Memorable Moments: Italy wins the 2020 EURO Cup

Why the win was extra significant to the Italian community

Illustration of a family gathered anxiously on the couch with Italian flags all around them.
ILLUSTRATION: Noah Jozic / The Peak

By: Saije Rusimovici, Staff Writer

The tension in the living room was thick. Nobody uttered a word. It was as if we were in that stadium halfway across the world, the weight of our goalkeepers’ task heavy on our shoulders. For my grandfather, this team meant everything. The living room was decorated with banners and scarves he had collected over the years. The pride of the Italian flag dangled from several corners of the room. It was the first soccer game my family had watched together in years, brought together by not only an exciting match, but something to celebrate since the start of the pandemic. 

In 2020, Italy had become one of the worst affected countries by the COVID-19 pandemic. The death toll had been at its highest since World War II, with 10% of these deaths being attributed to COVID-19. The Italian national football team represented something more than just a gold medal to the people of Italy — they were a symbol of hope. 

We were on the edge of our seats. The score was 1–1; Leonardo Bonnuci’s sole goal in the 67th minute was keeping Italy’s chances of winning the championship alive. I still get goosebumps when I think about the penalty shootout. My family and I stood in a line, our arms wrapped around each other like the players on the field watching Bukayo Saka, an excellent midfielder for Arsenal, prepare for his shot on Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. Saka had to score to keep the shootout going. 

When Saka came in and pummeled the ball hard to the right, meeting the hands of Donnarumma — it was all over. None of us had really processed what had happened until we saw the goalkeeper emotionally embraced by his teammates. The reaction after that was something I will never forget. 

The joy on my grandfather’s face was like something I’d never seen. He’d picked my grandmother up off her feet and spun her around. We ran out to the balcony and started cheering, banging pots and pans as if our team would be able to hear us all the way in England. Our Italian neighbours rushed out to greet us, yelling and screaming with excitement.

In the week that followed, the Italian national team returned to Italy, bringing the Euro Cup to Rome. After several lockdowns in Italy, isolation, and pain brought on by the pandemic, the victory was an inspiration, uplifting the Italian people at home and abroad. 

Prior to the tournament, national team head coach Roberto Mancini said, “The national team is a symbol of a country that in difficult moments has always known how to get up again.” 

And they did.