Black Skin, Biaconero Soul

In by Aaron West

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I’ve been a Juventino since 1997. The story of how I came to fall in love with the Old Lady as a black kid from North Carolina is a bit unique compared to most tifosi. I have no Italian heritage, I’ve never been to Italy, never had a secret Italian pen pal from Turin with whom I exchanged Chicago Bulls jerseys for Juventus ones, and I’ve only ever seen my beloved Bianconeri play once in person.
But I’m Juventino to my core.
I grew up just outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, an area known for its basketball pedigree more than anything. I came up believing (a belief that that also hasn’t changed) my blood was Carolina Blue as it flowed through my veins, and that royal (Duke) blue in your wardrobe was akin to a pox on your house.
My parents are middle-class Master’s-degree holders, but had no knowledge of soccer until my Mom’s best friend (may she rest in eternal peace) introduced her to the sport when I was 3. I was too young to enroll in organized play at the time, but I tagged along to every practice my 6-year-old brother’s team would let me.
Being uneducated about the game, my parents did everything they could for us to get a proper footballing experience: from carting us to practice, to soccer camps and everything else a loving parent can do for their kid. However, as I grew up, I knew something was lacking. At around 9 or 10 years old, I began poring through Eurosport’s retail magazine for scrap of news I could find, and eventually came across a listing for FourFourTwo Magazine.
I had found my Holy Grail. Without widespread footballing coverage at that time, FourFourTwo became my repository for everything soccer, and I soaked in every bit of knowledge I could. I fell in love with Holland because of their plethora of Black players, their flashy orange uniforms, and the wonderful descriptions written in the always excellent magazine.
Being a fan of Holland, I naturally gravitated towards Ajax as my first ‘team’. ‘I followed their progress as best I could without cable television and regular access to the internet. In 1997, while watching a highlight tape of their 1995-96 year, I saw them lose to the magnificent blue-clad Juventus in the Champions League final. Having heard that my hero Edgar Davids had just moved to the Italian giants and with the firm decision that I should pick a team to ‘support’ and not just be a fan, my mind was made up: I would become a Juventus tifoso.
I pored through soccer magazines, finally buying a Juventus jersey as well as a Spain jersey because of a special deal, and resolved to find out as much as possible about my new team. With limited resources, I was far from an expert, but it didn’t matter. I played every season of Football Manager with Juventus, memorizing each player’s face, nationality, height and weight, determined to know as much as I could control about the team, even if I couldn’t watch them play.
Over the years, my support continued in this manner, even as more info became available through the internet. I was still unable to watch my team play other than highlight tapes, but I followed avidly through FourFourTwo, internet news and, of course, Football Manager.
My first real test of supporterhood came with the infamous Calciopoli scandal in 2006. With all my friends more than happy to toast Juventus’ fall from grace and call my beloved team ‘cheaters’, I was crestfallen. I had no idea of the details of Calciopoli, but in my heart of hearts I knew a team with no fewer 6 international captains in their first 11 HAD to have won their titles on the pitch.
Coverage of the team was incredibly difficult as I had no other supporters for help, and most US outlets made no reports on Serie B. However, I survived the year-long Serie A absence, even managing to keep up with every match throughout the season via translation websites and ingenuity (read: awesome Googling skills).
As technology progressed, I had access to more TV and internet coverage, and I fell even more in love with my Bianconeri to the point where I became sure if I cut myself my blood would be some sort of alien Carolina Blue, Black and White mixture that would send doctors running to their medical books.
Because of my unorthodox Juventus ‘upbringing’, my base of knowledge is often not as strong as most Juventini. Because of that, I rely heavily on friends I’ve made via Twitter for their (enviable) wealth of knowledge that stems from being raised from birth as Juventini, or by knowing the Italian language. Despite those shortcomings, I consider myself as much of a tifoso as anyone, and my love for the club grows stronger each year.

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About the Author

Aaron West