Well, as a Welsh rugby fan, Italian rugby is just as foreign to me. I know little of their clubs, their fans, their traditions. I know of our neighbours' on the wrong side of Offah's Dyke, of those on the other side of the Irish Sea and the English Channel, even those on the other side of the planet and in a different hemisphere. The Italians however, despite some of their teams sharing a league with us, remain a mystery.
With that in mind, reading 'This Is What We Are' unlocked enigmas and helped me stumble across a few secrets as Jack Fenwick takes us through Italian rugby's metamorphosis of 2010.
That change however, is little more than backdrop. It is the plate on which the meal is served and Fenwick's veritable feast is the supporters. 'This Is What We Are' looks at the passion, the love, the pure emotion and what happens when the object of the affection is ripped away.
The novel follows Fenwick and his fellow fans of Parma rugby prior to their disbanding in 2010 that left them with the difficult decision of where they place their undying love and support.
With Rugby Parma making up part of the new Aironi franchise yet also becoming part of the Crociati team with Rugby Noceto, their opinions are split. Things are further confused when Rugby Parma are reformed as an amateur team. What follows is a heart felt and touching journey in an attempt to restore those emotions that once stirred within them. It is a journey from Parma through France, Britain, Portugal and even inside football stadia and onto the stands of American Football games.
It could almost be rom com as our characters lose their first love and pursue potential suitors in an attempt to rekindle what they have lost, but it's far too intelligent and original for that.
The style is different, unique even. It's a hundred perfectly formed novellas that when brought together make one extraordinary tale, much like Fenwick's much-loved Barbarians.
At times Fenwick writes with a lyrical verbosity that even the finest writers may never grasp, at other times with lilting simplicity. Neither ever feel out of place, like a fleet-footed half back finding space from the work of a marauding pack both are a joy to behold and demand appreciation. Even before I reached the introduction I was smiling at the gentle humour and knowing familiarity, a feeling that prevailed until the novel's end.
This is where Fenwick excels. He rarely tries to explain why he or his 'brothers and sisters' of Rugby Parma do the things they do and those things cannot be explained. You either understand or you do not. If you don't, this book is not for you.
Real supporters of sports teams will understand though. Those who have travelled to watch unwinnable games, those who have sat in the cold and the wet to see their team, those who have stalked the touch line knowing their voice is as important as an extra man on the pitch. That is who this book is dedicated to.
I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who loves, or has ever loved a sport, rugby or otherwise. However, if you are not one of those people you may be left behind before the introduction concludes.
This Is What We Are by Jack Fenwick is available to buy or download here; http://thisiswhatweare.com/thisiswhatweare/Home.html
The song, as chosen by the author himself..Blondie - Union City Blue