In medio stat virtus: why Italy won Uefa 2020

I am not a soccer fanatic, neither I watched the match that brought the Continental Cup to Rome. However, few things happened during the past EUEFA soccer tournament that made me impossible to ignore it and to be very happy about the final result.

Italy is one of the most successful Countries worldwide at soccer: 4 times world champion and 2 times continental champion, as well the birthplace of some of the most successful players of all time, such as Dino Zoff, Roberto Baggio, Fabio Cannavaro, Gigi Riva, Alessandro Del Piero, just to mention some. Nevertheless, at the beginning of Eufa 2020 the press, both Italian and foreign, complained that the selection done by coach Roberto Mancini, was lacking a “Star”, an outstading player who can make the match even when surrounded by a group of medium talented mates.

That is, in my opinion, one of the secrets that paved the way to victory. In ancient Roman times a saying was in use, stating that “in medio stat virtus” which is a philosophical way to say that there is no need to be excellent at any cost as “virtue is found in the middle”. The lack of a superstar player such as Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, allowed the players to feel united, to be all running towards the same result without the need of having a single individual leading the way and making the match all alone. When you are not considered “the best” you have nothing to show or any reputation to keep at a high level, thus, your stress is only aimed at doing a good match and provide the best you can do.

The lesson learnt is that is really doesn’t matter how excellent you are in your profession: success is not guaranteed just because you’re good. It is better to work united with your mates and head to victory altogether rather than on your own.

The second secret is the coach. Mr Roberto Mancini is a former soccer player who did quite a good career but he lacked winning, as a player, a major international tournament. In one of his statements after the victory he said that he wanted to achieve, as a coach, what he didn’t accomplish as a player. And he did it. He took the lead of the National soccer team after the trauma of the exclusion from the last FIFA world cup in Russia, when the rest of the world said that a FIFA tournament without Italy is not even a tournament. He promised he would do his best to lead the team back to glory and he selected a number of players who are probably not the most talented but with a sense of working in team like no others. Never, during the tournament he sounded pretentious, neither too humble, he was conscious of the quality of the team he put together as well as pretty conscious of the quality of the rivals. Once again: in medio stat virtus.

Finally, I don’t want to write much about the behavior of the English before, during and after the match, which is, in my opinion, unqualifiable. However, the wrongs done by a group of fanatics cannot compromise the respect owed to any people of the world. What I noticed is that losing also requires a bit of elegance, which is a specialty of the Italians: just before the UEFA final, another Italian became a legend: on sunday afternoon, july 11th, 2021, Matteo Berrettini became the first Italian tennis player to match at the Wimbledon final. He lost, against world’s n. 1 player and, when he received the prized owed to the second best, he started the press conference by saying: “I bow before my rival, whose talent is making the history of Tennis”.

The English didn’t do anything similar, it looked like they were sure of winning even before the macth (including the prime minister Boris Johnson). There were 60.000 English and 6.000 Italian at Wembley during the match. When the Italian Anthem was played before the match, the English wistled against it. The english audience left the stadium before the award ceremony and the players refused to wear the silver medal. Finally, after the match a social media campaign started against the black players who missed the penalties.

These are scenes and events we should never watch. Soccer is just a game and it should remain such. Be happy when you win but don’t despair if you lose, there will be other opportunities.

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