What is your name and home field location?
Massimo Musumeci, head coach of Team Italy. We practice at Houston Playground.
What is your connection to Italy?
I am a citizen. I was born in Rome and raised in Rome. It’s been a long time since I moved, in the late 1970s. I do go back [to Italy] a lot.
What made you interested in participating in the Unity Cup?
I’ve played and coached soccer my whole life, both in Italy as well as here. As soon as I heard the mayor’s great idea, I jumped on it.
As a returning team, what was your favorite moment from last year’s tournament?
I liked the whole thing. We were eliminated a little too soon. I actually liked the day of the final. I thought it was a great atmosphere.
How did your team come together?
Through pain, blood, and tears. People I knew, people from a local association, taking advantage of the fact that Italian immigration to Philadelphia has had a resurgence. We’ve had a lot of young people, 20s and 30s, starting over and coming to the city. Had it been 15 to 20 years ago, it would have been much more difficult because we would have had a much older team.
15 of our 25 players have to be of all Italian heritage. Tryouts are the traditional way. Tryouts in one way, but also some people that I know I want from the CASA league as well. Foreign players as well as Italians.
Can you tell us a bit about the rest of your team?
We have, for example, one of the players, his name is Roberto, he is a young man, he’s 32 years old, he works in the Italian consulate, he does the visas. Wonderful young man, he’s certainly someone we are happy to get back. Our captain from last year, his name is Claudio. I’ve been a friend of his father for a long time. Luca, who is from Rome, he is 30 years old. He is also coming back. Danilo, he’s somewhat incredible. He’s also from Rome, he’s 50 and he’s still playing.
What does soccer mean to your community?
Soccer is by far the most popular sport in the world and the most popular sport in Italy. It’s the one sport that has a team element that unites the community. The Italian community is traditionally very scattered. Some are more attached to their hometown and region more than to their country. Soccer unites them.
Why is soccer important to you personally?
That’s very easy. It’s been a part of my life since I was six years old in Rome. I have also coached in the US on a part-time basis in some high schools because I was never able to stay away from it. Now that I am 53, I can’t play, so it’s just been a hobby, but more than that. My city, my life, what I breathe.
How has soccer made your life better?
That’s a wonderful question. Trying to give you a short answer; the answer is long. The short answer is that I think it made me a person who is able to feel a sense of belonging towards a goal, towards people, towards obviously my city, this country, my own country. Soccer is wonderful to prove your sense of belonging. It becomes like a representative of the place, of the city you represent. That’s another reason why I thought Mayor Kenney’s idea was phenomenal. He saw it immediately as a unifier of the world.
Why do you think soccer is so popular around the world?
Another million dollar question. The sense of belonging. It also gives people a sense of accomplishment. It transports people into something beautiful and unfortunately, something not beautiful because it takes people into extremes because it inspires passion. No sport around the world inspires as much passion. Soccer is soccer, that’s it.
How do you think soccer in general (and the Unity Cup in particular) promotes inclusivity?
Because nothing unifies like soccer. It puts people together. You get to meet an incredible number of people because you are unified by something that everyone agrees on. You get to meet people that way and it doesn’t matter the way it should be, the nationality, ethnic group, everyone is a friend. All cultures have something to teach.
What places (such as restaurants or cultural centers) or groups in Philadelphia would you recommend to someone if they wanted to learn more about Italian culture?
I am the president of the Roma Club of Philadelphia, the soccer team. Our headquarters are at 17th and Chestnut, which is an extremely authentic place. Actually, it was built in Italy and put here. When you’re in there, you’re in Italy.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about Italy?
Italy is so well-known on so many levels. We have been in a transition stage in the sense that now in Philadelphia, we really have the Italian culture and the Italian-American culture, which of course is just as important. But it’s somewhat different now because of the time that has passed. I think it’s great for people to see the attachment that our second or third generation have to their country, and the newer immigrants in 2017.