Image via LastSticker.com
In the end, we went for VHS. Betamax had the better technical reputation but that Ferguson Videostar with buttons that jutted out like stubby little thumbs had won our hearts. Roll on the first major championships where my father and I could both watch AND record the Azzurri’s matches.
From memory, it took gargantuan strength just to work that machine for the matches at Euro 1980. You needed to contort your fingers like a concert pianist and have the push of a powerlifter simply to press the record and play buttons simultaneously. But, we thought, it would all be worth it.
Italy were coming off the back of a strong showing at the World Cup in Argentina two years earlier and were on home soil. Their group looked tough, but the tournament had been set up to help guide them to the final. Under the watchful eye of pipe-puffing Enzo Bearzot, a victory was - if not quite expected - then at least anticipated. We should have known better.
And yet, with the benefit of hindsight, that was a tasty little squad. There was a whole lotta Juve in the side with Dino Zoff in goal, Claudio Gentile and Gaetano Scirea at the heart of the defence and Antonio Cabrini, Franco Causio and Roberto Bettega also in the ranks. Their creative hub - just to make a young Viola swoon - was Giancarlo Antognoni.
Goals, it turned out, would be in short supply. A nil-nil draw with Spain in the opening fixture in Milan preceded a classic clash for any Scottish-Italian - England in Turin. It turned out to be a vintage sucker-punch performance. Marco Tardelli, detailed to mark Kevin Keegan, popped up late in the game to hit the winner. Prompt a group roll around the carpet in celebration for myself, my father and his brothers. I have written about that before.
Our joy would be short-lived, however. Needing to beat Belgium to progress, Bettega and the gang huffed and puffed but could not find the net. It seemed to confirm an old failing - they were masters of the counter-attack but not so sharp at breaking down a stubborn opponent.
Years later, Zoff recalled how that 1980 tournament had got under way in a similar atmosphere to this year’s competition. “It was an unusual year because we were right in the heart of the football betting scandal,” he told Calcio 2000. “The atmosphere was, how shall we say, very edgy. We suffered a few refereeing decisions which hampered our chances. I remember the game with Belgium. The referee did not give us a clear penalty which made it hard for us to reach the final.”
From a personal point of view, I remember a feeling of deflation which would become familiar to me in future but was a novelty back then. Italy had only ever won the major tournaments they had hosted prior to that - the World Cup of 1934 and the Euros of 1968. Had my existence somehow jinxed them? A final victory for West Germany over Belgium made for miserable viewing.
Meanwhile, the Belgian stalemate had taken the Italians to an unwanted third and fourth place play-off with Czechoslovakia which dragged on for an eternity. It took extra time and, I think, 17 or 18 penalties to separate the sides. In the end it was Fulvio Collovati who had his spot-kick saved - although his shot squirmed under the goalkeeper’s body and was dragged back late in the day.
It was a disappointing end to a tournament started with such optimism. And numerous replays and juddering freeze-frames on our newly-purchased video equipment never could prove if that spot-kick had crossed the line or not.