[This piece was originally published over at Roma Journal, an international fan site that picks up all my AS Roma related ramblings]
I own many AS Roma shirts, and they all mean something to me for different reasons. The first one I ever owned. The one from the season I went to Italy and saw them play. The one that is the best looking in my view. The one with the Coppa Italia cockade on the sleeve. Right through to this season’s clean shirt produced by the club in-house. But one in particular means more to me than any other, and it’s the only one I own that carries a player’s number and name on the back.
That name is not Totti or De Rossi, Vucinic or Toni, Batistuta or Lamela. It is J. Sergio.
Júlio Sérgio Bertagnoli joined Roma in 2006 as a FOURTH choice goalkeeper on the recommendation of Doniéber Alexander Marangon – Doni – Roma’s first choice keeper at the time who used to kick cans around with him on the streets of Sao Paolo when they were kids. He appeared destined never to play a Serie A match, until 2009, when injuries to Doni, second choice Bogdan Lobont, and the awful form of 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.
Nobody expected anything of him. In fact when his time came we were all sure he would be nothing but a disaster. Then, in his debut against Juventus, Roma’s last game under Luciano Spalletti, he surprised everyone by performing well despite the loss. New coach Claudio Ranieri kept him on and then something remarkable happened. He started making excellent saves. Then his confidence grew and he started making great saves. Then he started to feel great, and made some incredible saves. Before we knew it, he was an integral part of Roma’s 2009/10 winning run that took the club from nowhere on the table to runners up, and for the first half of the last game of the season, leading Serie A with the helicopter containing the trophy in the air and heading from the San Siro towards Catania, where we were playing that day. It ended up turning back, but the Lega Calcio would have saved a ton of fuel if our Brazillian Cinderella had not been in the team for all those games. From then on, his salary went from €260,000 per season to €1.4M per season.
There were numerous moments of brilliance, but this one in particular will be seared onto my memory for the rest of my life:
I am a sucker for a good fairytale, and this story inspired me greatly at the time. It spoke to me and told me that if you stick to your dreams and never give up, anything is possible. There is hope for us all. Sadly for the hero on this occasion however, it didn’t last. When Ranieri ultimately departed, his replacement Vincenzo Montella was not that long out of the team himself. He had played with Doni, and ironically the new coach looked favourably on an old friend. After a loan spell at Lecce, Júlio Sérgio returned to the eternal city but never played for Roma again. Last week, he was finally released from his contract, and is believed to be returning to Brazil.
We must therefore say farewell, but not before one last look at this tribute, produced by the ever fantastic ErmeS79, that I don’t mind telling you when I watched it just now, it produced a few tears. Ciao bello!
Categories: Roma/Italian Calcio
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.