In his guide to the 2010 World Cup, author Steven Sark
theorizes that every Italian team is "a cross between Machiavelli and Michelangelo" because they play the game with incredible skill but are also willing do whatever it takes to win.
That's a nice way of saying they're good at soccer but they're dirty cheaters. With their flopping and diving antics, the Italians play a style that gives soccer a bad name in the United States. And, as the infamous Zidane
headbutt in the last World Cup proved, no one talks trash like the Azzurri.
Since they win often, the Italians are one of the most popular teams in the world. That also makes them one of the most loathed. Fortunately, the folks at Fritanga were either rooting for their Spanish-speaking compatriots from Paraguay or completely clueless about soccer altogether.
Asked if there are any rivalries or feuds between his native Nicaragua and Paraguay, which is landlocked between Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina, Fritanga owner Orlando Hidalgo
replied simply, "No, no creo" -- I don't think so.
After lunch hour on a Tuesday, the place was empty. The games were on Univision in the restaurant's recently renovated bar area. Sipping Estrella Galicia beer, munching on tostones
(green plantains, mashed and fried) and listening to the Spanish-speaking announcers talk about how the Italians "juegan sucio" -- play dirty -- was the perfect environment for any fan with an anti-Italy bias.
As if on cue, Italy's Daniele De Rossi
went down in the 10th minute of the match just outside the penalty box like he got hit by sniper fire. Replays showed that the nearest Paraguyan player was about three yards away. The midfielder clutched his leg and grimaced in pain, probably earning himself a nomination for best supporting actor in this year's Oscar's.
Eventually two middle-aged black guys walked into the restaurant a few minute apart from each other. One introduced himself as Robert and ordered his food to go and a Nicaraguan rum on the rocks to drink in the bar. The other, whose name turned out to be Phil, planned to eat in the restaurant.
Robert knew absolutely nothing about the rules of the game -- how long the halves are (45 minutes), how many players are on the field (eleven on each side), what happens if the final score is a tie (it's a tie) etc. Phil knew a little bit and was happy to explain.
The result was this awesome exchange about vuvuzelas
Robert: "What's that buzzing noise?"
Phil: "They keep blowin' on them horns they got. You'd think they'd get tired but this only happens once every four years so I guess they got to let it all hang out."
Paraguay took the lead on a corner kick in the 39th minute but Italy came back in the second on a picture-perfect header from De Rossi, the requisite Michelangelo to his Machiavelli flop early-on.
Toward the end of the game, the chef (a Honduran who's making the owner open the bar at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday for the Honduras-Chile match ) came out of the kitchen and started watching while she ate her lunch. The cheers kept coming for Paraguay so she asked Chris, the Nicaraguan server/bartender what was up.
He answered that it was an "intercontinental friendship" between the Americas.
To which a certain someone in the bar replied, "No, es que a mi no me gusta el equipo Italiano" or, "No, it's just that I don't like the Italian team."Wanna know where to watch the World Cup in St. Louis? Click here for the 22 best spots.