Bedford’s Italian community is rooted in its home country to beat England in today’s match at the Euro final at Wembley.
Were it not for the gray sky and the threat of rain while drinking coffee and talking football outside La Piazza Caffe, Luciano Lambiase and his friends could be in Naples or Rome.
But the 66-year-old retired factory engineer and his childhood friends Pasquale Spadaccino and Franco Bulzis, both 73, are debating the upcoming Euro 2020 final in the southern English city of Bedford, where finds one of the largest Italian communities in the country.
“He will return home to Rome,” said Lambiase, who predicted his national team would beat England in the Wembley final on Sunday.
“It’s always been a mystery to us what‘ coming home ’means,” he added, referring to the popular anthem written by comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner that England fans sing in the games.
“It’s the first time they’ve played in one [Euro] final, and we have won four world championships, ”he added.
Liberato “Libby” Lionetti, 55, who runs La Piazza in Bedford Market Square and among his customers are T-shirt fans from England, was more diplomatic in his predictions.
Hoping for a modest 1-0 win for Italy, he said that, come what may, football “would definitely go home to Bedford”.
Before the match, the atmosphere in the city was “very tense, everyone is excited,” Lionetti said.
Whatever the rivalries during the match, then “everything will be fine,” he added.
“It’s only 90 minutes, or how long it takes your team to win. And then it’s over and the next day is another day. You just have to keep going. “
Older men drinking coffee outside the cafeteria said they expected the match to go off without incident.
But they acknowledged that a final between Italy and England carries memories of the abuses they suffered when they were young in the international games of the 1960s and 1970s.
Italian community of 14,000 inhabitants
Lambiase, Spadaccino and Bulzis came to Bedford as children in 1956 after their parents left the Campania region of southern Italy to work in the then thriving brick-making industry of the city.
Now the Italian community with more than 14,000 people still runs grocery stores, cafes and restaurants in the city.
The three men say that in the poverty of the early years of World War II, football united the Italian community when they had little else.
“We are fortunate to live in one of the most diverse areas of the country and will always celebrate this diversity and the great Anglo-Italian relationship we have in Bedford,” said Sharn Basra, bedfordshire police chief assistant.
“Please enjoy the match responsibly, go home safely and we all look forward to a suitable end to what has been a great tournament for both teams.”
At the city’s Club Italia, drinks were creepy and Italian tricolor flags decorated tables and walls.
Bartender Michael Bianco said Sunday night would be “absolutely crazy.”
Manager Francesco Derrico added that if he won the national team, the Bedford Italians would make it one night.
“If we lose, we stay at home, we eat some pasta. If we win, we go out to celebrate. “