Kettering's Italian community gearing up for England showdown

They're hoping football will be going to Rome, not coming home

By Sam Wildman
Saturday, 10th July 2021, 7:30 am
Vince Geranio outside his barber shop and, inset, Bella Sicilia and Giorgio's.
Vince Geranio outside his barber shop and, inset, Bella Sicilia and Giorgio's.

Come 8pm tomorrow (Sunday) most of Northamptonshire will be glued to a screen, hoping to see the Three Lions win their first major tournament since 1966.

But in Kettering there's a few hundreds Italians who hope football isn't coming home - and are backing the Euro 2020 title to go to Rome instead.

Data from the 2011 census - with March's 2021 census data yet to be released - showed 390 Kettering residents were born in Italy.

One of those is Arturo Sabato, owner of restaurant Bella Sicilia in Montagu Street.

The Sicilian moved to England 37 years ago and has made his life here, but is backing the Azzurri to lift the trophy tomorrow night.

He said: "I think Italy are going to win and I just wish it doesn't go to penalties.

"I'll be working from 1pm to 9pm so hopefully I can grab a quick check on the TV in the first half and then catch the second half.

"England has given a lot to me, but I'm a full-blooded Sicilian."

Many others in the town have spent their whole life living in England but are of Italian descent - and there's no question over who they are supporting tomorrow.

They include legendary barber Vince Geranio, owner of Vince's Barbers in Hawthorn Road, who spends his Saturdays on the terraces watching the Poppies.

He was at Wembley with his family for Tuesday's epic semi-final win over Spain and said there was a "carnival atmosphere" in the stands.

And while he thinks tomorrow's final is too close to call he'll be hoping it's Roberto Mancini's men who come out on top.

He said: "It's the game I never wanted, being born and bred in Kettering and with my Italian roots!

"But come Sunday I am 100 per cent supporting Italy - I have always been an Italy football supporter.

"It's going to be a cracking game. We've all had a drab 16 months or so because of Covid and it's been great to see the community come alive in the Euros."

One of his members of staff, Leah De Retana, is part-Spanish part-English.

After watching Gareth Southgate's side beat Denmark in the semi-final, and have seen Spain crash out, she hopes England win their first Euro title.

But she joked: "If Italy win I will definitely have an easier time at work."

Across town in Rockingham Road is Italian cafe and deli Giorgio's.

It has a mixture of English and Italian staff and owner Giorgio Provenzano was born in Britain to Italian parents.

He supports England when it comes to cricket - but with football it's a different story.

He said: "If it's football it's always Italy for me.

"We're working and open as a takeaway until 9pm but we'll get the second half on - I think we'll win it."

The final kicks off at 8pm and will be live on TV on the BBC and ITV.