Sunday, 27 January 2008
200 volte Grazie Totti
In the home game against Torino 10 days ago Totti scored his 200th goal for Roma. It's the only club he's ever played for, or ever will, I think it's safe to hazard, and given that he is not a true striker, and never played as such until the last 18 months, this is a truly fantastic achievement. (Christian Vieri also recently reached the total of 200 goals in Italy, but he is a proper centre forward, something Totti will never be.)
Totti's stats are: 161 goals in Serie A - the highest of any current player - in 381 performances since his debut in the 92/93 season (he has some way to go to match Maldini's 600+ in the appearances regard, where he lies 4th in the number of appearances table). He has scored 22 in European competition and the remaining 17 in the Coppa Italia & Supercoppa.
So since last night a prematch celebration was held in his honour (of course) involving - in a typically mawkish Italian fashion - 200 children, chosen from the local football schools he has set up. My sympathies were chiefly with the harassed adults trying to marshall 200 hopelessly awed and overexcited small children into a neat diagonal line across the pitch from the corner flag under the Sud across to the centre circle. I have to say it was actually quite effective, to my surprise, mostly since it makes you realise that 200 is really a LOT, be it 200 kids in oversized tshirts or, more importantly, 200 goals.
Anyway, I get ahead of myself. After the warm up, the players disappeared back inside, and the crowd settled down into some quite raucous singing. A group of about a dozen capi ultras had gathered in front of the Sud, where they were to present Totti with a recognition of his achievement, on behalf of us all. They were representing, so far as can be established, all the major groups. I imagine that there is a degree of behind the scenes horse-trading to establish who gets to form part of this elite embassy, and that the club, in agreeing to the presentation, had perhaps specified some sort of maximum number. So this group of guys assembled on the running track while the kids lined up across the pitch.
By now it was gone 20.20, with kick off due at half past... did I ever mention that we are always, always late at the Olimpico? every time. Finally Totti emerges, in his kit and with his captain's armband on, and everybody goes mental. He is accompanied by a bunch of suits from the club, who are clearly anxious about the time... we're live on Sky, we have to kick off on time - after all, TV viewers are the people who count, no? So the suits gesticulate that the capi ultras should come over to the sidelines, the better to get their presentation over with as soon as possible and get on with the show. The ultras rather reluctantly make a move away from the Curva and towards the bunch of suits, but Totti has other ideas. His fans want to give him a gift under the Sud and by god that's what's going to happen. So he launches into a run and comes tearing over to the Curva, with anxious suits, photographers and hangers on trailing hopelessly behind.
The capi ultras bestow upon him a heavy-looking object wrapped up in deep red, which is uncovered to reveal a golden ball.
Is this appropriate? Since when did the Curva Sud become the committee responsible for the allocation of the Pallon d'Or? who knows, or indeed cares. They lift him aloft, he brandishes the trophy, everybody sings "C'è solo un capitano!"and there is much jumping up and down.
Someone puts their hat on him, he chats to them all - by now I think he knows all the capi ultras personally. Suits are flapping papers and gesticulating at watches over in the corner , but he takes his time.
[rules for being a capo ultras: 1. you must wear a baseball cap. 2. you must wear EITHER vintage Kappa OR a black bomber jacket, pref. with furry hood. 3. you may be EITHER hopelessly young and naive OR heavyset, shaven-headed and look like you have a string of GBH convictions. As you probably do.]
When he's spoken to everyone, he finally picks up his trophy and charges back off to the sidelines. Now it's the turn of the 200 kids.
He runs down the line performing a kind of Speed-Laying on of Hands as they turn ecstatic faces towards him. The PA chap encourages the crowd to bellow, once, twice, three times, the hero's name: everyone yells at the top of their lungs TOTTI. The kids jump up and down. Adulation fills the air like coloured smoke.
Then there's a mad rush to get the kids off the pitch in an orderly fashion, the advertising hoardings on the pitch, the Palermo players lining up for the pre-match photo, the ref's assistants checking the nets, Christ only knows what the time is, and we still haven't even started singing the Inno... In fact, as usually happens on these occasions, they play only the first minute of the Inno "Roma Roma Roma" over the loudspeaker, and the instant it stops, the ref blows his whistle. We sing on all the way through the songer, and it is louder and better and more stirring than ever.
Oh, the match? yeah... we won 1-0, Mancini with - and please hold your breath - an actual real live header off an actual real live decent cross, a thing we've not seen here in donkey's years. Apart from that, not much to note other than how much we missed De Rossi in midfield, though Pizarro did well in his absence, and that Totti is a long way from being fully well after his flu/ back problems. 3 points is the main thing here, really.
In weirder news, Inter & Milan have both received threatening hate mail at their respective headquarters, including parcelled up bullets, and specific threats against playing and non-playing staff. Roberto Mancini has been warned to be "very, very careful" (about what? careful you don't win any more games?) and it seems the police are taking it fairly seriously. Historically in this country it's as well to take death threats seriously, though I can't in all honesty imagine that anyone is going to go to the trouble of actually attacking directors of either club. Unless Rosella Sensi has decided that the only way to stop Inter is by personally taking out each & every one of them with a 12-bore shot gun, and the Milan stuff is just a blind.
[edit at 16.53 - or we could just send Inter to play at Udinese a lot, seeing as how they've just drawn 0-0 there. Ta very much. That makes the difference +5 rather than +7, which is an improvement...]