Italy’s soccer win ‘beyond imagination’ for North Beach fans

Fans of Italy’s soccer team flooded North Beach streets Tuesday afternoon in ecstatic celebration after the Azzuri beat Germany 2-0 in overtime to reach the World Cup final.

Police closed down parts of Columbus Avenue for two hours after the final whistle, allowing the approximately 2,500 revelers to reign over the roads. According to police, there were no arrests, and Muni reported delays of less than 15 minutes on the 15 and 30 lines due to the street closure.

“People just poured into the street in a celebratory manner,” SFPD Officer Mark Alvarezsaid. “We accommodated them for about two hours, and when we asked them to break it up, they did.”

The celebration was still going strong more than three hours after the Italians scored two times in the final three minutes of overtime to win, putting the soccer-mad country’s national team in a position to win its first World Cup championship since 1982. Supporters danced on the sidewalks, waving red-white-and-green Italian flags. Blue-clad couples kissed as they walked down the street, tour buses rolled by and blew their horns in support and cops gave high-fives to fans in the Italian enclave.

“When we scored, it was unbelievable — you cannot describe it, it was beyond imagination,” said Sergio Giusti, a native of Tuscany who has owned the restaurant Firenze by Night for 18 years.

The North Beach scene came in stark contrast to that at Schroeder’s, a German bar and restaurant located less than a mile away. There, fans finished their steins of Spaten and settled their bills in silence after watching a match that seemed destined to reach penalty kicks end suddenly and sadly for the host country.

“Germany just can’t beat Italy,” said Patrick Ewers, a Bonn native who now lives in the Bay Area. “We played so hard and so well, and then at the end, we just gave it away.”

Back in North Beach, celebrations were high-spirited inside and out of Steps of Columbus, a bar and café. Women stood on the bar drinking down beers as the crowd cheered them on, while Mario Cremonini and Vincenzo Monina greeted a reporter outside with a hug and kiss on the cheek.

“I’ve been dancing and screaming for two hours, and I left my voice inside the bar,” Monina said.

“But don't worry, it’s waiting for me and I’ll come get it on Sunday for the final.”

While Tuesday’s festivities were peaceful, Officer Alvarez said he expects more officers at Café Bastille on Belden Place today to monitor the France-Portugal semifinal, and in North Beach on Sunday for the championship match.

melliser@examiner.com

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