'Anyone but Sweden' campaign rallies Little Italy against its World Cup enemy

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'Anyone but Sweden' campaign rallies Little Italy against its World Cup enemy

'Anyone but Sweden' campaign rallies Little Italy against its World Cup enemy

Italians care about three things: soccer, cars and food, says restaurateur Nick DePalma, so when Italy lost its shot at World Cup glory in a qualifying match, it was personal.

DePalma is part of a campaign by Little Italy's business association inviting everyone to the neighbourhood to party for World Cup, even though Italy is not playing. 

It's called "Anyone but Sweden."

The French video, posted to YouTube, shows several locals reliving the pain of seeing Italy lose its shot at being in the World Cup, and then turning on the team that beat them.

For the first time in more than 50 years, the Azzurri aren't taking part in the tournament, after the Swedes beat them 1-0 on aggregate during qualifying matches last November.

DePalma owns Inferno restaurant at the corner of St-Dominique and Dante streets and said the ad had to make an impact.

So, the focus became a shared resentment for Sweden.

"Hopefully they don't win a game," DePalma said.

Sweden's first game is Monday, but the neighbourhood is showing all the World Cup matches in its restaurants and cafés. 

The saddest day

The match between the Italy and Sweden was months ago, but the wound is still fresh in the neighbourhood.

"Anger, sadness, it was one of the saddest days," said Carmelo Sansalone, the manager of Evangelista Sports on St-Laurent Boulevard.

"They've lost in World Cups, which we can accept, but not in qualifying. It's unacceptable."

Sansalone said the ad campaign is, of course, a joke.

"But we wouldn't mind seeing Sweden leave early," he said.

Luring locals and visitors to the party

Not everyone is interested in booing Sweden, however.

Robert DeLuca was sitting outside Caffé Italia last Tuesday, before the World Cup parties took over the neighbourhood, and said he won't bother watching the matches this year since Italy isn't playing.

But it's not a big loss for him, since he said he prefers tennis and hockey anyway.

The local business association that came up with the campaign, the Little Italy and Jean-Talon market SDC, hopes to boost local enthusiasm for World Cup and bring visitors to the area as well.

"We want everyone to come feel the neighbourhood's passion for soccer," said the SDC's executive director Cristina D'Arienzo.

She said there's no bad blood with the local Swedish community over the campaign — adding that they have a good sense of humour and understand the lighthearted spirit of it.