In this week's most unsurprising piece of news, Francesco Totti has announced his retirement from international football. He announced 'I have decided to retire so as not to create problems for the team or the technical staff. With the problems I have with my knee, ankle and back I can't play both for Roma and for the national side.' He concluded 'I'm sorry but my health is the most important thing.'
(Totti at his press conference yesterday)
This announcement comes after months of speculation, criticism, debate and tit-for-tat sniping in the media. On the subject of press criticism of his decision Totti said 'all these criticisms of me are because I'm Roman. When Maldini and Baggio said they couldn't play on for the national side they were treated very differently. If I was from the north, then all these things would not have been written about me.' Is this paranoia or an accurate observation? I'd say both, probably. Totti has been consistently mocked for his Roman accent in the predominantly northern media, and players who want to prioritise Juve or Milan may get a bit of an easier ride than those who want to place 'less important' clubs like Roma over their country. But Totti is being disingenuous not to acknowledge that his own dithering has rightly made him the target of discussion and eventually hostility.
The one thing that has always been obvious was that Roma were his first priority, no matter what. His comments about the Champions' League QF against Man U meaning more than the World Cup made that abundantly clear, if any doubt had remained in anyone's mind. And it seems he feels that continuing in the Azzurro shirt might damage his club performance.
Now, you may think that this is just giallorosso spectacles, but I don't mind that at all. And I don't think it's just me. Most Italians place local or regional identities over national ones, and club over country. I know that AussieRomanista disagrees vigorously but I'm afraid I think that's a function of Ex-Pat status. Incidentally, a lot of academic research has been carried out into just this topic: in the early twentieth century, the people most likely to define themselves as Italian were emigrants living in America or Australia. I'm not saying that the weak sense of national identity is necessarily a good or bad thing, it's simply my observation.
It's also interesting that in England most fans of big sides would also put club before country. When you see England flags with club names on they're always Kidderminster or Southend, almost never Everton or Chelsea. Big clubs just *are* more important to many of their fans than national sides are.
Anyway Totti is clearly romano before he is Italian, and romanista before he is Azzurro. And if his retirement from international football means he will play on longer and more successfully for the giallorossi, then that's all to the good. And I am glad that the 'will he won't he' half-arsed shilly-shallying of the past months is now at last over. We can remember that penalty against the Aussies and be happy. Meanwhile, I think we should appreciate his Golden Boot which lends reflected glory to Serie A as a whole.