Sport

Meet the last Anglo-Italian football team in London

Count: 1

When it started in 1968, Italia Wasteels was one team in the 20-strong Anglo-Italian league. Today it's the last one standing, as a new documentary finds out

An array of blue football shirts is far from an unusual sight at Dulwich Sports Ground on a Sunday morning, but for Italia Wasteels their blue and black striped kit resonate deeply with their heritage. Founded in 1968 by a group of young Italian men in south London as a way to bring the city’s burgeoning post-War Italian community together, the shade is exactly that of the Italian national side. Fifty years later, and the Wasteels are the only team remaining out of twenty who used to play in the once-popular Anglo-Italian league.

A Generation Game (out now on Amazon), directed by Luciano Ruocco, is a new documentary that charts the traditions, families and community that surrounds the Wasteels. ‘I went into it thinking I was making a football documentary,’ explains Ruocco. ‘But I found I wanted to concentrate on the action off the field. I discovered a community.’

The Wasteels have stuck together through many ups and downs over the past half-century: cup wins and cup losses, births, deaths, marriages – the lot. ‘It’s not just turning up on a Sunday morning for a kickabout. It’s about uniting for a beer afterwards, and celebrating these events. That’s what keeps them going,’ says Ruocco.

‘It’s a place to go and be together for a group of people, which is crucial for everyday life,’ explains Marco Marchini, team captain and son and nephew of founding members Claudio and Luigi Marchini. ‘It keeps our connection with Italy going, and our roots. And, in this day and age, it’s good there’s clubs like us that give people the opportunity to do something in their spare time. That bring people together.’

The Italia Wasteels' kit

But the sense of identity that Italia Wasteels was built on is at risk of disappearing. ’They set up the league because it was a way of getting the Italian community together,’ says Ruocco. ‘Nowadays the community isn’t as united as they used to be, so it’s difficult. There’s a risk of losing this cultural heritage.’

But Marchini is positive about the team’s future, and its place in London. Long gone are the days when at least five players in the team had to be of Anglo-Italian heritage. ‘Anyone I meet I ask if they kick a football, and how well they kick it. You can’t build a team just with Italians now,’ says Marchini. ‘But there’s a core of us, and 50 per cent are Italian. The other players from different nationalities also embrace that culture which, especially amongst the current climate of Brexit, shows what a multicultural city this is.’

A Generation Game was meant to be about football, but turned into a film about a community. And a team that was built by Italians is now a multicultural symbol of its London home. Italia Wasteels might be the last team left on the pitch, but they carry an important part of the city’s history with them.

A Generation Game is out now on Amazon. You can find out more at italiawasteels.com – they’re always looking for fresh talent to join the team