Italians Abroad: Daniele De Rossi

De Rossi Argentina
Photo: Roberto Colombo, Twitter

Daniele De Rossi left AS Roma for Boca Juniors, the Argentinian football club founded by Italians in 1905

I chose Boca Juniors because it is a great club that wants to win. I follow this team since I was a kid, my will to play football at a high level led me here.

One cannot talk about football without speaking from the heart. Daniele De Rossi, gladiator and long-standing captain of AS Roma — the club in which he spent his entire life as a fighting midfielder — decided to finish his career across the Atlantic, as thousands of Italians already did more than a century ago, trying to find their own luck in the new world. However, his final destination was not the U.S. and the glamorous Major League Soccer — which for years attracted many famed European footballers. In fact, he chose Buenos Aires and La Bombonera, the chocolate-shaped stadium which, more than any other place, reminds Daniele of the atmosphere of the Stadio Olimpico in Rome and the passion of his beloved fans. Daniele De Rossi, world champion in 2006 with the Italian national team and winner of two Coppa Italia and one Italian Supercup with the Giallorossi jersey, could not betray the team of his heart and the city where he spent his best years, often turning down the rich offers received by several Italian and European top clubs. Therefore, it was easy to choose Boca Juniors, one of the most successful teams of South America and of the world, for a footballer with a warm heart and Latin blood like him. He is now ready to become the new gladiator of La Bombonera, a role that seems to perfectly fit Daniele.

Xeneizes

Boca Juniors has been speaking Italian in ages. Not surprisingly, they provided a large number of players to the Italian Serie A and to AS Roma itself: amongst others, Claudio Caniggia, Walter Samuel, Nicolás Burdisso, Leandro Paredes and Gabriel Omar Batistuta, real star of the lastest Italian championship won by AS Roma, in 2001. The Club Atlético Boca Juniors was founded by Italians in 1905, more specifically by Genoese emigrants in Argentina during the large Italian migratory flow at the end of the 19th century. Indeed, the nickname of the club and of its fans is ‘Xeneizes’, which comes from the word in Genoese dialect ‘Zeneize‘, Genoese. Genoa has always been a city of sailors and merchants, and many ships full of Italian migrants left from its port to reach South America. Many of them settled there, exporting their innate passion for football: suffice it to say that the first Italian football club was Genoa CFC, founded in Genoa in 1893. Boca Juniors was thus born from the love of Italians for football, in one of the most quaint districts of Buenos Aires — La Boca — where harbor works and artistic creativity combined made this neighborhood and its people famous all over the world.

Italians in Argentina

Italy and Argentina are united by an indissoluble bond, a common thread that you can find both in the history books and in those of the registry office. It is estimated that about 60% of Argentinians — approximately 25 million of citizens — have some Italian blood, due to the mass immigration of Italians to this land, which, being inhabited by only one million people in 1850, needed more labor force. And who better than Italians, hardworking people, could contribute to its development?

Migration in Argentina first involved people from northern Italy, due to the widespread poverty in densely populated regions, and then extended to southern Italy. In Argentina, Italians found opportunities and spaces that in their homeland were denied, especially because of the significant social tensions and high taxation. Instead, the Argentinian governement gave them lands free of charge, and new frontiers were also explored as far as Ushuaia, the southernmost town in the planet, built and populated mostly by Italians immigrants. That’s why you can also see linguistic and gastronomic influences throughout the country, so true is it that, walking down La Boca, it is still possible to find tasty versions of the Ligurian focaccia and farinata.

We are sure that the ‘Roman gladiator’ Daniele De Rossi, cuddled by the passionate Boca Juniors fans, won’t be homesick. However, if he is, all he needs is to walk down the streets of Buenos Aires and breathe its romantic and Latin soul that made our Italian grandparents fall in love decades ago. It’s funny to think that the first Italian immigrants came to Argentina when the city of Rome was still under the Papal State, and now — in a strange twist of fate — the Pope is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, an Argentinian born in Buenos Aires from Italian parents. Todos somos tanos, after all.