“And it certainly did seem a little provoking (‘almost as if it happened on purpose,’ she thought) that, though she managed to pick plenty of beautiful rushes as the boat glided by, there was always a more lovely one that she couldn’t reach,” wrote Lewis Carroll in the famous children’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
“The prettiest are always further!” she said at last, with a sigh at the obstinacy of the rushes in growing so far off.”
Just like in so many famous literary works, there is a hidden meaning in those words, and this is the reason why so many English football fans travel to watch matches abroad, eager to witness atmosphere and colour rarely seen on home soil. Aside from those who follow the biggest European sides, receiving supporters are often surprised to see their foreign visitors, their puzzlement clearly a result of the glamourous reputation of the English Premier League.
They are as surprised to see us as we would be to see them, our perceptions of each other’s football embodied in the “grass is always greener” quotation above. A superb, if not unexpected example of such adoration of the English game is represented by Italian fan Andrea Pettinello, founder of a site named “Il Calcio Inglese”.
Here, he has built a network of similar-minded people, a place where those fanatical about English football can share such enthusiasm.
“My first contact with English football was in 2005 when my cousin brought me to Upton Park to watch West Ham,” Andrea told Tifo Football in an exclusive interview. “From that moment, my life changed completely. Football has always been a way of life for me and not just a sport.
“At the age of 18, doctors told me I wouldn’t play again due to a genetic problem that caused me coagulation problems, and it was then a world made of dreams fell away.
“So at one point, I had an idea: if I can’t play football, why not start to write about it? That was the crucial moment that motivated me to open a web community to see how many other people loved English football in particular like me. For the first 3 years was no more than a hobby. All I needed to do was upload a few photos and videos. That’s it.
“Then, suddenly, thousands of people start to follow me and read my articles. Now I have 190k followers (if you combine Instagram, Facebook and Twitter together), as well as a brand new website. Every month I travel to England to report live on my matchday experiences and I give my followers advice on how to enjoy their own future football experiences in England in the best way possible.
— Il Calcio Inglese (@BritishFootball) July 8, 2018
“What makes me happiest is the fact that after years of hard work, a lot of people have started to see me as an inspiration thanks to what I have achieved. I’ve never received help from anyone and to be at this point and to show more than 100k people every day what has now become a job, makes me infinitely proud.”
Just like any great achievement, Andrea’s success in such an interesting venture has not come along without a tremendous amount of graft and self-sacrifice, however he refused to give up.
“I have been through some really hard times, I have suffered from bad anxiety and depression, but more than anything else football has always helped me to be strong. To be honest sometimes I still don’t realise that hundreds of teenagers started to follow and talk with their friends about English football thanks to me my hard work and determination to get better and better in the last few years.
“The future is now brighter than ever: I have a few plans and one of my aims is to make a series of docufilms about all the things people simply can’t read on the internet. Any focal point, any untold story, any particular fact about the beautiful game will be on a video in a few months.
“Also, I have new ideas everyday to how make my community a better place for everyone. Is not only a Facebook page or a Instagram profile, is more than that: a big family where everyone who loves to talk about football is welcome.”
A look at Andrea’s work is a useful exercise indeed in learning to appreciate what is uniquely special about football in England, a way of understanding that – while watching football abroad has many different merits – there are aspects of our own game that are highly coveted on foreign soil.
England may have been dreaming about football “coming home” this summer, but through Il Calcio Inglese, Andrea has taken a large chunk of it over to Italy.