My Team & I: Roma

By Stuart Harper

Twitter: @StuartJHarper


Why Roma?

Allegiances are seemingly forged upon ‘eureka moments’; those times when a team does something so remarkable that they’re indelibly endeared to you – or loyalties that are bestowed via the more orthodox ‘family inheritance’ route.

Honestly, I can’t recall a specific watershed game and certainly none of my nearest and dearest are romanisti. Instead, my love affair with the giallorossi began by stealth started in 1982.

I was beguiled by Brazil – Socrates, Eder, Zico and company. To my eleven year old mind, they epitomised everything that football should be and I couldn’t conceive a way that Brazil wouldn’t win the ’82 World Cup. En route, Italy would surely be another victim to their exuberant brand of the beautiful game.

I’m not too ashamed to admit that tears followed Italy’s shock 3-2 victory – at the time it felt like somebody had shot Santa, but in retrospect it was the fledging beginnings of my lifelong love affair with Roma and calcio.

From that game, etched deep into my memory is the image of Falcao scoring. Reeling away in delirium, his veins coursed with adrenalin. With mouth agape, he roared with unbridled passion. I loved this vision, I loved this player – and although I didn’t know at the time, he played for AS Roma.

Then there was Bruno Conti, the diminutive was an instrumental part of Italy’s 1982 World Cup success – and as I switched allegiance to Brazil’s vanquishers (as kids do), despite being overshadowed by Paolo Rossi, memories of Bruno lived long.

Much later, when Channel 4 began to offer a weekly staple of ‘Calcio Italia’, it was necessary for me to pledge my troth to a side (again, as kids do) and all those dormant visions of 1982 flooded back.

So, if Roma was good enough for fine footballing exponents as Falcao and Conti, it was good enough for me. Not only that, supporting Roma wasn’t the easy option – history says that even in Rome, romanisti were the poor relation to Laziale, notwithstanding a Serie A status, overshadowed by Inter, Juve and Milan.

My mind had been made up – working class underdogs with a penchant for artisans on the pitch (and I love the strip too).

Favourite player?

Capitano – Francesco Totti.

Where to start? There is the obvious monogamy, which is so rare in modern football – Ryan Giggs and Paolo Maldini spring to mind, but for romanisti, Totti spiritually embodies not only loyalty, but its people.

He is one of them, a tifoso, a Roman – his image adorns the walls in the city of Rome in a Banksy style homage – and flags bearing his likeness a permanent fixture of the curva sud landscape. The synergy which exists between ‘er pupone’ and his people runs intangibly and endearingly deep.

Given his 600 games, and near 200 goal tally, (not to forget a World Cup winners medal) there’s no shortage of plaudits to be heaped on Totti. From a personal perspective however, when Totti is in his pomp, it’s how he embodies everything a ‘number 10’ should be that’s so enamouring.

From metronomic, almost anonymous little passes that oils the Roma midfield, to raking slide-rule deliveries that leave defenders haplessly positioned – Francesco possess the gift of intuitive vision.

Then, there’s his ability for scoring sublime goals – deft chips being a notable trademark. Either as trequartista or indeed as a striker, Totti’s right foot has been the mother of Roma’s invention. So much so that Fabio Capello remarked ‘Totti’s shooting qualities are unique’ while legendary ‘number 10’ Pele himself declared Totti to be the ‘best in the world’ – albeit unlucky not to have been at a much bigger, more star studded club.

While recent form and an incontestable dark side may mitigate Totti’s genius – to me he will always be ‘la magica’ both spiritually and physically.

Favourite Game?

I could pick from many memorable victories against perennial enemies, Lazio, or I could plump from a number of remarkable victories against Inter. My favourite game however, comes from a midweek visit to the Bernabeau in the March of 2008.

Rome were never meant to prosper against the might of Madrid, but having negotiated a 2-1 win at the Stadio Olimpico, Spalletti took his underdogs to Spain for the second-leg Champions League tie. Few pundits believed that Madrid’s one goal deficit would be an issue and it was widely expected that ‘los merengues’ would depose of Roma and advance.

On the night Roma played without fear, displaying an attacking intent which surprised those accustomed to Serie A’s defensive propensities – and visibly affected their hosts. Alberto Aquilani rattled the Madrid woodwork and by a goalless half-time the ‘i lupi’ faithful started to believe.

