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Franco Baldini : My rules for a clean football

ROME, ITALY - OCTOBER 21:  New general manager of AS Roma, Franco Baldini attends a press conference at Centro Sportivo Fulvio Bernardini on October 21, 2011 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - OCTOBER 21: New general manager of AS Roma, Franco Baldini attends a press conference at Centro Sportivo Fulvio Bernardini on October 21, 2011 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
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The following excerpts are from his interview in 2011. The reason I am re-posting this is because a lot of folks out here need to know what this man stands for and what he means to Roma and how lucky we are to have him run our club.

He is one of the few true blue blooded professionals left. I have nothing but utmost respect and love for Franco Baldini.

Is this a return from exile?

I left because after what I said about Moggi, it didn't make sense to stay in Italy anymore, nor were the conditions right to work there. Too many conflicts of interest, too many hindrances among credit systems, people, institutions. You love and then you stop loving. I didn't love that kind of football anymore; I couldn't. For a while I went to South Africa to sell coffee. However, I now have to make amends.

To someone?

To Gabriele Oriali, who has been involved and has negotiated, as a manager for Inter, in the false passports scandal in the Recoba case. He told the truth; that is, he sought advice from me. I told him I knew of someone, although I didn't know him personally, who was in charge of ensuring that the paperwork was in order. It later turned out that this person wasn't clean. Oriali didn't know it, nor did I. He has suffered very much from this public blemish and I regret it to this day.

In six years, little has changed, the sport is still run by the same people.

But I have to force myself to think that the climate is different. I have to do what English people do: they just go out without wondering what the weather is like. They take the rain, the clouds, the permanent gloominess as a certainty, but this doesn't stop them from going about their business. I have lived and worked in Spain and England, where football is taken seriously, but people still enjoy it. There, you go to the stadium to celebrate, not to act on your most base instincts, nor to behave like a brute. And I wonder if this is also possible in Italy. This is the last chance I have not to remain indifferent.

So what, then?

No police in the stadiums, no tessera del tifoso (Italy’s supporters’ card system), no seats far away from the pitch. I don't want to see police in riot gear but stewards, because clearly a certain imagery, with helmets and batons, suggests that the conflict is a certainty rather than a possibility. Appearance counts as much as substance. I want a stadium with a parking lot, services, good public transportation, not a trail of wagons like in the Wild West. I want families there who don’t have to brace themselves for weeks before going to the game, but can quickly get to the stadium safe and sound. And to enjoy and cheer during the match, not fear any danger.

Does that mean goodbye to the Olimpico?

Yes. It will take time, we've started a path, and projects have already been initiated. But enough with this football that people uselessly discuss for the whole week and experience like savages during those 90 minutes that count. The city of Rome represents one of the greatest names in the world, like its team, but we need to lose our provincial mentality.

Is this a new philosophy?

No, for heaven's sake! I’m not bringing a revolution, just common sense and pragmatism. In other countries these things have already been done, so why not in Italy? My aim is to make this the norm rather than the exception. I would like a system where legality is respected, and where observing the rules isn’t considered an aberation. I know the players, they’re instinctual beings that can smell an outsider. To gain their trust, they need to feel like you belong in the same environment. They don't love gurus.

And so?

That’s why in Trigoria, the Primavera (Youth) squad will train beside and on the same schedule as the first team, to help them understand that the jump to regular team play isn’t impossible. We have a young team, for the lads to play in it shouldn’t mean debunking a taboo, but should be seen as a reward for commitment. Italian football must be modernised in this regard too; our signings are all under 22, adding fresh blood is not bad, it’s better than relying on the market leftovers. Roma doesn't intend to appeal on behalf of suspended players; on the contrary, Roma will bench those players who tarnish its name with ugly fouls and bad behaviour, even those that the referee might not see. Enough with the excuses.

An ethical code?

I want to do these things, not announce them, or talk about them. I know that Rome is chaotic, messy, wild, a place where they will make me pay for everything. For a long time I've hoped that the Americans wouldn't hire me. I have painted myself and Italy as incompatible, I have told them how and why they were wrong to choose me, even though we got along immediately, they've surprised me with the trust they have in my authoritativeness, and therefore I said to myself I had three option: to go away, to be part of it in a confirmist way, or to accept it and try to change things. For this reason, the first thing I asked Luis Enrique when I met him was how he intended to behave with the referee.

TV rights: According to the league, Roma is lined up with Juve, Milan, Inter.

I am for the collective sale of TV rights. Where it happens, like in Germany, there is continuous turnover at the top of the table. Instead, in Spain the struggle is reduced to two teams: if it's not Real it's Barcelona. The tragedy of Italian football is that even if it makes lots of money and is no minor sport, it's impoverished. It didn't know how to manage its wealth, and now with the crisis it's even more in crisis. It's also late on solutions.

Actually, they’re also late on controversies

I met (the late Inter director and club legend Giacinto) Facchetti; he was a good person and a great man. But death doesn't excuse certain behaviours. I believe that from Heaven he can avoid looking at the misery down here.

For 18 years AS Roma belonged to a family, now it’s part of a group that’s talking about branding?

"It’s a group with some relevance; some studied at Harvard, (Thomas DiBenedetto) wants to invest, not exploit. Rome and AS Roma are major brands; we need to find an international identity, a new dimension for marketing. In this field, football clubs in other countries make money, so why can't we?"

Manchester City has just signed a new sponsorship contract for its stadium: 170 million euros for 15 years worth of exclusivity. Arab businessmen invest all over the world, but not in Italy.

Why would they? There’s enormous bureaucracy, low expectations of lawfulness, enormous confusion regarding what can and can’t be done. We never provide answers, just uncertainties.

Aren't there too many managers at Roma between the new ones and the old ones? You, Fenucci, Sabatini and then Conti and Mazzoleni, considering that Pradé has just gone?

Responsibilities and roles must be reconsidered. Just like in the medical field. As I was saying, I don't seek anything unconventional, but normalcy. AS Roma has to take possession of itself. The Americans have a project that makes sense, not just something short-term. They’re attached to their roots, even if they don't speak Italian.
Not everything will be easy, nor will it be quick.

Do you owe anything to anyone you’ve met in the past few years?

Perhaps to Adriano Sofri, whom I visited in prison in Pisa, where I had been invited by the university. (Meeting him) has made me reflect, understand my limits, and at the same time be less indulgent with myself. You can work on your own flaws, you don’t have to believe that things are inevitable. There is nothing undignified in defeat, but there is if you don’t accept it. I feel that moving to Rome is going to be dangerous. As my father always says: ‘wherever there’s a risk of getting kicked, your bottom is right there.

Thanks to Sterling for a fluent English translation.