International friendlies are often scoffed at as a waste, or lacking in importance. Our understanding of football and perceived significance of a match is often tantamount to what can be gained and lost on the pitch. Although this is certainly true in most cases, occasionally friendly fixtures emerge that get at heart of the sport. Portugal against Italy was one of those games.
Geneva is made up of 4% Italians, that 7% Portuguese migrants. The restaurants, bars, and cafes are often managed by members of these communities, who make up the lifeblood of football culture in the city.
As fans arrived at the Stade de Genève, families bearing the kits of either side walked into the ground. Mothers and daughters in red, fathers and sons in blue, for many, this was a chance to reconnect with their origins. Although some were disappointed that Cristiano Ronaldo would not be playing, the match turned out in favour of a Portuguese team that had not defeated Italy since 1984.
As fans from both teams nabbed at the opportunity to run onto the field, it did not have the air of a typical pitch invasion, in which one set of fans run on to celebrate a result. They all spilled onto the hallowed turf for the opportunity to get closer to something that makes them feel a sense of belonging. Perhaps the last line of this film best sums up this emotion: “Only in football”