On 73-minutes Taddei headed Roma into a surprise lead but within minutes Raul had levelled, giving momentum back to Madrid. A palpable sense of inevitability permeated the Madrid night and a further goal from the now resurgent Madrid would force extra time.

Roma held firm until the dying minutes and as injury time petered out, substitute Mirko Vucinic met with Panucci’s free-kick to head past Casillas – game over, cue wild celebrations from the small enclave of giallorossi

Those few romanisti who starkly punctuated a sea of Bernabeau white summed it up. It wasn’t the size of the dog in the fight; it was the size of the fight in the dog.

Favourite Kit?

There are a number of Roma shirts I own and love. I particularly adore one shirt on which the names and numbers were applied to resemble a military-style stencil. It was unlike anything being worn by other teams with the visually strong font complementing Roma’s combative, fighting qualities.

Along the way Kappa have tried desperately to play with the giallorossi motif, creating some very dubious offerings that only a tifoso could love – with one particularly ‘gaudy’ favourite of mine harking back to the ‘INA Assitalia’ sponsorship era. Again, like the stencilled font, it served to distinguish an already distinguishable team.

Ultimately however, it has to be the Scudetto winning shirt from 2000-2001. We romanisti have only tasted fleeting scudetto glory and that shirt is a visual reminder of Roma’s zenith. That glorious campaign produced a mass of iconic images, notable for the long haired Totti and Battistuta throwing celebratory, gladiatorial shapes – and while the shirt itself boasts a simple design, it will always evoke a myriad of heady emotions. For that I cherish it dearly.

Worst thing about being a Roma fan?

This is a tough one.

When I ‘chose’ to support Roma it was largely because Roma are not the easy option. The first ever Serie A team I saw in the flesh was back in the early 1980’s when my home club (Aston Villa) entertained a Juventus squad which included Dino Zoff, Platini and Paolo Rossi – maybe I should have supported them, or maybe AC Milan? No – Roma was the romantic option, the working class element from the eternal city.

Of course there are aspects that are far from ideal. The absence of funds which has prevented Roma from converting several runners-up positions into scudetto triumphs soon becomes tiresome. Then there’s tifosi who can’t fathom as to why Roma are not winning more, when Inter and AC Milan consistently outspend us – that irks too. But maybe the least pleasurable aspect is when Totti chooses to spit or kick his way off the pitch – there is no place for that.

As a hardcore fan though, while there’s always ample to moan about, there’s no single ‘worse’ part. Merely elements I love less than others.

Favourite moment?

I’m sorely tempted to say 2000-2001’s scudetto simply because of Sabrina Ferilli. The renowned Italian actress, native Roman and indeed Roma supporter stripped as promised to celebrate the scudetto triumph. A spectacle, which has made a succession of runners-up positions even harder to bear. Always prompting the ‘what if’ question.

If however I focus on an ‘on field’ moment, I’ll opt for a sweet combination of beating Inter Milan at the San Siro thanks to capitano’s genius.

In October 2005 Roma visited Milan to take on sworn enemies Inter. On the half-hour mark Totti picked up the ball in his own half – and evading two desperate lunges from Inter players, capitano ran deep into the Inter half dragging defenders in his wake.

From 25-yards out capitano ran square and pulled back his right foot, motioning as if to unleash a fierce drive.

At the point of contact Totti’s expected missile had morphed into a perfectly weighted ‘dink’ that Julio Cesar watched sail over his head, floating just beneath the Inter crossbar.

The then Inter boss Roberto Mancini shook his head indignantly, while the Roma players and staff celebrated towards one corner of the ground. For me, this ‘gol dell’anno’ encapsulated both Totti’s and Roma’s beauty, magnificence and ‘against the odds’ capabilities all in one.


One Response to “My Team & I: Roma”

  1. Great article. I’m a fellow Romanista. I had to pick someone and I didn’t want to go for one of the big three (I’m a Dunfermline supporter so I wouldn’t know what to do with a bit of glory). I had visited Rome before and loved the city and also the style of play under Spaletti. Sunday’s game v Parma was my 1st visit to Lo Olimpico.. Loved it (even the result was typical Roma) and can’t wait to return.
    Forza Roma.

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