A thrilling finish brings emotions to overtime

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It was a 53-year celebration – and a pandemic that appears to have lasted much longer than that – in the works.

Italians and Italian expats around the world, including over 40,000 in the Niagara region, partied on Sunday as they did in 1968 after the Azzurri beat England 3-2 on penalties in the final 2020 Men’s Football Championships at Wembley Stadium in London.

An evening of outdoor observation at Club Roma in St. Catharines drew a capacity of 125 people mandated by the Government of Ontario. Masks were mandatory and physical distancing was observed as people were protected under a pavilion and under awnings.

In Niagara Falls, around 50 people carried on the Club Italia tradition by coming together to watch the big game.

While 300 of the club’s 565 members are over 75, club president Sue Forcier never even considered canceling the meeting due to the weather.

“We had to do this. It’s a tradition, “she said.” We were going to have a show, rain or shine. “

Forcier suggested that if COVID-19 restrictions hadn’t made large indoor gatherings banned, the main ballroom would have been packed to the brim.

Most of the folks at Club Italia brought their own folding chairs, although they didn’t need them. A tense 30 minutes of overtime followed by an equally thrilling shootout streak – each team had five chances – left everyone on the edge of their seats.

A succession of cheers, whenever Italy found the back of the net, and moans, when the England goalkeeper blocked an Italian scoring attempt, made it seem like five mini-games in one.

It was a win-win game for the Niagara Falls Regional Council. Bob Gale, whose father’s ancestors are English and whose mother’s parents immigrated to Canada from northern Italy.

“My last name Gale is English, but my mother is Italian, so I don’t know which way to root myself,” he said with a laugh.

What he liked most was “the atmosphere of the game”.

“I’m very happy to be here to watch the game.

Unlike the last Euro and World Cup finals, football fans couldn’t see the action in restaurants and sports bars. Indoor dining will not be allowed until the province enters step 3 of its pandemic reopening plan.

Rob Lalama, head coach of Niagara College women’s soccer and Welland Soccer Club, technical director, describes himself as a “proud Italian-Canadian”. While he had a team in the final, he had no money at stake.

“I have a German friend who wanted to bet $ 50 to see which team goes further, Italy or Germany,” said the 59-year-old from Welland. “I didn’t take the bet because the Italian team over the past few years we never knew what you were going to get.”

This was the case at the World Cup in Russia three years ago, when Italy failed to qualify for the quadrennial event for the first time since 1958.

Mike Rao, award-winning Brock University women’s basketball head coach but a “first and foremost” footballer, watched the final at his home in Welland. He’s been there since the tournament kicked off in June.

“These are the best six weeks of sport for me. Fantastic football, ”said the 2020 Sportsman of the Year for St. Catharines and Welland. “The best teams are there.

“It’s just as good as the World Cup.”

With an estimated population of 44,645, Italian-Canadians were the sixth largest ethnic community in the Niagara region, behind the English, Scots, Irish, Germans and French based on 2016 figures.

It was Italy’s second Euro Championship and the first since 1968 when the final was played in Rome. The national team have also won the World Cup four times, the last in 2006.

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After a 3-0 record in Group A qualifying, Italy eliminated Austria 2-1 in the round of 16; Belgium, 2-1, quarter-finals; and Spain, 4-2, penalties, semi-finals; qualify for the Euro final for the first time since losing 4-0 to Spain in 2012.

England, 2-0-1 in pools in Group D, eliminated Germany, 2-0, Ukraine, 4-0, and Denmark, 2-1, to reach their first final since inception of the UEFA European Championship in 1960.

Defending champions Portugal lost 1-0 to Spain in the round of 16.


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