PHOTO: MICHAEL REGAN/ POOL VIA AP

The pandemonium began when Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma made a third penalty shootout save that broke a 53-year dry spell for Team Italy in the European Football Championships. 

“People were jumping on tables. People were screaming. I honestly jumped on the table,” says Maurizio Abdi, who had been watching the final game at the Calgary Italian Cultural Centre.

After a month of soccer, the gold medal game saw Italy beat England, winning the country’s second Euro Cup title, five decades after their win in 1968. Though thousands of kilometers away from the game itself, fans in Calgary took the final match — and ultimately the win — as an opportunity to come together and celebrate. 

With a big game at stake, fans flooded out to watch and celebrate together. Abdi estimates nearly 500 people were at the Italian club. He says spending that moment together was special. 

“To be able to watch them live, win the Euros was a big thing for me and it was an amazing experience to be able to do it with all my friends and family.”

Frank Greco, who was watching the final at SS106 Aperitivo Bar, also says the game was one he will never forget.

“Just to be able to be in an environment with that many people, that many Italians and that many fans,to witness something like that was absolutely insane,” says Greco.

Gabriel Marra was at the Calgary Italian Cultural Center when he and others erupted in joy and cheers at the winning save.

“We were jumping on the tables singing, chanting, everyone was going crazy. It was crazy,” says Marra. “People were throwing chairs, throwing beer, wine, everything. I was on the table with my flag. People were crying, a lot of people cried. It was very emotional,”

Abdi says some rushed to their cars for a drive-by parade of car honking and flag waving, while Greco watched as people started dancing in the streets. 

“We really got to show off our national pride,” says Greco. “Like we’re all proud to be Italian, we’re proud of this sport. We’re proud to show that even though we’re not not in Italy, the reaches of the Italian culture and the Italian pride hits every corner of the world and we were able to show off Calgary’s version of that.”

Abdi, who has been out watching the games since the beginning of the tournament, says the atmosphere watching the games has made him feel at home.

“It’s been like a very homey feeling, like back in Italy. Everybody came together these past couple weeks and month, it’s been amazing,” says Abdi.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the tournament a year, so Marra says how being able to watch soccer this past month felt like some normalcy has returned.

“It’s been a movie. It’s been a joy, it’s been a lot of fun,” says Marra.