Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Italian soccer

After last night's results and Italy's exit from the European Championships, the RTE panel had an interesting discussion on the problems facing Italy & other major European soccer powers. They talked about the increasing wealth of society and how that provided distractions other than soccer. They talked about the excessive focus on winning at the youth level and the effect that had on helping the smaller, talented players develop.

However, they left out one salient detail - population trends. I remember a few years ago I was in Italy on business and I got to talk to one Italian man who was so excited for me to be living in Ireland. "Ireland is so alive", he said. "Such life. Look at this place. Those beautiful buildings (we were in Florence), the fantastic works of art. Just beautiful. But, forget about that. You take a walk and see the schools, the playgrounds, the football pitches. They're all empty. There are virtually no children here now. Italy is dead. It's a museum."

I was thinking about that after last night's game. The panel were all agreed that Italy isn't producing the great players any longer. I couldn't help thinking that was probably because Italy's not producing enough children. These graphs show the current problem (I really wish they had a similar picture from 1970 or so). Note how the population bulge is moving through the late 30's to the early 40's by 2010. Look at the 2050 projections and see why Italy is doomed without some drastic changes. They will have nearly as many people in the 60+ age bracket as they will have in the 20-60 bracket.

UPDATE: Here's a similar population chart for Italy in 1950. Note how the number of children has halved in 50 years.