People leave their country to seek for a better life, to get to know a different life style or just for the sake of trying something new.
Having some links with the place where you are moving to is essential to facilitate the integration process, without that people would probably give up and go back to where they come from. these links are often family or friends, however here we want to talk about a different kind of link: the football supporting, and particularly the passion Italian migrants have for English football teams.
There are 400.000 Italians living in London, and dozens of football teams. English football is absolutely loved in Italy and there are a lot of clubs for supporters of London’s football teams. “Station 936” , the Italian club of West Ham’s supporters, is a good example. It counts thousands of members both in Italy and in England. For this reason the club is also a good place for newcomers to get some tips on how to get used to life in Britain’s capital city. Meeting for a beer at Boleyn, the “hammers” pub near Upton Park (West Ham stadium) you can learn how to use the Oyster card, what Job Centres are for and you can dig deeper in Londoners life, you can exchange e-mails and telephone numbers, but above all you get to meet new people.
Federico, pizza-chef in the City, moved to London not a long ago, fascinated by English culture and mentality. When in the stadium he finds the London he fell in love with ever since he was a teenager. West Ham supporter from the start, and a bit critic towards the fact that his team is becoming fashionable, Federico is proud to be a “blowing bubble” and to have found the last ticket for the last season semi-final playoff at Upton Park. He decided to move to London almost exclusively because West Ham fan and to have the opportunity to follow his team every week; arrived in London from just three days was already at the stadium (West Ham – Sotton) singing “we’re top of the league”: he loves London and England is in his heart! Federico told me: “Perhaps due to west ham I feel part of something, and not only an Italian who is looking for work in London…. The large family of west ham united”. In this guy’s words is clear the passion for London and its history, boots and braces including, and surely supporting a football team helps him to become part of the town he loves: keep the faith Federico!
tMarco works as a night receptionist, and he moved to London a couple of years ago. He is fascinated by English culture as well, especially in the football arena . The football spirit played a big role in Marco’s decision to move to London and start looking for a job. The guy is even becoming famous among Londoners football fans, and not Londoners only; he is actually one of the major experts in “minor” (but not so minor) English football, such as the “Non-League”. Marco is often interviewed by local newspapers for his hobby to visit all stadiums in London, and for his historical knowledge of London’s football teams, even the smallest/less known. He can boast a number of important successes in relation to his passion: the first time to the Wealdstone stadium, when he met half of the audience; when during an Hanworth Villa match his name was mentioned by the speaker; when during Harlow Town-Woking he managed to get tickets in the press room and he was quoted on BBC Radio; when after Carshalton-Lincoln, a fan stopped him saying : “you are Marco, Londra calcistica website!” and lastly the interview with BBC Radio before Wealdstone-Newport, being an Italian who follows the Non League. A passion that maybe could become a job in the future: good luck Marco!
It is clear how supporting a football team could give integration opportunity that not everyone has. Move to a new town and in a new country is really problematic: it could lead to depression due to loneliness or cultural differences to the desire to leave London and maybe loose an opportunity for a better life. Surely, the migration’s world is difficult and there are tough situations, so spend your time talking about footbal could be seen as childish; but supporting a team allows to arrive in a town not completily unknown and share one’s passion with someone gives the chance to get a social life, to speak English and to tear down the wall of indifference which could be so painfull to feel around you. Supporting a football team is a way not be invisible in a community where you just moved in, helping the integration process.
You are an alien, but a hammer as well. Welcome!