AS Roma Match Program (F. Viola) He wasn’t born in Cesena, but the Emilian city is like home for him now. Francesco Antonioli played 145 times for Roma, 10 of which were in the Coppa Italia, winning the scudetto and a Supercoppa with the Giallorossi. Now he’s Cesena’s goalkeeping coach, and while he’s preparing for an always emotional return to the Olimpico, he says that “Life’s good in Cesena, there’s the right sort of relaxed atmosphere to allow us to work well here.”
You finished your career playing in goal for Cesena before joining their coaching staff, how did that come about?
I already lived in Cesena and I was tired of having to keep moving cities to join another club. I wasn’t a young man any more, and after a difficult period – I’d suffered a loss in the family – I decided to retire. One day I met Bisoli, the old Cesena boss, on the street and he asked me what I was up to. When I told him I’d decided to retire, that I was fed up of moving, he suggested I play for them. During my 3 years there we rose up the leagues and things were going well, then I joined the coaching staff.
How are things going this season for Cesena?
Not particularly well, we aren’t meeting our expectations. This team is capable of doing much better, they aren’t a team that should be down at the bottom of the league.
You changed coaches after 2 months without a win at the start of the season
Yes, things have been going a bit better since Camplone came in, but there’s still a long way to go if we’re to avoid relegation.
What is the team missing?
The squad have a few problems, and they’re not stepping up to the next level.
What went right against Sassuolo, who were the favourites when you beat them in the last round of the Coppa Italia?
We started slowly and then we grew as the game went on. Maybe things worked out because we didn’t have the burden of having to pick up points like we do in the league. We approached the game much better, much more calmly.
Do you think the fact that Cesena are focusing on the league will mean they won’t treat the game at the Olimpico seriously?
The Coppa Italia isn’t our main objective, partly because of the financial situation we’re in. The club needs to focus on maintaining its place in Serie B. But, obviously, playing at the Olimpico is a great opportunity for us, a unique chance for us to play on a much bigger stage.
So what sort of game are you expecting then?
I don’t know, but I hope that it’s a good game for us. It needs to be a good test for us before our next game against Carpi. I don’t know who the coach will decide to play, whether he’ll pick players who haven’t featured as much or if he’ll go with experience. I hope that it’s a good match to watch.
Do you think Roma might run the risk of underestimating their oppponents?
Definitely not, given what happened last weekend. Their recent good form has taken a knock and they’ll want to start winning again straight away.
Tell us about Camplone
He’s a well-prepared, attentive coach, but he’s forthright too. He demands concentration from his players, but he doesn’t rule with an iron fist.
What do you think about Roma’s season so far?
They have a great team, they just lack that little bit extra to become a team like Juventus, that winning mentality that means you never give up and earns you results in the end. Ever since Spalletti returned, Roma have been playing well and seem much more motivated. I don’t have first-hand knowledge of his methods, but the fact that he already knows what it’s like to work in Rome is very important, it’s a big advantage.
You won the title and a Supercoppa with the Giallorossi – what was the winning ingredient?
Everything went right for us that year. Everyone in the dressing room pulled together in the same direction. The whole group had the desire to win – we had the right mentality.
What do you think about Roma’s current goalkeepers?
I don’t know much about Alisson, I’ve only seen him in the Coppa Italia and I can’t judge him only based on that. I’ve been following Szczesny since his time at Arsenal though. He’s doing very well at Roma and he’s done exceptionally well to adapt to our style of football so quickly.
Who, in your opinion, is the most promising goalkeeper in Italian football at the moment?
He isn’t an unknown any more, but Donnarumma isn’t just a promising youngster any more – he’s handled the situation excellently for the last year and a half. Not everyone is capable of playing in Serie A at the age of 17 and a half.