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Italian word of the day: ‘Fantacalcio’

Here's one word that unsettles Italian men every weekend.

Italian word of the day: Fantacalcio
Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

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, while that surely applies to most Italian men, the following would also apply: “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 (Italian 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 greatly 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 – the Italian Serie A runs from August to June – and the top three finishers generally earn a cash prize as well as imperishable glory and respect among friends, colleagues and at times even family members. 

Here are some of the most common sentences you are likely to hear from a fantacalcio aficionado:

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. 

Quando hai cominciato a comprare la Gazzetta dello Sport tutti i giorni?

Da quando devo studiare per l’asta.

When did you start buying the Gazzetta dello Sport every single day? 

When I started studying for my fantasy football auction.

Se non segno almeno due gol domani, perdo la terza partita di fila.

If my team doesn’t score at least two goals tomorrow, I’ll lose the third match in a row.

So, now that you broadly know the rules of the game and the drama that comes with it, you might wonder why so many people – over six million Italians according to the latest available figures – play it.

Well, football has historically been Italy’s most popular sport and the tifosi (supporters) 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 back in 1990, 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 the ‘studying’ (studio) stages, i.e. 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. Non posso saltarla

Do you want to hang out on Saturday?

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

In closing, non-players rarely ever get why fantacalcisti are so obsessed with the game and many of the latter do catch a fair deal of flak from family and friends because of it.

The most seasoned players, however, have long grown indifferent to outsiders’ comments and swear that they wouldn’t trade the game for anything else in the world.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

Member comments

  1. 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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Italian word of the day: ‘Così’

This Italian word is so useful to know.

Italian word of the day: 'Così'

The Italian language features plenty of very versatile little words, like allora, ecco, quindi, insomma, cioè, and così, which have a multitude of uses and come in handy in all sorts of situations.

Helpfully, as Italian native speakers will demonstrate during almost any phone call, these words can also be used as fillers at times when you’re not sure what to say – but are still talking anyhow:

Ecco, così è, così siamo messi, così è andata

There you go, that’s the way it is, that’s where we are, that’s how it went

Today’s word might just be the most versatile of them all.

Così is a word that you’ll hear used all the time in spoken Italian, in all sorts of different ways. Here are a couple that you’ve probably heard or used yourself:

È così – That’s how it is (literally ‘it is so’)

Basta cosi? – Is that all?

Per così dire – so to speak/as it were

Non si fa così – don’t do that/that’s not cool (literally ‘it’s not done like that’)

As you can probably tell, così in its most common usages translates roughly into English as so, thus, such, that, or like this.

You pronounce it ‘koh-zee’ – click here to hear some examples.

Much like the English ‘that’, così can also be used to add emphasis, as in così tanto (‘so much’) or così poco (so little), or to modify an adjective:

Non è così comune

It’s not that common

It’s used to mean ‘so’ as in ‘therefore’:

C’era sciopero dei treni, così non siamo potuti partire.

There was a train strike, so we couldn’t leave.

You could even use it like this to stress how strongly you feel:

Siamo così così dispiaciuti per ieri sera.

We’re so, so sorry for last night

But normally, when you see it doubled up, it has a different meaning.

Così così is the equivalent of ‘so-so’ in English, which means ‘not good, not bad’ – but is the sort of phrase you might euphemistically use to indicate that you’re not feeling well, or didn’t like something very much.

Com’era il film? 

Così così… ho visto di meglio.

How was the film? 

So-so, I’ve seen better.

(Here, you could also use the word insomma instead of così così)

Le case sono mantenuti solo così così.

The houses aren’t very well maintained.

These are just a few of the many possible uses of così, but we’re sure you can see why this is a word every Italian learner should be familiar with. 

È così utile sapere! (It’s so useful to know)

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.