The Italian National Team’s recently released home blue jersey is an artistic masterpiece that would bring a tear to Michelangelo’s eye. The latest trio of kits that will be adorned by the Azzurri are designed to honor the Italian Renaissance era and the storied artisanal history of the nation players represent during international competition. The home blue and away white are joined by a third green ‘Renaissance’ kit, all three adorned with opaque floral and geometric patterns which evoke a regal and majestic feel. An elegance only suitable for a true blueblood of the sport: the Italians have played in six World Cup finals, winning four, and played in three UEFA European Championship finals, winning one.
Observing the beauty of the new Italian shirts allows a visual medium to tell the tales of a past filled with glorious victories, gut-wrenching defeats, and the pride of a nation’s greatest passion. Yet among the vibrant colors and intricate designs, something appears to be absent. Perhaps a stroke or two of black on the away white?
Azzurri in Black and White - A History
The history of the Italian National Team is intrinsically intertwined with that of the Juventus football club. Juventus is the only club to have contributed players to every Italy National Team since the second edition of the FIFA World Cup in 1934. The club has been a catalyst in every major milestone of the international squad’s illustrious chronicles. Bianconeri have accounted for 144 players, 2,418 matches played, 56 goal scorers, 277 goals, and 26 Azzurri captains with 312 matches captained. The record books overflow with black and white ink recognizing the Italian Greats that have worn the stripes.
A quick inspection of the Italy National Team records and statistics is akin to opening a Juventus FC yearbook. Juventus fans are awash in club pride as a majority of the record holders names read off are familiar to Bianconeri faithful. Seven of the top ten Azzurri goalscorers (Meazza, Piola, Baggio, Del Piero, Inzaghi, Altobelli, and Vieri) wore the Juventus shirt during their career. Seven Juventus players (including current players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, former players Fabio Cannavaro, Andrea Pirlo, Dino Zoff, and Gianluca Zambrotta) sit in the top ten of most international caps by Italian National Team representative and at the very top, (with a 40(!!!) cap lead over second place) perched on his throne, is the greatest goalkeeper of all time, Gianluigi Buffon. To even begin to explain each and every record that Gianluigi Buffon holds by himself would easily double the length of this article. To keep it simple: he holds almost every record possible for an Azzurri goalkeeper. Buffon and other Juventus stars are well honored in the annals of Italian football history.
The Azzurri remain one of the most successful national teams since the inception of the FIFA World Cup and hoisting the trophy at the end of the tournament is the goal every young footballer aspires to achieve. If you have been reading this far it will be unsurprising that, additionally, Juventus is the club with the most players to successfully compete in World Cup finals (21) and bring the trophy home to Italia. The 1934 FIFA World Cup winning Italian squad was aptly nicknamed the Nazio-Juve for the heavily Juventus-laden group to win the sports greatest prize. Additionally in 1982, the Blocco-Juve squad (or Juve Block) was another endearingly nicknamed group of Juventus entrenched Italian players to bring home the country’’s third World Cup. The group included the names of Juventus greats like Gaetano Scirea, Dino Zoff, Paolo Rossi, among others. And most recently, the 2006 FIFA World Cup was another squad littered with Juventus greats and future greats.. more on that team shortly.
To recap: Juventus is the Azzurro Club to give the most players, scorers, captains, and has players that have played the most games, scored the most goals, and captained the most games for the Azzurri in the club’s storied history. The Italy National team and the Juventus football club are synonymous and symbiotic.
An Italian-American Perspective
You can take the man out of Italy, but you can’t take the Italian out of the man. Being ‘Italian’ is not something an individual discards upon departing the country. Italian is a lifestyle. It is the way you greet and show affection to your family and community. It’s the reverence you give you those that came before you and their accomplishments. It’s the life lessons you are given from nonno and the love you receive from nonna (typically of the edible variety). It’s the homes and businesses in New York City and across the country that still fly the Tricolore out of their windows. Being Italian is a pride every Torinese, Roman, Florentine, Milanese, Venetian, Neapolitan, Sicilian, and Calabrian has felt.