Saturday, 21 July 2007

Addio, Er Pupone

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.


Chelsea Boy said...

In England it's not as simple as that. Clubs like Man United and Liverpool have the strongest strain of anti-Englandness going on, partly because they are massive and phenomenally successful clubs, partly because of the strong sense of local identity that marks them out as 'other' and also because of the large Irish contingent among their support.

In Man United's case, the nationwide loathing of their club during their most successful period and the slagging off of United players by small time Ingerlund nobs meant they chose their club over their country.

At Chelsea it wasn't always so. In the 1980s Chelsea and West Ham clashed over who ran England's hooligan mob. Chelsea won, with Steve Hickmott, or 'Icky, being named the leader. He at the time was also the leader of the Shed. However, since we became the best on the land, Those same berks that slagged off United players are now turning on Lampard and Terry, meaning the same thing that happened at United is happening at our place. You won't be hearing any chants of Argentina at our place, of that I can be damn sure.

Interestingly Tottenham fans are in my experience more passionate followers of England than any other other club. Make of that what you will.

ursus arctos said...


Almost certainly the most knowledgeable piece on Totti and how he fits into Italian reality that I've read.

For someone whose wedding was nationally televised and is a near constant presence on Italian television due to the Vodafone ads, France is one of the most genuine contemporary footballers of his stature that I can think of.

He is who he is, essentially a Roman street kid, and he isn't going to change that for anyone. It's what makes him so much of a bandiera for the Giallorossi and what tends to drive anyone with a different club allegiance who cares about the Azzurri to distraction.

Notwithstanding the penalty against Australia and his medal, there is no question in my mind that he will always been seen as someone who never was able to reproduce his Roman form for Italy. And that leads to him being ridiculously underestimated by those observers who only pay attention to major tournaments and the Champions League.

But he will be the Romanista bandiera for the rest of his life and then some.

And he wouldn't have it any other way.

The National team thing is a bit strange. Last year's magical mystery trip brought the entire country together for a couple of weeks in a way that was almost impossible to believe. Milanisti praising Materazzi, Interisti praying for Buffon, Juventini admitting that Totti deserved to play ahead of Del Piero.

That lasted about 48 hours after Circus Maximus. Anyone familiar with the history of the dozens of failed attempts at Italian unification and the social and political reality of a country that is unified only in name would not be at all surprised.

Aussie Romanista said...

" I know that AussieRomanista disagrees vigorously... "

No, I agree with you that that is how it is, I just don't like it is all. I'm Italian before I'm Sicilian (or Australian), and tifo gli azzurri more than Roma. Why would I choose 5 out of 11 foreigners in giallorosso over 11 out of 11 Italians in azzurro?

As for Totti, he should have done this straight after Berlin instead of pissing us all off with a year of maybe-maybe not, while winning the golden boot and disappearing at Old Trafford. To him I'd say thanks for the assists and the penalty in the world cup, now let's get on with the job.
Forza Italia.

Spangly Princess said...

ah, to be clear, AR, I didn't mean that you disagreed with my assessment of the situation, rather that you don't share the sentiment yourself whereas I do incline in that direction.

TrentToffee said...

It's about time. Since breaking his ankle, and his *effective* international retirement his club form has been phenominal. And Roma fans must be pleased that the break with the national team is now permanent (for now at least). He's had his run and got his WC winners medal. It's past.

The club vs country debate is an interesting one. I suspect many international players secretly put their club before their country. That's certainly the case with the entire England starting XI (whoever they may be this month). If you consistently succeed with your club, and consistantly fail with your country then you may start to question your commitment. However in Totti`s case that isn't so. So I guess his is an Italian regional identity thing.

Strange that you should mention Everton as being a big club (bless you anyway). They have a big fan base admitedly, but a rather small trophy cabinet. And that won't change anytime soon :o(

Anonymous said...

Maldini retired at the age of 34 and when he walked off the field after playing for gli azzurri he was normally completely spent. He ran himself into the ground more than anyone I can think of right now.

Baggio never retired from the national team. He'd have played every game he could have, but was selected only a paltry 55 (or so) times.

My point is that Totti's full of shyte regarding the media picking on him because he's romano (aside from his accent). Del Piero has received much greater criticism through his career. He's also been dropped and benched, and he's had injuries that will have a much longer lasting effect than Totti yet he's stated a numbe of times that he'll play for Italy for as long as he can.

Totti's a superb player. He's just a prick, too.

- Juventino