Italy’s soccer problems are a reflection of a deeper malaise

Ian Turner in his NYT article points to a survey show that Italians are the least happy people in Western Europe. There is a feeling of malessere, a collective funk – economic, political, and social. With a stagnating economy, a bloated and insecure bureaucracy, and an aging population, Italy has fallen way behind Western Europe in development. Only 36% of Italians trust their government compared to 64% of Denmark.
When soccer becomes part of that malaise then it leads to the sort of violence that one increasingly associates Italian soccer with.
Which leads us to the interesting corollary, malaise is good for the overall performance of the national team. The Azzurri were determined to erase Calciopoli, a motivating factor in their winning the World Cup. A sense of pride in its achievement brought Italians together.
In France, the perennial question of how “French” constantly plagues the national team. A perceived malaise that is seized upon by Jean Marie Le Pen and the right wing National Front in every election. Les Bleus, use their diversity to rebut that polemic. They won the 1998 World Cup and reached the 2006 finals.
Germany in the 2006 World Cup shed its self effacing image and its collective guilt brought on it by two World Wars. The Mannschaft played lights out soccer and an increasingly assertive German public celebrated its achievement.
The English team comprises a group of self serving and smug soccer players. The only source of malaise within their team is what rank their myriad of badly written autobiographies occupy on the Amazon book ranks. Even Fabio Capello will be hard pressed to put a dent into this infatuated group.

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