By Mario Miceli
I’ve heard that many times from both the Italian and Hellenic communities in Vancouver. You see, when you marry a Greek, you inherit the family and the entire Greek community. On Saturday June 8th, on the eve of Italian Day on the Drive 2019, the true meaning of “Comunità” was exemplified at Il Centro Italian Cultural Centre
Jeff Gentile recognized that the beautiful game brings great people together. Jeff decided to invite people to Il Centro to watch the Euro qualifying match between Greece and Italy. Jeff didn’t stop there, with the help of Pietro Nardone, they reached out to their Juventus Official Fan Club of Vancouver.
Demitri Douzenis, an avid fan and member of the Juve fan club, who also happens to be the Communications and Public Relations Chair for the Board of Directors of the Hellenic Community of Vancouver (HCV) decided to share this event with the Greek Community of Vancouver. And before you know it, the Italian and Greek soccer fans, with there flags and jerseys were prominent at the Osteria. Everyone enjoyed coffee, pizza, sandwiches, a drink and the tremendous hospitality of the Osteria. In the packed house were members of Il Centro Italian Cultural Centre Board of Directors, VP, Randy Rinaldo, Mike Lombardi and myself, 3 members of our Community Relations Committee who were amazed at the outreach and fantastic turnout.
I introduced myself to our Hellenic guests and sat with Demitri and his wonderful wife Jessica Douzenis, the chair of the HCV, community engagement committee. We started talking community relations and how our communities, who are Adriatic neighbors in the Mediterranean, should work together to enhance our relationships and collaboration. The “mini summits” that occurred during halftime and at the end of the game included discussion of who would host the next match in November and how we could create a larger event.
More importantly, we spoke of the opportunity to share best practices of our respective societies, help one another improve the representation of our communities within the lower mainland and to continue regular meetings – and if it involved soccer – that’s even better I asked the question on every Greeks mind – when will a section of Broadway receive the designation of Greek Town? My father-in-law, and members of the Hellenic Community created a tremendous Greek neighborhood destination on Broadway and as I will walk through Little Italy tomorrow on Italian Day on the Drive, I would like to attend Greek Day in a designated Greek Town in the very near future.
When we posed for the obligatory picture at halftime, what I notice was that so many children of Italian and Hellenic heritage were celebrating and supporting their teams, their culture, their heritage and one another.
This is what communities hope for, that the legacy of our respective values, culture and heritage are preserved and perpetuated by the next generation of Italian and Greek children. I know our future looked brighter today having seen the children and their proud parents in their Azzuro and the Hellenic Blue. What also impressed upon me was the initiative of Jeff Gentile, a young Italo-Canadian who just wanted people to watch a soccer game together and Pietro Nardone, a Juventus fan who wanted to get people to the game. It was very well received and with support from Il Centro Board of Directors and our staff, we would like to explore making sporting events like todays, a regular occurrence for our sports fans.
Today we created a broader Comunità, it’s what Italians do and let’s face it, I have yet to meet a Greek who doesn’t enjoy contributing to a great function. When these two great cultures come together, there is nothing that they cannot do. Oh yah, Italy won the game 3 – 0, but the real winners today were both the Hellenic and Italian Community as we initiated a dialogue, committed to working together, learn together and continue to share our rich cultures with our own communities and with the broader community. I am realizing more and more that “Una Faccia Una Razza” represents the relationship between the Hellenic and Italian Community.