The National Sport of Italy is Soccer.
Soccer in Italy is deeply ingrained in the nation’s culture, bringing together diverse communities through their shared passion for the beautiful game.
To learn more about sports culture in Italy, read our article about the most popular sports in Italy.
Table of Contents
#1 History of Soccer
- 1880s: British expatriates introduce soccer to Italy, with the first clubs being founded in cities like Turin and Genoa.
- 1898: Formation of the Italian Football Federation (Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio or FIGC).
- 1929: Establishment of the first professional soccer league in Italy, named Serie A.
- 1934: Italy hosts and wins its first FIFA World Cup.
- 1938: Italy claims its second consecutive World Cup title in France.
- 1968: Italy wins its first UEFA European Championship.
- 1982: Italy secures its third FIFA World Cup triumph in Spain.
- 2006: Italy wins its fourth FIFA World Cup in Germany.
#2 Culture and Traditions
Soccer holds a special place in Italy’s cultural identity, with passionate fans known for their devotion and loyalty to their local teams. The sport transcends social and economic boundaries, bringing together diverse groups of people and uniting communities under a shared love for the game.
With each region boasting its own traditions and rivalries, derby matches between local teams are major events in Italy’s soccer calendar. One of the most notable examples is the Derby della Madonnina, featuring cross-city rivals AC Milan and Inter Milan. Serie A games are also often accompanied by vibrant displays of fan choreography and elaborate banners in the stands.
Aside from regional and city-based competitions, the Italian Super Cup (Supercoppa Italiana) and the Coppa Italia, Italy’s national cup tournament, provide additional platforms for clubs and fans to showcase their dedication to the sport.
#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment
📕 Rules & Gameplay
- Match Duration: A standard match consists of two halves, each lasting 45 minutes, with a 15-minute break in between.
- Objective: Each team tries to score by getting the ball into the opposing team’s goal.
- Players: Each team has 11 players, including one goalkeeper.
- Offside: A player is offside if they are nearer to the opponent’s goal than both the ball and the second last opponent when the ball is played to them.
- Fouls: Direct and indirect free-kicks and penalty kicks are awarded for infringements of the rules.
⚙️ Equipment & Gear
- Ball: Round and made of leather or another suitable material.
- Goalposts: Located at each end of the field, they are 7.32 meters wide and 2.44 meters tall.
- Kits: Teams wear distinguishing kits, with goalkeepers wearing different colors to stand out.
- Shin Guards: Protection for players from potential tackles or hits.
- Boots: Specialized shoes designed for the sport’s requirements.
#4 Modern Development of Soccer
The contemporary evolution of soccer in Italy is influenced by the global trends of the sport, where technology and tactical innovations play a pivotal role. The introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system in Serie A represents one such advancement, aiming to improve the accuracy of refereeing decisions and enhance overall game fairness.
Alongside these technological advancements, Italian soccer has developed a reputation for tactical sophistication, exemplified by the success of managers like Arrigo Sacchi and Antonio Conte, both at the national and club level. The “Catenaccio” defensive system, once a hallmark of Italian soccer, has paved the way for more fluid formations and attacking-minded tactics in recent decades.
Italy’s club soccer landscape has also seen major changes, with a shift in power dynamics among top clubs and foreign ownership becoming more prevalent. The increasing globalization of the sport has led to Serie A featuring a diverse array of international talents and attracting significant global viewership.
#5 Soccer and the Olympics
Soccer has been a staple of the Olympic Games since the early 20th century, with the first men’s competition taking place in 1908 and the women’s competition introduced in 1996. Italy has historically enjoyed success in Olympic soccer, winning the gold medal once in the men’s competition in 1936 and securing two bronze medals in 1928 and 2004.
Olympic soccer has provided a platform for promising Italian talents to gain international exposure, leading to fruitful professional careers. The Olympic Games also play a crucial role in maintaining soccer’s worldwide recognition, adding to Italy’s rich sporting pedigree on the international stage.
#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements
- Gianluigi Buffon: Considered one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, Buffon has had a storied career with Juventus and the Italian national team, including winning the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
- Franco Baresi: A legendary defender and AC Milan captain, Baresi inspired his team to numerous domestic and European triumphs during his tenure and represented Italy in three World Cups.
- Roberto Baggio: Known as ‘The Divine Ponytail’, Baggio was a prolific goalscorer and playmaker, representing Italy in three World Cups and winning the Ballon d’Or in 1993.
- Paolo Maldini: Often regarded as one of the best defenders in football history, Maldini spent his entire career with AC Milan, winning numerous domestic and international titles, and represented Italy in four World Cups.
- Alessandro Del Piero: A gifted forward known for his skill, vision, and scoring ability, Del Piero enjoyed a successful career with Juventus and played a key role in Italy’s 2006 World Cup victory.
#7 Where to watch Soccer
- Television and streaming: Serie A matches are broadcast on Sky Sport and DAZN, with some Coppa Italia and UEFA Champions League games airing on Mediaset and RAI Sport. Live streams are often available through the broadcasters’ websites or apps.
- Live in Italy: Iconic stadiums such as San Siro (Milan), Stadio Olimpico (Rome), and Allianz Stadium (Turin) offer unforgettable matchday experiences for fans looking to catch top-level Italian soccer.