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Portrait of a deluded Roma fan

AS Roma 2, Manchester City 2 (Manchester City won 5-4 on penalties)
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, July 21 2015

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Australia may be our closest neighbour, and Australians might be similar to us in so many ways that a trip across the ditch might not seem particularly exotic, but even still you never know what might surprise you once you get there. For me, over the past week, my experience of watching Roma play outside Italy for the first time was fundamentally different to my previous experiences of watching them at the Stadio Olimpico in ways that I wasn’t quite prepared for.

This whole Melbourne Roma experience brought me to the necessary realisation that, after years of supporting a club like Roma in a country like New Zealand, I have become pretty insulated. Guilty, perhaps, of thinking and acting as though I am the only fan on earth when I am so very, very not. Of course I knew that there were hundreds of thousands of Roma fans in Italy – I see them on my computer monitor every week watching games. But that’s in Italy, on the opposite side of the planet. To see so many fans wearing the colours in the stadium and on Melbourne streets, in a country so close to New Zealand, was a real eye-opener.

I quite like the cosy little feeling of Roma being MINE and nobody else’s, and so I found sharing the team with Australian supporters a little bit hard at times – I felt a bit like an only child upon whom it had just dawned what a little brother or sister would mean for my life… Especially when it appeared as though others were getting privileges that I wasn’t… This feeling manifested itself as a result of the cancellation of the MCG training run I had purchased tickets to.

I wasn’t interested in watching the team train per-se. Instead I had been intensely excited by the prospect of autographs, maybe a photo with a player or two.

I had previously tried stalking them at their hotel, but it wasn’t really my style. I gave up after a short time nervously sitting in the restaurant nibbling at $40 bacon and eggs hoping for a glimpse, but at the same time terrified of what might happen if I did see someone and try to approach them. Would I get chucked out by hotel security for so much as looking at them? As I beat a hasty retreat, I told myself that the open training was where I would get my chance.

Open training was to be at 5:30pm on Monday night. My wife and I got to the MCG at 2:30. However does she put up with me? Sad bastard, I know, but I thought if there was going to be a lot of other fans there I would need to be early to get up the front – prime selfie territory!!

There wasn’t anyone else around so we took the MCG tour (fascinating), checked out the sports museum (very highly recommended) and purchased a bit more Roma merchandise (because I didn’t already have a suitcase full of it…) which took us to about ten minutes before the gates were due to open for the training. We were sitting, poised and ready to beat the crush when a security guard broke the news that training had been cancelled due to the organisers not wanting the team to cut up the MCG turf. Apparently an e-mail was sent (to my work address, which I couldn’t check in Australia) informing us of the fact.

Firstly – have you ever heard of such a pathetic excuse? What’s more important, some grass or the fans? And secondly, why was there not a word on social media from either the promoters or the club? One e-mail is a piss weak and quite disrespectful attempt to give fans the courtesy of letting them know what was going on. To say I was gutted would be an understatement. But what could we do? Off we trudged to a downtown bar for a cocktail to drown our (my) sorrows.

It was there that I looked on Twitter and saw a video that the club had posted of the very much occurring training session, moved to Lakeside Stadium, with a smattering of fans sitting in the stand, getting autographs and selfies with players! It was like a dagger though my heart. How had they known where to go? Why were they special and not me? I had come over two and a half thousand kilometres just to see this team. Had any of them come as far? I seriously doubted it.

It might seem melodramatic but the hurt of this threatened to consume me and ruin my holiday. Luckily I recognised this, fought to not let it, and eventually found that watching the Manchester City game the next night completed the antidote. Unlike the Real Madrid match where I was up in the gods watching two fairly disinterested teams, this time I was in the ‘Roma Active Zone’, which was a much more enjoyable experience, watching an exciting contest.

The result didn’t go the way I would have liked but while friendlies count for absolutely nothing, manufactured fake penalty shootouts at the end of them mean even less. The important thing was I had a blast in the stands with the other Australasian Romanisti.

Over the couple of days that followed before both Roma and I departed the land down under, there were other opportunities to try and meet Roma players. I could have hung around the hotel some more or stalked the team at their training venue but, actually, the desire to be a groupie was gone. I had grown up. They say travel broadens the mind, and it does, even when you don’t go far.

Categories: Roma/Italian Calcio

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Enzo Giordani

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/

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