The transfer window is a curious time of year. A time to farewell much loved family members, welcome fresh blood and say good riddance to those we claim to have never liked to begin with. It is a time of excitement and expectation. Rumours, 90% of which turn out to be complete rubbish, keep us on the edge of our seats for weeks. We get filled with angst over at best dubious website reports that stridently claim that X player is set to arrive at Y club. The official announcement is tomorrow. The deal is worth X million. There is a buy back clause. The player has agreed to personal terms but the clubs are haggling over the transfer fee. The player wants to stay but has no future at the club. Some websites will even have a story saying X player is absolutely coming to Y club (you heard it here first!) right above another link to another article that says the same player is happy where he is and his agent has had no contact from Y club. Fans and media outlets alike are wonderful at proclaiming deals to be done. But we learn the hard way that deals are never done until there is a picture of the player holding your club’s shirt on the official website.
Fans will hail potential transfers as strokes of genius one minute and incompetence the next. Some fans would hail the arrival of Steve Urkel as the second coming of Maradona. Others, as an Arsenal fan pointed out today on Twitter, would welcome the signing of Lionel Messi by complaining he’s too short.
For my favourite club, Roma, it has been a particularly traumatic transfer period because the new American owners have virtually signed a whole new starting XI. When a club goes through a period of renewal like this it not only multiplies the number of bogus transfer rumours you have to fight your way through to get to the truth, but it also raises interesting issues around loyalty to one’s club. When you have new owners, new management, a new coach and a new squad all in the space of one summer – what’s left to be loyal to? A badge, a shirt and a city – that’s it because literally everything else has changed beyond recognition.
Even though our love for our clubs stretches far beyond the players, those players personify the club while they are there. After all, what is football without actual football games? To us, the fans, the players are the club and the club is them. They supply us with the things we remember about the clubs we love – those magic moments in games that we tell our grandchildren about. So how can we go from loving a player like Philippe Mexès at Roma to hating him at Milan a few short weeks later? Does loyalty to our clubs mean we have to be so fickle with players? When a player like Doni, who has done so, so much for a club like Roma is past his use-by date, are we too quick to show them the door and celebrate their departure? I fear some fans seem to take great pleasure in effectively chasing them out of town with pitch forks raised yelling “and stay out!” when they reach the city limits. Call me soft, but I can’t quite bring myself to think that way. They are playing elsewhere now, but I will always be grateful for what they gave me and my club and keep a soft spot for them in my heart.
It follows that outside significant moments in our relationships with our partners, highlights from our favourite clubs in our favourite sport can quite legitimately and guiltlessly rank as amongst the most memorable moments of our lives. Two of those moments in particular were gifted to me by two of the players who departed my beloved Roma over the 2011 summer transfer window. Today, I want to pay special tribute to them.
The first comes from a game I was lucky enough to be present in lo Stadio Olimpico to witness first hand. The best goal I have ever seen live in my life and one of the best goals I have ever seen.
The second – who could forget the amazing story of Julio Sergio. The man who joined Roma as a fourth choice goalkeeper on the recommendation of an old Brazilian school friend, Doniéber Alexander Marangon – Doni. Destined to never to play a Serie A match until injuries to Doni and Lobont and the awful form of the third choice Artur translated into an opportunity for the unlikeliest of heroes who ended up spending a season keeping his childhood friend on the bench. And for good reason – saves like this:
He may be gone but my 2009/10 Roma goalkeepers shirt with ‘J. Sergo 27’ printed on the back will remain amongst my most prized possessions and an inspirational reminder that anything is possible.
A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/