It was a winter's night in 1986 and Fabio Margarita, just eight years old at the time, had a fever. Unable to sleep, he got up and turned on the TV. American football's biggest game of the year flashed across the screen. Fabio, accustomed to watching soccer giant Juventus in his hometown of Turin, was captivated by the foreign sport.
"From that day, I always tried to learn and see [football]," recalled Fabio, who finally got to watch the American sport in action on American soil last week. Along with his wife, Angela, he visited Patriots training camp on Sunday, August 2, making it the first stop on a two-week vacation organized with the team's schedule in mind.
"I've planned everything since February," Fabio said. "[At the time] I didn't know the exact days of training camp but I tried to arrange my trip to be able to visit Gillette Stadium, the ProShop and Patriot Place for the first time."
The pilgrimage was a long time coming for the 37-year-old, who has supported the Patriots since that night when he happened upon Super Bowl XX, almost three decades ago. Although New England lost to the Bears, Fabio felt an immediate connection with the team and everything it represented to him as a young Italian.
"It's something that's inside you," he explained. "You see the jerseys and the colors – it's the color of America, of the flag. Yes, other teams have those colors but I think it's something about the origin of America: the 13 colonies, the minutemen, everything."
Since his fascination with the Patriots began all those years ago, Fabio, who's a member of the fan club New England Patriots–Italia, has been quite the devotee. He played amateur football – often referred to as rugby in Italy, to his frustration – for three years, traveled to London in 2012 for the Patriots-Rams game, and regularly stays awake into the early hours of the morning to watch his team live.
"In the last seconds of [this year's] Super Bowl, I think I woke up everyone in the neighborhood," he recalled with a laugh, explaining that the game was broadcast in Italy from about 2 to 5 a.m.
Although Fabio admitted that friends and family – and neighbors – sometimes think he's a bit crazy for his dedication to a team based thousands of miles away, the experience at training camp did manage to win over his wife.
"She got to see Tom Brady, but it's the last time she'll see him [in person]," Fabio teased, feigning jealousy over the quarterback's good looks.
Jokes aside, Fabio and Angela were excited to be surrounded by other Patriots fans and so close to the players during practice.
"I always see these things on TV, from far away, and then when you see [in person] those players – those champions – it's something special. I saw a lot of cars with plates from everywhere in America, so I think the Patriots fan base is not only in New England; it's everywhere. Like Robert Kraft said, 'We are all Patriots.'"
To find or start an Official Patriots Fan Club in your area, visitfanclubs.patriots.com.