Il Tempo (Alessandro Austini) Francesco cries. The day has come, and it hurts. It hurts everyone, and we can only imagine how it hurts you. Francesco cries because it wasn’t a celebration. It was something else, neither better nor worse: a moving farewell, a goodbye, the end of a 25 year old story (if you don’t count another 3 years in the youth team), the start of something which not even Totti knows what it will be, and which makes him “afraid”. Ilary cries, the wife of a great champion who now needs her love more than ever before. Cristian cries, Chanel cries, their father has stopped playing and will no longer blow kisses to them from the pitch but will continue to do so at home every day. Isabel doesn’t cry, because she doesn’t know the importance of what was happening, and was the only one really enjoying herself in that vast stadium, full of people, colour, songs, tears, emotions.
For an interminable hour, Totti brought Roma together, after it had been shattered into a thousand pieces: Spalletti and Pallotta were whistled, Dzeko – the leading goalscorer in Italy and in Europe, and who was decisive again yesterday – was insulted, because supporters always have it in for someone, whoever used to play for Roma or whoever might come in next is always better than the team’s current players. But not yesterday. After the game, everyone came together for Francesco in honour of an unrepeatable career. A truly intense celebration, the most beautiful ever seen in an Italian stadium. It wasn’t the same for Del Piero or for Baggio or for Maradona, and there is no one that will ever be able to experience such a moment ever again. Heart-breaking and consolatory.
120,000 teary eyes watched the captain in the club’s shirt and shorts for the last time, watching him slowly walk round the entire pitch, with music playing in the background – at first sad, then happier – with chants to give him courage and break the surreal silence, and Vito Scala – even he was moved – was there to give his Francesco strength after looking after him like his own child for his entire career. “Noi non ti lasceremo mai” sang the Curva Sud, and he was in tears. There will never be another captain like him.
Now Daniele cries too, because what his friend Francesco has passed on to him is an enormous responsibility – he is finally no longer capitan futuro but capitan presente. There are disappointments in football and in life, and his goal to make it 2-1, his exhilarating run underneath the Curva Sud, the next day’s headlines about passing on the baton, was another example. Roma always have to make life difficult and pick themselves up again, as Perotti was able to do this time – who, incidentally, was called Diego because his father played at Boca with Maradona – with a goal that for once didn’t come from the penalty spot.
Emerson cries, you’ve come into a cursed squad and if you hadn’t already realised, then yesterday you did: here, knee ligaments snap like old elastic bands, and just when you think you’ve arrived you realise you’ve only just begun. Isn’t that true Florenzi? You cried as well, together with El Shaarawy and Manolas – everyone was moved as their most special team-mate took centre stage for hte last time. Spalletti cried, with the face of someone who feels like he is hiding at a party to which he hasn’t been invited. He has tried to explain himself in every way possible, but which have so often been taken out of context. The means and methods were so often wrong, so now it’s right to go separate ways after a fantastic season with a record number of points, with only a dominant Juventus stopping them from making it a winning season.
Pallotta doesn’t cry and it’s right that he doesn’t: clubs must be run with cool heads and emotional detachment, otherwise there is the risk of making even more mistakes than have been made up until now. The first real jeers were directed at him though, and he will have felt something. Marco, Alessandro, Valeria, Giovanna all cried, together with 60,000 other broken-hearted supporters inside the Olimpico. Every time the cameras panned to the stands, there were tears, as TV channels recorded Totti Day and showed it inside the stadium, across Italy and across the world. There were interviews before the game, clips of his best goals, photos from his career, and then the Curva’s choreography that reminded the world that “Totti è la Roma“, and as the game kicked off he went to them to thank them.
Francesco cried, but there were no regrets. He did everything he could, right up to the end as he took the ball into the corner to win corners and free kicks to end that wretched match against Genoa. His career finished there, and the hour afterwards will remain forever part of the city’s history and part of sporting folklore, with the Olimpico coloured with “Totti 10” cards, the enormous shirt on the centre of the pitch, the lap of the pitch, Pallotta’s plaque, the plate from his team-mates, the letter read out to the fans as Isabel pranced about at his feet. “I hoped I’d die first,” read one banner. No, it was good to be there. Crying with Francesco.