sense of belonging in a country of many divisions.

Who is the author?

Simon Martin teaches at the American University in Rome and is a Research Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire and the British School at Rome. He holds a PhD from University College London.  He is the author of Football and Fascism: The National Game under Mussolini, which was awarded the Lord Aberdare Literary Prize for Sports History in 2004.

Buy Sport Italia: The Italian Love Affair with Sport direct from amazon.co.uk

Also by Simon Martin: Football and Fascism: The National Game Under Mussolini

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