Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Addio Presidente

On Sunday evening, AS Roma president Franco Sensi died in hospital from respiratory problems, aged 82. He had been suffering health problems for some time, and increasingly last season was too unwell to attend games; he spent the last weeks of his life in the Gemelli hospital, only a stone's throw from the Stadio Olimpico. His daughter Rosella, who has been managing director for some years (and the only woman to hold such a role in Italy), is thought to be preparing to assume his role as President (well, Chairman I guess we'd say).

Franco Sensi with Totti in 2004/5

The vigil took place yesterday at the Campidoglio, with the coffin draped in a giallorosso flag, while hundreds of friends and fans queued to pay their respects. His funeral was held today in Rome, attended by representatives of most of the country's football teams including Fiorentina & Lazio managers Cesare Prandelli and Delio Rossi, and Inter and Juve bosses Massimo Moratti and Giovanni Cobolli Gigli. Milan director Adriano Galliano was whistled by fans, but most of the attendees including Carlo Mazzone, Sabrina Ferilli, Luca Pancalli (representing CONI) and FIGC president Giancarlo Abete, were well received.

Okaka, Baptista, Panucci, Totti in regulation black club ties

The coffin was carried by Spalletti, Totti, Doni, Baptista, Panucci and Okaka: manager, captain, old and new, veteran and youngster. Montella read out a short piece on behalf of the players. Incidentally, kudos to Baptista for standing up for this having only arrived last week. Lord knows how he must be feeling, but I respect his gesture. Sensi was then buried at the Verano cemetery, a beautiful expanse of tree-filled tranquil space where he joins his father, designer of Roma's first historic stadium, the Campo Testaccio.

"Honour and glory to the President of clean football"

Thousands of fans had gathered outside the church from early this morning: they saluted their president one last time with a chorus of "Roma Roma Roma" and a number of chants in his honour. I desperately wish I had been there. Of course I never knew him, but this news has greatly saddened me. His passing masks the end, for us, of a certain style of family-run club (or at least the perception thereof). Though never uncritically adored, he was loved by Roma fans and respected by almost everyone. It's the end of an era, and I feel sad to have been in England and missed this chance to say goodbye: I never knew Roma without Franco Sensi in charge. I hope we do him proud this season. Addio Presidente.


Aussie Romanista said...

The first time I realised how much Franco Sensi was adored by the Roma tifoseria was at the Roma v AEK Athens Champions League match in the 2002/3 season. After all the players were announced by Zampa, Sensi's photo was put up on the screen as a special salute to him because he couldn't attend the match due to illness. The cheer for him was even louder than Totti's.
Nice video here.

ginkers said...

I watched some of the funeral footage on RAI last night and thought of you. For all our faults - and they are many - I think Italians mark such occasions well.

OK, Galliani was jeered but the rest was carried out with dignity, solemnity and genuine emotion.

I have been critical of Franco Sensi in the past but there was no doubting his love for his club. And, as you say, a real end of an era for Roma.

chris c paul said...

wow, I cannot imagine any chairman in the UK getting a similar send off. What did he do which endeared him so?

ursus arctos said...

I find it quite difficult to explain the phenomenon of "grandi presidenti" to people who haven't lived here.

The relationship between fans and the club's chairman is much more personal, and unabashedly paternalistic. In many ways, that reflects Italian society as a whole, which still suffers (in my opinion) from an over-reliance on paternalistic and clientalisic models in virtually every walk of life.

One simply cannot compare the situation in Britain, even in cases where there is a strong identification of the club and its chairman (like Abramovich at Chelsea). But then, British society and the dynamics of British families, are very different from their Italian counterparts.

Sensi WAS Roma in the same way that Agnelli was Juve and Moratti is Inter; the direct family ties to days of past glory are especially important here (and their absence makes the Berlusconi-Milan relationship a bit different). That is why the new administration at Juve is grooming John Elkaan (l'Avvocato's grandnephew) as the club's future figurehead (the same role he will ultitmately have at FIAT and the family holding company).

chris c paul said...

also seems akin to feudal loyalty...