Digging in the Crates: World in Motion & Italia 90

Italia 90. What a time to be alive. Roberto Baggio. Gazza. Maradona. Roger Milla. And the best football song of all time – yes INCLUDING that rap. 

This World Cup boasts the youngest England Squad in forever, and apparently very promising too. The kids in my family are excited, and I want England to do well for them. For me, nothing will capture the excitement of Italia 90.

I remember that summer very fondly. My last at junior school. We went on a school trip to the Isle of Wight where we stayed in a guest house. By day we’d visit Osborne House, the beach, and an ostrich farm which was aborted when we discovered soon after arrival that a lot of the ostriches had been killed. The girls cried. The boys took photos on their mums cameras until the teachers stopped them. I wrote about it on my postcard home, my big childlike writing making it the only news I sent.

The guesthouse landlady made us packed lunches every day but most of us hated tuna mayo, or some pretended to hate it to fit in. We’d scrape it into our empty crisp packets and eat the bread so that at least we weren’t famished. These days I love tuna mayo, and there’s hardly a butty goes by where I don’t think about scraping into an empty packet of Salt n Shake with the smugness of a child whose just won being a kid.

Of an evening we’d have tea back at the guesthouse then gather round the landlady’s colour telly to watch the match. The girls plaited each other’s hair. The boys cheered and shouted and cried. 

We all supported England, of course. But also Ireland and Italy too, because we were on a Catholic school trip and it didn’t matter or we just didn’t know we all came from immigrants one way or another because immigrant wasn’t a dirty word in 1990.

My sister, home from uni in Italy, gave me my most prized possession of that summer: an Italia 90 t shirt which I wore with pride with my cycling shorts and bumbag. She made me a tape before I went on the school trip with the New Order song on and lent me her yellow Sony Walkman. It was better than mine: it had fast forward AND rewind.

Having grown up in the bedroom next to my brother’s, I was already familiar with New Order; bookended by this point with Joy Division and Electronic. But that was all on vinyl; that never left the bedroom. ‘World in Motion’ was New Order on tour: on the radio in everyone’s cars, on Saturday morning TV, on Walkmans, in the Isle of Wight.

The landlady let us play the cassette and we all sang along. Then our teachers would play Nessun Dorma and laugh about how it was apt for a school trip and how the girls were still wide awake way past 10 o’clock last night. The girls would say it made the hair on their necks stand on end and the boys would impersonate Luciano Pavarotti.

Weeks later we’d all see each other for the last time. Kids went to different schools: convents, the boys school, grammar schools, comprehensives, independent school, boarding schools, back to Dublin, on to the next pub with their parents, to another borough, to another parent’s custody.

“If something’s good it’s never gone” ~ World Cup ‘90

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