La fascinazione del calcio

Jens Reiserer
Faszination Fußball
Im Kontext der Nachkriegszeit in Italien zwischen 1945 und 1954

Ph.D. Dissertation, Universität Wien, 2008

In this dissertation the role of football in Italy in the first decade after the Second World War is examined, putting a special emphasis on the socio-cultural and political circumstances of that period. The reason why the research is focused on the period from 1945 to 1954 is that the immediate post-war period developed a special momentum with 1945 as the end of a nightmare and 1954 as the beginning of the economic boom and the introduction of TV to the mass market. As the author of this dissertation lived in Italy at that time he is able to draw on his own experiences and reflections. The same is true for the people he spoke to who as eyewitnesses of this period provided credible and important contributions to his work. In those difficult times football served as a welcomed valve to express emotions freely and at the same time contributed massively to the formation of a collective identity which to-date shapes and sustains Italy’s society. In a land with a very distinct north-south divide the national football team succeeded easily in overcoming this barrier.

This dissertation, however, is not only focused on events on and off the pitch. A whole chapter is dedicated to the Italian habits at that time. Furthermore, special attention is being paid to the prospering movie industry of that period because – together with football – film was a cornerstone of entertainment after working hours and therefore merits detailed examination. After all, movies are meeting men’s basic need to blank out reality and escape into a dream world. The confrontation neo-realism vs. Hollywood forms the centre of these observations. Another major part of this dissertation is based on the realisation that sport is a breeding ground for myths, legends and traditions. In this context the author has also thoroughly examined Italians’ often-overflowing enthusiasm for football which is symbolised in the tifo, the radical fanship. The role of advertising and sponsorship is also looked at, as this was considerable already in this period, this refers also to the sporting press. After all, Italy still has three dailies exclusively dedicated to sports, with football dominating.

Rounding off the exposition the author has added a description of the political, socio-cultural and sporting events and developments between 1945 and 1954 to provide deeper and more comprehensive insight into this period. This followed by extensive statistical data and the above-mentioned interviews with eyewitnesses in Italian. These conversations as well as all other sources in Italian have been translated into German by the author of this dissertation. The major conclusion of this work is the realisation that man needs bread as well as games: panem et circenses. Football plays a very special role in this context because like maybe no other sport it can evoke emotions but also create identity.