Thursday, 12 March 2009

Roma 1-0 Arsenal (1-1 agg.; Arsenal win on penalties)

Well, good things come to those who wait. And bad things, also.

Armed with a lump of anxiety in my stomach and dosed with a couple of shots of Caff√© Borghetti I make my way up the concrete steps two at a time. When you step out into the Curva for a big night game like this you are hit by a wave of sound, warmth and colour. Hot with anxious bodies and floodlights, it's like walking into some weird giant red and yellow sauna. For a big game like this, everyone who has a flag will bring it, and the stand is full of movement and colour and huges swathes of satin in every shade of red and yellow and orange and burgundy. I've have been dreading this all day but as soon as I am there I feel better, and the singing settles my stomach, to start with. The place is almost entirely full - we sold 35000 tickets within 2 hours the day they went on sale. Only a few of the €1500 are still empty. Arsenal have brought a decent quantity of fans, and I am informed that from other parts of the ground you could hear them singing; not where I stand, though. Tonight it looked & felt amazing: even the normally quiet fans in the Tribuna Tevere were singing.

Without De Rossi (suspended through his own idiocy), Mexes (flu), Cicinho (right knee made of tissue paper), Panucci (not on Champions' League list through his own idiocy), Perrotta (hadn't been injured for a bit so it's his turn) and Cassetti (been injured so long I can't remember what's wrong) we ended up with Pizarro & Totti both gritting their teeth and playing though not 100% right, and Baptista still somewhat flu-ridden on the bench. When Juan injured himself after just 4 minutes played it seemed par for the course; he managed to stay on the pitch just long enough to score our only goal before limping off.

I can't bear to write about it all; if you care that much you will have watched it. Sometimes, you're enjoyign a game so much that extra time is like a treat; tonight it felt like a cruel and unusual punishment in direct contravention of international human rights legislation. By the second half an acute pain was developing in my stomach and I started to feel light-headed with anxiety. By the end of 120 minutes my legs were also numb, from standing on the uncomfortable plastic seat all night with no room to move around in, and I wasn't quite sure if they might give way before we got to penalties.

Ah yes, the penalties. I should have known. I mean, I could see it coming that we would draw Arsenal, as soon as the various possible permutations of the draw were clear in December. The demands of the narrative arc were such that the maximum of tension, drama and emotion had to be wrung from the occasion - football is somewhere between EastEnders and Dickens, after all, with an element of the Penny Dreadful and a spot of high Shakesperean tragedy thrown in on special occasions. I should have known I would never get away with a mere 90 minutes. Once penalties came, I had no hope whatsoever. They always spell disaster, as far as I am concerned, in spite of those times when they didn't (Berlin 2006, for instance: this is just an aberration in the face of my overwhelming superstitious certainty).

Pizarro was fantastic tonight, and so was (a thing I never expected to be writing) John Arne Riise. "Reezeh" has become a firm favourite in the Sud: Norwegian flags have blossomed across the stand, his name is regularly sung, a group behind me persist in addressing him as "Jonn-eh"and every time he gets the ball 5000 people yell TIRA at him (shoot). Tonight he was great: 'Ammazza Jonn-eh ma è imbarrazante quanto sei forte!' (it's embarrassing how good you are) was my favourite comment. And he was playing at centre-back after Juan came off. Baptista looked flu-ridden; Totti worked hard, held on to the ball well, but is so far from his proper self; Motta was great again; Vucinic faded in and out somewhat, as he is wont to do, and then took the very worst penalty it has ever been my misfortune to see. Like a weak, futile and profoundly embarrassing premature ejaculation, a feeble spurt of the ball which almost ran out of steam before reaching the goal, just trickling limply straight to Almunia (who I suppose becomes the contraceptive in this analogy). Just awful.

I'm not capable of saying how Arsenal played. I can't really tell. It's as much as I could do to think about Roma's game. I can't even recognise most of their players any more; for me, things ended when Henry left, but really it was never the same once Vieira (& and to some extent Bergkamp) weren't there. Above all Vieira. I love a boss-the-midfield, aggressive, brilliant, creative, hot-headed defensive midfielder. De Rossi is a joy to watch, and he always attracts my attention, what ever he's doing; and it used to be Vieira who had that place in my team & my affections. He is so very far from being that player today, mind. Anyway, it's no longer a team I even know; only Wenger remains from that era.

Another thing, UEFA please take note: I am fucking tired of playing English teams. I do not want to play Arsenal again, thanks very much, nor Chelsea, and CERTAINLY not Manchester United. (Of course I also don't want ever to play Liverpool again either, in common with all right-thinking football people, and above all, all romanisti). It's not only that Roma's record against English clubs is piss-poor, though that doesn't help; it's just... if I'd wanted to be subjected to a barrage of media bullshit about the superiority of the Premier League I'd have stayed in England.

maybe tomorrow I will think about putting a photo or two up, maybe not. I have other things I keep meaning to talk about (ultras shenanigans) but not tonight. I feel empty. Like when you've cried yourself hollow, and feel an exhausted nothingness, both bleak and curiously cathartic. I met Chelsea Boy in the regular place outside the ground, by the permanently dry ball-shaped fountain. He knows me well enough that he simply took my hand, and didn't try to speak to me for at least 10 minutes. For which I am very grateful. I'm glad it's all over.


