The National:

CAMPIONI d’Europa! If you’ve ever been to Italy during a World Cup or Euro championship you’ll know how much it means to us Italians.

Even for people like me who barely watch the game – the Azzurri ignite a real fire and a sense of belonging. They’re our team and we show it – our balconies draped with the tricolore, cars tooting in the streets, children and grandparents alike gathering round the kitchen table as emotions run high.

Last night was no different – except I was in Glasgow – and my fellow Scots were just as tense as the 60 million Italians watching the game in Italy and at Wembley stadium.

Much has been said about Scotland supporting “anyone but England” but here’s the deal – football rivalries exist the world over. Take Italy and France for instance, who are often in competition with each other and fierce football rivals – nobody in Rome expected the French to be waving Italian flags last night (though some clearly did).

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So why should Scotland be any different? Why do commentators and media south of the border crave Scotland’s validation – especially after insulting Scotland’s national team with headlines like “och aye the who”?

If you seek the support of other nations surely you need to earn it?

I was delighted that thousands, if not millions, of Scots supported Italy, as did much of Europe. And why wouldn’t they?

Italy were humble. Their fans both witty and respectful. And they were brilliant to watch – thanks to the magic of Roberto Mancini (below) who came to this tournament not with a team of superstars like in 2006 but with a group of talented young men. He led them with skill and with his feet on the ground.

The National: Roberto Mancini

But more than Scots supporting Italy, Scotland has a proud Scottish-Italian community which rallied behind their team – restaurant and café owners, students and lectures, people in all sectors of Scottish society. Some, like me, first generation, others second or third generation who didn’t need to Italianise their names on Facebook or Twitter.

We took to the streets and celebrated Italian style with our flags and our renditions of Nessun Dorma. My video of Glasgow marking Italy’s victory made the Italian press – with one commentator stating: “The Scots seem even happier than us!”

In many ways this felt more than just a football game. It was no coincidence that the President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen tweeted a picture of an Italy strip with her name on it before the game – an incredibly wise move for her domestic audience. This was the first major football tournament after many years of Brexit negotiations – and it felt like Italy was representing an entire continent.

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I congratulate Gareth Southgate and his team for reaching the final and I wholeheartedly condemn the racism that England’s players have endured. People like Marcus Rashford are fantastic role models that should be celebrated. Unfortunately, they, and many others, are victims of a hostile environment created and pursued by this UK Government.

Football came to Rome last night, and I’m glad it did. This is a nation still aching from those dark and heartbreaking early days of Covid-19. It’s a win for a great resilient country that has come together to celebrate once again. And grazie, Roberto, for transforming the Azzurri into an energetic, forward-looking team so hungry for success.

The sky is blue over Wembley Stadium.