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Italian word of the day: ‘Fantacalcio’

Giampietro Vianello
Giampietro Vianello - [email protected]
Italian word of the day: ‘Fantacalcio’
Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Here's a word that will unsettle men all around the country for the next nine months.


You might have heard the old adage before: “Men pick their favourite football team when they're about ten and let it upset them for the rest of their lives”.

Now, the following would also apply to most Italian men: “Men pick their fantacalcio team every August and let it make or break their weekend for the following nine months”.

But, what's a fantacalcio team (pronunciation available here) and why does every Italian man seem to be talking about it?

The word ‘fantacalcio’ – a compound noun made up of the prefix 'fanta-' (meaning ‘virtual’ or ‘fictitious’) and 'calcio' (football) – refers to the game commonly known as ‘fantasy football’. 

Though the rules of the game can vary according to the participants’ own preferences, fantacalcio briefly consists of putting together a virtual team of real-life football players, whom, on any given match day, will score points based on their statistical performance (goals, assists, yellow cards, etc.) and their perceived contribution to the game (usually player ratings assigned by a panel of experts). 

Each team battles it out with its league rivals for the entire length of the football season and the top three finishers generally earn a cash prize as well as imperishable glory and respect among friends and colleagues. 

La smetti di guardare il cellulare?

Scusami, il mio attaccante sta giocando.

Will you stop looking at the phone?

I’m sorry. My striker is playing. 

But why do over six million Italians play the game?

Well, football has historically been Italy’s most popular sport and the tifosi cheer their teams on with a passion that is rarely matched elsewhere. However, these reasons alone don’t seem to fully account for fantasy football’s success in Italy and the real secret behind the fantacalcio mania might well be impossible to make out.


What’s certain though is that, ever since fantacalcio’s introduction in the 90s, the players have always seen it less as a game and more as a sort of exclusive cult with its own jargon and quasi-religious rituals.

From players familiarising themselves with the rosters of each Serie A team to the asta, i.e. the electrifying auction where participants purchase their favourite footballers and piece together their teams, everything about fantacalcio is shrouded in an aura of sacredness.

Vuoi uscire sabato?

No, mi dispiace. Ho l’asta del fantacalcio. 

Do you want to hang out on Saturday?

No, I’m sorry. I’ll be at the fantasy football auction.

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Comments (1)

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Anonymous 2022/09/06 23:23
Sounds a lot like fantasy football in America--by far the most popular fantasy sport. At least in terms of structure & the basic concept. For enthusiasm, I would probably compare it more to American "March Madness"--fans making their own brackets for the big collegiate basketball tournament. While it's obviously just a minority of Americans who participate in this kind of activity, those who do tend to be, shall we say, VERY enthusiastic about it--so much so that sometimes it feels like EVERYbody is talking about it!

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