by Melinda Gallo

La nostra prima partita

Yesterday we went to our first partita (soccer match). I was hoping that my first partita would be to see La Fiorentina, our beloved Florentine team. But, it was to see another level of La Fiorentina team with young boys who were born in 1996. My friend Debora's boyfriend, Paolo, is an allenatore (coach) for a Tuscan team and were playing against La Fiorentina.

For the past two years, Debora has asked us to come to a match, but we've always had an excuse. Either the weather was too cold or we were busy with work. I love calcio (soccer) a lot, but I still haven't been to a live partita here in Florence even though a few of my friends have invited me. It's just the more we're here, the more I think I can go any time and then end up not going at all.

Debora drove us out to the campo (field) in Tuscany near Lastra a Signa. Before Paolo's squadra (team) took the field, we watched the 10-year olds play a partita. I enjoyed watching the boys play. I expected them to play like young boys: a little unorganized, but enjoying themselves. I loved how the portiere (goalkeeper) had to yell "mia" (mine) when he was going to pick up the ball with his hands so that the opposing team would stop and not kick the ball.

When Paolo's team came out, I was expecting much of the same. But, as soon as the partita began, some of the boys were playing like professional players with incredible poise and speed. One of the boys on La Fiorentina team was absolutely amazing. He ran rings around the other giocatori (players), stealing the ball, and making the majority of the goals. He owned the campo. And like the famous Argentinean player that he was named after, he played very much like him. I was impressed with him as were even the other coaches and parents in the stadio (stadium).

After the partita, I asked Paolo what will happen to him and he said that probably in a few years, he will be signed up by the professional La Fiorentina team. Already, I believe that he's being managed by La Fiorentina, which means that all of his expenses are already taken care of. He doesn't live in Florence, but has to come to Florence a few times a week for the allenamento (training) and weekend partite.

It was an exciting partita even though Paolo's squadra lost 6 to 1. But they really had no chance against La Fiorentina as they also hand pick the players even at this young age. There are levels to the 1996 La Fiorentina squadra, which not all the other squadre have. Another difference was that during the partita, the Florentine giocatori were still training by kicking goals and running around the campo while Paolo's squadra were watching the partita. The level of professionalism was obvious with La Fiorentina squadra. They are certainly being groomed to become professionals.

I am absolutely certain that this 11-year old will be a professional calciatore (soccer player) as soon as it's possible. Although I hope I make it to a partita here in Florence before he becomes a professional calciatore. But I have a few years before that will happen.

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