Martha said...

Sorry, Spangles, that was miserable. But, if it helps at all (I know it doesn't), your ejaculation/PK analogy is the stuff of legends.

Martinus Scriblerus said...

Some natural tears they drop'd, but wip'd them soon;
The World was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They hand in hand with wand'ring steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.

Aussie Romanista said...

You'd need balls to be able to ejaculate even prematuraly, and our balkan refugee piss ant of a friend certainly doesn't have any.

Anonymous said...

I thought we played very much below par, as so often this season, and were very very lucky. Riise was huge: Roma suits him (and Baptista too, usually, it seems). I could give you a list of key players we didn't have too, you know :-)

Didn't spoke shaking for about three hours afterwards. We always knew this was going to be horrible.


Anonymous said...

Oh, and, you know, 'I never really loved you' is not really good enough.

philcafc said...

I honestly think I need a break from football. For the first time I'm really wondering whether all the time, money and emotion invested is worth it for those oh so rare moments of elation.

Though that's more so aimed at Charlton than Roma, last night just tipped the scales.

oscar said...

calling Vucinic a refugee...just not on. he sounded like he was about to cry on the radio today, it's not that he doesn't suffer or doesn't care.

everyone misses penalties. his was exceptionally poor, agreed, but there are limits to what we can say without sounding like a laziale

Spangly Princess said...

woah there AR, I understand the rage, but careful with the casual xenophobia.

and I don't think it's fair to say I was suggesting 'I never really loved you'. More, 'you're no longer the person I once loved' which is different.

AT - "Casa Romana", Melbourne AUS said...

A day and a half on and im still distraught. I keep reading reports and watching post match interviews hoping that the result will change. Proud in the fact that for once in a very long time
the depth in the squad stood up to be counted. Miserable that we're out and really there is nothing else to look forward to but battling it out with Genoa and Fiorentina for fouth spot.

Neil said...

"I honestly think I need a break from football. For the first time I'm really wondering whether all the time, money and emotion invested is worth it for those oh so rare moments of elation."

Yes, it is always worth it - it makes them all the more sweeter.

My condolences to all those Roma fans - I am sick of all these EPL teams winning all the time. And I agree with Martha that ejaculation/PK analogy was gold.

Terry said...

Still, Chelsea went through eh? Can I get a hell yeeeeeah anyone?

TrentToffee said...

"barrage of media bullshit about the superiority of the Premier League"

I was listening to the "pundits" on 5-Live as I was driving home on Thursday night (listening to these w*nkers is something I don't usually do). I had a feeling they would be discussing the invincible might of the EPL. Sure enough I wasn't disappointed. Listening to the uber-twat Mark Saggers was like hearing one long drawn out fart. Awful. Truly awful. The BBC just gets worse.

Martinus Scriblerus said...

Terry, you massive dick. Good work.

Terry said...

The truth is that the top four English sides are better than their counterparts in other European leagues, and to debate otherwise is just plain daft. Whether the league as a whole is a strong is another matter altogether, mind you.

Aussie Romanista said...

No apologies for comments on Vucinic. Every time I see what he did I spew more. The club should sack him, not sell him. It'd be embarrassing to get a cent for him. That's not a footballer. A footballer can kick a ball. You want people who can strike a ball like Pirlo, Materazzi, De Rossi, Del Piero and Grosso in the most pressure cooker atmosphere you can imagine. You want warriors, not pansies. There is no excuse he can offer to change my mind, no tears. He fucked over my team and blatantly threw away his wicket so that we have no chance of playing a Champions League final at home. Nothing he does from now on can redeem him in my eyes, because I'll always remember how he treated the most important moment of his career and many Roma players' careers. That's how I feel. Harsh if you like but there's no use sugar-coating it. I can honestly say I've never seen anybody attempt to strike a ball in a worse way. Miss, fine, but at least hit the fucking thing!

cerebus64 said...

Terry, vaffanculo. ;-)
Aussie, you probably forget that if we got there it was because of what Vucinic did against Chelsea in Rome (Terry, do you remember?). I think he wanted to do the "cucchiaio", but he forgot he's not il Capitano... Anyway, I was there. First time in 44 years I've seen a penalty shootout at the Olimpico. Even if it didn't go exactly as we hoped... it was worth every cent, every drop of sweat, every tear.

Richard said...

Great blog entry, as they so often are. I would have loved to read your write-up of a Roman final featuring Roma.

On an earlier blog, I mentioned that you might have divided loyalties with Roma playing Arsenal. I wasn't calling your fandom into quesiton - from my sofa-bound, 'support'-Roma-cos-I-liked-the-kit-on-FootballItalia perspective, you're a superfan!