“VIVA RANIERI!” Italian academics and football-related identities

Posted by ap507 at Apr 01, 2016 03:05 PM |
Dr Massimo Giovanardi discusses the ‘Ranieri-effect’ and how it is being embraced by Italian academics in the East Midlands

Think: Leicester does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Leicester - it expresses the independent views and opinions of the academic who has authored the piece. If you do not agree with the opinions expressed, and you are a doctoral student/academic at the University of Leicester, you may write a counter opinion for Think: Leicester and send to ap507@le.ac.uk

“Claudio Ranieri is from my city: Rome. With his team ruling the Premiere League, I am now feeling viscerally connected to Leicester. The unexpected team’s fortune is fostering positive team spirit between PhD students and faculty members, and even my research is going better”.

This is one of most heartfelt accounts that I have collected from my academic compatriots based in Leicester, in the attempt to understand how the Ranieri-effect and the Leicester-mania are impacting our identity as Italian expats in the East Midlands.

I realised that I couldn’t procrastinate in this task further when a friend of mine’s husband asked me to find and buy the blue jersey of Vardy. Of course, this would have been even more striking if my mum had asked me. But she is at least following the team in the news, finally relying on an effective device to brush up on the city’s name pronunciation and explain to her friends where her son is living.

We might argue that the surprising performance of Leicester City is influencing not only the city’s image in Italy, but also the civic pride of Italian scholars working in Leicester. Ranieri and his football represent pieces of Italian culture that are becoming an additional resource for Italians to live the place and engage with locals. Some of my compatriots have ritually started watching the games in typical English settings, such as the pub, while others instead prefer to invite English colleagues to take part in typical pizza-filled home gatherings, where only Italian newsreaders and anchors are displayed on TV.

Other Italian academics seems slightly less prone to celebration. As one of them notes, “It’s a pity that Leicester is becoming popular more for football rather than for other local assets, such as cultural heritage”. It is hard for an Italian researcher interested in place marketing and branding not to compare Claudio Ranieri with Richard III. We should avoid dichotomies here. Both the discovery of Richard III’s mortal remains and the astonishing performances of Ranieri’s team can be necessary ingredients to put the city on the map and eventually boost civic pride.

It’s not that Italian academics were in need of specific social integration policies. Probably, the role of cricket as a catalyst for social integration of South Asians in the UK would have been a more interesting story in this respect. However, the enthusiasm of the Italian community, its renewed emotional attachment to the place and the increasing recognition of Leicester among friends and relatives in the home country constitute convincing illustrations of what we might terms football-related identities.

Dr Massimo Giovanardi is lecturer in marketing at the University of Leicester’s School of Management

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