Confession time. I am an unusual Roma fan – I quite like Juventus. There. I said it. I’m not proud of it, but there it is. I can’t help how I feel… I don’t want to make excuses, but back in the days when the only way you could watch Italian teams from the antipodes was in the Champions League, Juventus were the team for Italians to support. Zinedine Zidane, Gianluca Vialli, Fabrizio Ravanelli, Didier Deschamps, Alessandro Del Piero. I cheered them on as, with a side that also contained current coach Antonio Conte, they beat Ajax on penalties in the 1996 final. And again a year later when they went down 3-1 in the final to Dortmund. I don’t have quite the same soft-spot for them now as I did then, Calciopoli saw to that, but I still don’t dislike them as I do some of Roma’s other rivals.
For most Romanisti, it’s a very different story. There is a lot of bad blood in the semi-recent history of the two clubs. It started, at least in my mind, in the late ‘90s when Roma was starting to get competitive all of a sudden after a time in the doldrums. Referee decisions always seemed to go Juve’s way, as they still do, and their money from the Fiat motor company’s Agnelli family was often used to poach players and transfer targets alike. This prompted Roma’s then coach Zdeněk Zeman to start an all-out verbal feud with the Turin giants with bitter rants about their on and off-field behaviour. He became obsessed with them to the point of ridicule. This didn’t stop when Zeman was succeeded by Fabio Capello either, it was during this time that he famously quipped, amongst many other things, that “a scudetto at Roma is worth ten at Milan or Juventus”. But even Capello was not immune to Juve’s ‘charms’. He left Roma for the bitter enemy in 2004 and took Emerson, one of our star scudetto winning players, with him – a betrayal that many have still not gotten over.
The Juventus Roma rivalry is not a true derby though. If it was, every single Juventus game would be one. Quite simply – everyone hates them. They know this too, and they don’t seem to mind. Like a reality TV show villain, they often revel in it. When they were relegated to Serie B following the Calciopoli scandal, their fans drove around the country in convoy to their away games against lowly clubs on dustbowls in small villages singing at the top of their lungs “WE ARE JUVENTUS – EVERYBODY HATES US – WE DON’T CARE!”
But when the stakes are high, any game against Juventus becomes the closest thing you can get to a derby without it actually being one. Monday morning’s game could decide the scudetto this season. We may be unbeaten, but when Juventus is your main rival you can’t afford to drop points – any points. They roll on like a juggernaut and once they are more than a few points clear of you, I don’t mean to sound defeatist but, you might as well pack up your tent and go home. With 15 wins, only one draw and one loss up to this point, they sit 5 points ahead of Roma. If it gets to 8, it’s goodnight nurse. Back to two, and we’ve got a show on our hands once again. The stakes couldn’t be higher.
Our team is almost at full strength with left back Balzaretti the only significant abscence. Our two “EPL cast-offs” Gervinho and Maicon have been simply immense – Arsenal and City fans eat your hearts out, both men are nothing short of beasts. Our central defensive duo of Castan and Benatia, who have revolutionised our defence from turnstile to brick wall, are both free from suspension. Our stunning all-international midfield of Strootman, De Rossi and Pjanic is arguably the best in the league. And most importantly of all – Totti is fit and will start. There’s an old Chinese saying that dates back to the time of Confucius that is quite pertinent in this case. It goes: “No Totti, no party”.
But up against all that is that good old Juventus machine, led by the legends that are Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo. Not to mention the likes of Vidal, Pogba, Asamoah, Tevez, Llorente and former Roma favourite Mirko Vucinic. Plus the referee, match officials and 41,000 fans at Juventus Stadium. We are going to have to be superb to win, and I’m honestly not sure we have been superb, from 1 to 11, for a good 6-8 weeks now despite the unbeaten record.
If you only watch one Serie A game this season, it should be this one.
If you live in New Zealand, the game is on at 8:45am Monday and can be live-streamed here: http://firstrownow.eu/sport/football.html . After the match I will update this with a link for where you can download it, but really, there is no reason not to watch this live. It’s a civilised hour, you’re all on holiday – NO EXCUSES! Watch it or I will judge you harshly.
P.S. If you need something else to get you in the mood and have a spare hour to kill, listen to this podcast. It’s by my good friends at Roma Journal and includes as a special guest, everyone’s favourite Juventus fan Mina Rzouki, who is extremely knowledgeable and does a great job for calico on a range of TV channels where she appears as a pundit.
Categories: Roma/Italian Calcio
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: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/