This Is What We Are immerses you heart and mind in a first-hand experience of the world of rugby and even football. Our reviewers think it’s an exceptional book and we, of course, agree. In fact, you can read the rave reviews here. But we don’t want you to buy it blind. So here are some excerpts for you to dip into the experience and make your mind up for yourself. Be warned though! Read on and you’ll want to read more....

Now live it all!

Welcome to our world!

Union with Rugby Noceto

After eighty years, three national championships, three Italian Cups, an Italian Super Cup and fifty matches in Europe, it’s come to an end. Or rather, ‘a new beginning’. We can forge into the future with a new team, new name, new shirt and new badge. It’s time to leave old rivalries aside, for the greater good. The recession, the ‘need for reconstruction’, the sponsors’ exodus with the new Magners League selections, have consigned us to history. But a bright new era for Italian rugby is dawning.

It’s a thrust to the heart. We’re bleeding yellow and blue.

Follow the story....

Market this!

So, you marketing people, downsizers, upsizers and cost-benefit analysts, who sell our banter in the stands and lay rock music behind slowed-down or speeded-up TV highlights, with your talk of entertainment, captive audiences, ‘enhanced match-day experiences’ and the values of our sport ... you know how to sell it but do you really know what it is? You know what works, but do you understand why? You talk about it with authority but can you touch or feel it? Are you really part of it? Do you think you know us? Do you think you’re one of us?

‘Our team’

Because ‘our team’ were the players on the pitch, who changed gradually over time as any community changes. It was our name, our shirt, our standing in Italy and abroad, our people in our stands. All these things we recognised as ours. They fostered a sense of belonging in us, a sense of solidarity and common endeavour, of shared involvement, of identity. And because they’ve all changed so quickly, they don’t feel like ours any more and our sense of belonging’s fragmented. The glue that held us together has come unstuck.

Live the experience....

The flight

It’s the take-off that’s the most exciting part: the release of the week’s tensions after that sudden rush of blood as the players take the field and the teams line up in front of you.

Sometimes the flight is smooth and fast and you wish it would last longer. More often, there’s turbulence, and the palms of your hands are moist and you want it to end. But end safely. You vow that if all goes well, you’ll no longer worry about those little things, for your priorities have been readjusted. And you promise that if you get down safely, you will be good.

Why do we love them?

The love for our team spans age, language, culture, social position and job description.

And what do we love them for? We love them for the spaces between what they are and what they want to be, which are the spaces between what we are and what we want to be. Because they are trying to carry our flag up that great steep hill and plant it at the top. Because when they cross the line they’ve crossed all our lines for all of us. And when they fail to cross the line, we love them for their struggle.

The puppeteers

The gods of rugby pull on our strings as if we are marionettes, with a limited but well-synchronised repertoire. There’s the move where we all jump up with our arms in the air. And there’s another where we slump in our seats, with our heads in our hands. A difficult one to pull off must be the clenched fists to mouths, and the false-start half-leap in the air can’t be easy. And they sometimes have a laugh too—when some of them pull all their strings together, as hard as they can, while others let theirs go.

Future perfect

We don’t live for the present when we watch them. We live for the past we hope it will become. We don’t want to be winning—we want to have won. Our team is what they’ve achieved in the past. Twenty years ago, or twenty seconds after the final whistle’s gone. It’s not like special moments with the one you love, or breathing in Nature on a mountain hike, when you wish it could last forever. We want it to end, if we’re winning. Because our team is what it’s done. And what it will have done, when the future becomes the past.

Their thoughts on other teams....


Betta and I still have the Barbarians—now our favourite form of transport. When they appear before us we’re pitchforked into a past—real or imagined—where sport was pure abandon, where swashbuckling heroes, unfettered by fear of failure, stirred up a maelstrom of boundary-pushing skills on the field, for pure love of the game.

And they still play like that today. Their wild insouciance gives us a liberating dose of the are-they-really-trying-to-do-that heebie jeebies, but makes us feel good and sets us free. Because they really are trying to do that and ‘that’ is the whole point of the Barbarians.

And other sports....

The football tribe

They’re our cousins. But theirs is a more desperate hunger. We navigate a sea of emotions. But they ride a storm of feeling so intense, they break into another world—of manic bliss, and spiteful glee, and anger. Where we would be elated, they burn in fires of ecstasy. Where we are disappointed, they feel deep despair. We’re buffeted by feelings. They surrender to the beast. For us, it’s just a way of life; for them a measure of their existence. We marvel at their fever, from the safety of our confines. For we could never cross that great divide.

Meet the supporters....


In May 1972, at home in Bologna, he watched a Scottish football team in blue shirts play a match on television and his future unfolded, unravelled, reshaped. He saw a light and walked towards it and he never looked back. He travelled to Ibrox Stadium several years later, the first of many pilgrimages in a life that would revolve around the Rangers fixture list.

They’ve brought him his closest friends and many of his greatest joys and sorrows. And his words of gentle, understated passion shroud us in blue and make us feel as if we too are Rangers fans.

One world

A mutual friend told him to look Roberto up if he was going to Bologna, because “he’s a great Rangers supporter too”. The friend went to see him thinking he’d simply meet “some Italian who says he likes Rangers and watches them on TV from time to time”. He discovered that Roberto knew the name of nearly every player who’d ever worn the blue shirt they both adored, knew the result of every match in the last forty years and flew out to Ibrox four or five times a season.

When he got back to Glasgow he told his father about Roberto. And his father cried.

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