Renzi our leader has told the head of the EU one Angela Merkel and her poodle the head of the so called independent Central Bank Mario Draghi that he needs 1,000 days to reform Italy. 1,000 days sounds a lot less than three years for some reason and that must be why he said it. During this period he wants rules relaxed to allow him to reform while the economy struggles. The opposition happily point out that when he siezed power in a palace coup in February he said he need just 100 days to accomplish the task. Indeed when he went to the Senate he told them he wouldn’t be back to see them as they wouldn’t be there anymore. That glib remark hasn’t borne fruit as yet . Indeed the latest Senate reform is to throw out all the elected senators and replace them with non elected party faithful. This is Renzi says to democratise the place. I guess if you grab power rather than get voted in you have a different interpretation of the word democracy.
Still all this pales into complete insignificance when you realise that today is the 65th anniversary of the first ever foosball championship that was held in Ostia near Rome.
I am of an age where I grew up playing on foosball machines both in the UK but more often on holidays in the Mediterranean in the 50s and 60s. I was never much good at it and relied too much on spinning the players more in hope than with any skill but it was very much part of the beach scene in those days especially here in Italy.
I was always lost once an opponent announced spinning was outlawed .
The game itself was actually invented by an Englishman Harold Thornton in 1921. He was a Tottenham Hotspur fan though I guess he can be forgiven that as he invented such a great game. He designed it after attending a game and then placing an open box of matches on a table and putting matches across the open box. Simple really this inventing game. However the Italians were the one country that really took to it and started to make their own tables here.
By 1949 it was almost a national game and so someone had the bright idea of holding a competition and hence the anniversary being held today.
Troops having served in Italy during and after the Second world War took the game back to the USA and UK and it became popular there. By then poor old Harold’s patent had expired as had his one in the USA but at least his invention went on.
Now you cannot talk about Foosball or Calcio Balilla as it is also called here without mentioning the great Italian film Il Postino and rather than just mention it let me show you the great clip from the movie.
Amazingly foosball has survived as a game still played in bars throughout the world despite all the computer games that are around now. The Italians are still great at playing it . We were in Phu Quoc in Vietnam in January this year and found a small bar and hostel run by a couple of lads from Sardinia. They had a foosball outside the bar on the pavement. It was very popular with tourists and locals alike. However a couple of times a night the two guys would either play each other or a couple of guests staying with them. It was amazing to watch. The high spot came when two other Italians turned up one night. They played best of 9 games and it was electrifying to see the skills they had. It was better than watching many of the Premier League or Serie A games you watch on the telly. Old Harold would have been really proud of them and how they have used his invention .
The game here is used in the recovery treatment for spinal injuries as so it is not surprising that the Italian National Paralympic squad in 2013 won the foosball world championships
When in the USA living in Cincinnati a few years ago I even bought a table to practise my lack of skills on but after being trounced regularly by my kids I decided to hang up my little wooden players and gave the table away.
Now I just play the Il Postino clip !!!