Today in Israel, it’s a Sunday almost like any other: everyone returns to work and soldiers head back to their bases after a weekend of leave for those special lucky ones. Well, this Sunday is different for one reason: like most of the world tonight, Israelis will watch Spain take on Italy in the Euro 2012 soccer championships. Whether at home or in bars, restaurants or beaches, everyone will be glued to their televisions for 90 minutes of action.
Italian Expatriate Embarks for the IDF (Zahal)
We caught up with one IDF (Zahal) football (soccer) enthusiast, Reuben, an avid soccer fanatic and a recent recruit in the IDF (Zahal). Reuben who is originally from Italy, first began in the IDF (Zahal) last summer and is now serving in the elite paratroopers unit. Based in the Negev desert, Reuben plans on watching the finals and supporting his team with his fellow soldiers many miles from Italy.
Have you been able to follow the Euro 2012 matches up to now?
“I was on base for the Italy vs. England match, but on each base, there is a club room and a small grocery store — that’s where I watched the game. But I must admit that I missed a lot of games, due to guard duty.”
Where would you watch the game if you were in Italy tonight?
“I was born in Rome and there is no better place to watch the team play in Italy. On match nights, the atmosphere is unbelievable in town. Life has temporarily stopped and the streets are deserted. All Italians are tethered to their television screens.”
So, is it strange to watch your team from an army base in the Negev?
“When I watch football, I feel like a true Italian and it is times like these that I really miss Italy.”
And tonight, where will you watch the final?
“There will be a television on base and I will watch the game with some friends. I have not yet spoken to my commanders, so there could be training tonight, or guard duty that I don’t know about. If so, I will miss the match. If something were to happen, I know my place is on the base. A few weeks ago, during the rocket fire escalation from Gaza, we stayed at the base instead of going on leave. Whenever there is a problem, we could immediately be dispatched to the area. That’s what I’m here for.”
So, Reuben, who will win tonight?
“Italy, of course! I would love to see the celebration of the Romans tonight if Italy wins. You can’t imagine the atmosphere there will be in the streets! The last time we won a cup, I think it was the World Cup in 2006 against France. I still remember the party that followed in the streets of Rome.”