Were it not for the grey skies and threat of rain as they sip espressos and talk football outside La Piazza Caffè, Luciano Lambiase and his friends could be in Naples or Rome.
But the retired factory engineer, 66, and his boyhood friends Pasquale Spadaccino and Franco Bulzis, both 73, are discussing the upcoming Euro 2020 final in the southern English town of Bedford, home to one of the country’s largest Italian communities.
“It’s coming home to Rome,” Lambiase told AFP, predicting that his national team would beat England in the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship final at Wembley on Sunday.
“It’s always been a mystery to us what ‘It’s Coming Home’ means,” he added, referring to the popular anthem written by comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner that England fans sing at games.
“This is the first time they’ve played in a (Euro) final, and we’ve won four world cups,” he added.
Liberato “Libby” Lionetti, 55, who runs La Piazza in Bedford’s market square and whose customers include fans in England shirts, was more diplomatic in his predictions.
Hoping for a modest 1-0 win for Italy, he said that whatever happens, football was “definitely coming home to Bedford”.
Ahead of the game, the atmosphere in the town was “very tense, everybody’s excited”, Lionetti said.
Whatever the rivalries during the game, afterwards “everything will be all right”, he added.
The older men drinking coffee outside the cafe said they hoped the match would pass without incident.
But they acknowledged that a final between Italy and England brings back memories of the abuse they suffered as young men at international games in the 1960s and 70s.
Lambiase, Spadaccino and Bulzis arrived in Bedford as children in 1956 after their fathers left Italy’s southern Campania region to work in the town’s then-flourishing brick-making industry.
Now the 14,000-strong Italian community still runs grocery stores, cafés and restaurants in the town.
Following England’s defeat to Italy in Euro 2012, four people were arrested after England fans attacked a cavalcade of cars celebrating the Italian victory.
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