Forza Azzurri: Hampstead and Highgate's Italians on Euro 2020 final
Michael Boniface and Sam Volpe
- Credit: PA
With time ticking ever closer to England’s mammoth Euro 2020 final vs Italy, the excitement in north London is bubbling away.
Around Hampstead and Highgate schools, pubs, shops and houses have put the England flags and bunting up in anticipation of history being made.
But what about locals with Italian connections? The Ham&High has spoken to some local Azzurri to get their thoughts on the huge clash.
Cllr Gio Spinella
The Frognal and Fitzjohns councillor is going against the grain – plumping for a 2-1 win to Italy.
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Having grown up in Rome, Sicily and Milan, Cllr Spinella is embracing his role as the outsider, in Hampstead and across the council chamber.
“After Sunday one of two things will happen to me,” he said.
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“If England win basically every time I say anything someone's going to say: ‘Oh well you weren’t that good in July 2021, were you? That’s going to be my life.
“Or if Italy do win I'm going to be getting a lot of scowls and snide comments from people for a while as well.
“From that perspective it's not necessarily the best of prospects for me either way. But if I’m going to get stick one way or the other I might as well have the stick with Italy winning.”
The boss at La Gaffe in Hampstead said an Italy versus England final was "a blessing and curse".
He was born and brought up in the UK and said he sees himself as a Brit, but his dad Bernardo is a proud Italian.
Lorenzo said: "On one hand I'm happy whoever wins. My family background is partly Italian, and I always want Italy to do well. But England is where I have grown up, and where my life is.
"It's always hard. I think on this occasion I would be more inclined towards England. They've not won anything for 55 years, and in those 55 Italy have won two World Cups – they've had a little bit more success.
“It would mean so much for the nation in England, though it would in Italy too of course.
"I'm pleased that they are both in the final, it's the final I would have wanted!
"If England lose I will be disappointed, but the silver lining will be Italy winning. And really it's the same the other way."
Lorenzo said over the years he and his father had "gone back and forth", with the older Stella, of course, a staunch Italy fan.
The Hampstead restaurateur remembered attending a 1977 World Cup qualifier with his father and brother at Wembley - and causing trouble by cheering in the Italy end when England scored.
"We didn't know any of the Italy players really," he said. "But we knew Kevin Keegan."
The half-Italian chair of the Highgate Neighbourhood Forum is feeling nervous, but feels there’s recent precedent paving the way for the blue half on Sunday.
Alicia said: “With Italy winning the Eurovision with the amazing rock band Måneskin and the UK getting nil points maybe we are owed a victory on Sunday?
“I think Italy are the stronger team but with home support and the leadership of the amazing Gareth I think England might just win but it will be another nail-biter! Not sure I can cope!”
The Italian environmental campaigner, who lives in Hampstead with her family, said: "[I'm] very confident that we are by far the strongest team, but very worried about the momentum England have and the fact that we are playing in Wembley."
Valeria said she thought most London Italians felt the same, and was concerned ahead of Sunday's game for two reasons: "We have lost [Leonardo] Spinazzola who is our pivot and for [Raheem] Sterling who is in a league of his own."
She added: "In short we will be waiting for the worst and hoping for the best like everyone usually does in these situations!"