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Only love can break your heart

I haven’t written much for a while. It’s partly because I’ve been busy trying to overthrow the New Zealand government (at the ballot box of course), but it’s mostly because I have been grumpy. Grumpy with the completely bloody miserable football season we’ve just endured. It started with Italy’s dismal 2010 World Cup. Then Roma started the 2010/11 season horrendously – no surprises there, it wouldn’t be Roma if we didn’t give everyone else a good 4-6 game head start – but then the real problem came. Every single time they looked like perking up, it turned out to be nothing more than a cruel blip, giving us a glimmer of hope to cling onto, then painfully ripping it away. Why so cruel, Roma? Why?

It got to the point where the only logical conclusion to draw was that like lovers who swing between moods of jealousy and passion, Roma likes to make me suffer and test if my love is true and everlasting. 1, 2, 3, 4am alarms. Dragging myself out of bed. Fluffing around with the #$^%ing laptop trying to find a stream that doesn’t stall more often than a 15 year old during his/her first driving lesson. Only to watch a gutless, heartless, disinterested, pile of porridge slushing around a bowl on the other side of the world. Why do I subject myself to it? Dear. God. WHY?

Because I love it, of course. Early morning football watching takes me back to my youth. When getting up and snuggling under a blanket in the lounge to watch Italia ’90 and USA ’94 felt like a rare, special, exciting thing to do. Further, there is something seducing about getting up in the middle of the night to watch your team lose… Like two people who have gone through a terrible ordeal together –it brings them closer together. They share a special bond.

And suffering is important for football fans. It’s only through years and years of suffering that you truly appreciate success. Fabio Capello once said “a Scudetto at Roma is worth ten at Milan or Juventus”. It’s true and it’s easy to see why it is that when Milan or Juventus win the league, you don’t get over a million people gathering in a space like the Circus Maximus to celebrate like this:

Success comes too easily and often for them. They don’t really appreciate it. Give me a Roma or an Everton over a Manchester United or a Milan any day.

So Roma makes me grumpy. A lot. But that’s only one part of why I love La Magica.

You don’t chose a football club to support, a club chooses you. Roma chose me because my father was from the region and the politics of the other big Roman club, SS Lazio, are the polar opposite of mine. Since Roma chose me, that choice has been validated time and time again and our bond has grown stronger at every twist and turn along the way. Every time Roma wins a home match, the song ‘Grazie Roma’, is played over the Stadio Olimpico’s sound system. In the lyrics, it asks:

“Dimmi cos’è? Che ci fa sentire amici anche se non ci conosciamo. Dimmi cos’è? Che ci fa sentire uniti anche se siamo lontani. Dimmi cos’è cos’è? Che batte forte forte forte in fondo al cuore. Che ci toglie il respiro e ci parla d’amore.”

“Tell me what it is? That makes us feel like friends even if we don’t know each other. Tell me what it is? That makes us feel united even when we are far away. Tell me what it is, what it is? That beats strong, strong, strong deep in our heart. That takes our breath away and speaks of love.”

Good questions. It’s about much, much more than a football club, the eleven players on the pitch at any one time, the coach, the President, the nationality of the owners or even The Totti. It’s about the city, about the people of Rome and Lazio Province – It’s about the fans of Roma. Rome is a truly great city – the best city in the world by far in my humble opinion. A place where history, art, food and atmosphere come together like nowhere else. Likewise, Roma supporters are truly great people. Of course there are a few idiots – there always are in every sector of society. But having spent time in the city, been to the Stadio Olimpico to watch Roma play and spent time with some of the fans… as the song says – breathtaking. Perhaps I went in with preconceived romantic ideals of how great it would be, but I still can’t imagine how it could have been much better.

Examples abound. There was wearing a Roma shirt through the Vatican and hearing a member of the Swiss Guard mutter “forza Roma” as I passed by him. There was dining at a restaurant in the old working class neighbourhood of Testaccio with a waiter who talked to me for over half an hour about who should be in the starting line-up for the game that week – the last game of the season with nothing what-so-ever riding on it. The dinner I had in Testaccio with English speaking Romanisti from the Roma-Addict web forum where I was made to feel accepted without question into their brotherhood. The Totti mural at the end of a blind alley in the middle of nowhere, painted after the club’s third Scudetto triumph in 2001, that has become a site of pilgrimage for Roma fans the world over.

Another song – ‘La Roma non si discute, si ama!’ (Roma is not debated, it is loved), is played at the beginning of every home game and passionately sung along with by everyone in the stands. It proclaims Roma “core de sta città” – heart of this city. It’s no cliché. How could anyone not love the heart of the best city in the world? That’s why I love Roma. AHA! Now I remember! That’s why I love football.

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

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