A total of 35 years have passed since that triumphant day back in 1982 and yet the country’s collective memory is still as fresh as ever. Italy’s World Cup victory was a magnificent footballing triumph, however for all Italians it is still characterised as something much more than just a sporting achievement. Emerging from one of the darkest periods in the country’s history, this symbolic success helped demonstrate the notable resilience of the Italian people, who could optimistically relate to the pride shown on the pitches in Spain.
The ‘Years of Lead’ had created strong social tensions in Italy and had even brought into question the notion of democracy. From the end of the 1960’s onwards, the entire country was struggling with an acute and shared pain, highlighted by the social and political cracks that were splitting the country apart. It was from this tumultuous period that Enzo Bearzot’s mythical National Team emerged, an Azzurri outfit composed of the countries’ beautiful and inherent contradictions.
During the build-up to the major tournament in 1982, the team were surrounded by controversy, criticism and persistent media attention. Modest draws against Poland, Peru and Cameroon had successfully secured World Cup qualification for the side, however this did little to dampen the disapproval directed towards the team. It was a difficult situation, although one that crucially triggered a unique sense of strength within the squad, one that has since come to define the resilient Italian population.
In stark contrast to their subdued performances in qualifying, the Azzurri completed a full and impressive U-Turn once in Spain, as they overcame both Brazil and Argentina in their two opening ‘Group of Death’ fixtures. Pablito Rossi produced a superb hat-trick to inspire the Azzurri against the Green and Yellows, while Zico, Socrates and Falcao were all unable to break through the towering Italian defence. An efficient 2-0 win over Poland then followed in the semi-finals, suitably setting up a crucial encounter against West Germany in the final.
Now, with a pinch of pride we can consequently recall how the Italian National Team etched its name into the sporting history books, also becoming a sign of cultural pride in the process. A triumph symbolised by a number of iconic images: Tardelli’s screaming celebration, Pertini’s hands stretched to the sky and the heroic Zoff raising aloft the golden World Cup trophy. It was a moment of social jubilation matched with relief, a perfect metaphor for the countries’ unique and turbulent way of living, one that is fuelled by passion and contradictions. Today we once again mark that unforgettable day, one that we still hold extremely close to our hearts.