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Totti Today #87: There’s only one

Now that I’m slowly but surely ascending back to real life in Belgium (work, taxes, gray weather), it’s time to reflect on the past week and my time spent in Rome. And what a great trip it has been.

Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Even after 14 seasons as a fan and one earlier visit back in 2012, the city of Rome and its red-yellow club can still surprise me. I’d like to apologize in advance because I didn’t bring along my ‘Sabacadabra’, ‘Simone Loria Euphoria’ , ‘We are all Bren’ , or ‘Dhawstradamus b*tches’ banners to the Stadio, but hey, security was tight and I can’t risk getting thrown out of the stadium.

After seeing tons of games of Roma online on my laptop thanks to shady Ukrainian or Russian streaming, Sunday was my first real experience with the club AS Roma and the impact it has on the people living there. The game was forwarded to 12H30 local time so I had to leave quite early in my hotel, a hotel which was quite nice actually. It was situated by the river Tevere, close to the Palace of Justice, and named Belli 36, for those of you interested.

Anyway, enough playing Trip Advisor. Back to football. I couldn’t permit myself a hangover from the night before, a long breakfast or simply to sleep late. No lazy Sunday, no sir. From Belli I went straight to the Piazza del Popolo up north to catch the tram. There I already met some singing Roma fans waiting in line. Don’t know if there was any alcohol involved or not, but the atmosphere for the Chievo clash was optimistic, to say the least.

Funny, usually in Belgium I feel quite estranged when I wear my Roma cap or t-shirt, simply because you don’t see them a lot on the streets or in bars. But at the tram stop that day you were a stranger if you didn’t wear something red. Something about it made me feel right at home, one of the boys. Next to my cap and shirt, I also wore my Roma scarf, self-made by my girlfriend (thanks love). Finally the tram arrived. I was ready. My body was ready.

At the stop Mancini I got out and walked to the Stadio Olimpico, across the river Tevere. With thousands of people alongside of me. Only 10min left until the game began. To be fair, I was getting a little nervous. I felt like a child again. It was a sight to behold when I went up the stairs and I first saw a glimpse of the interior of the Olimpico and the pitch. I immediately knew it was gonna be a special day. The stadium was packed and it was perfect football weather. Not long before kick-off…

Antonello Venditti’s Roma Roma Roma was the first true moment of goosebumps. Such a beautiful song, especially if almost 60K fans sing it live. The players came out of the tunnel, money time! I’ll be short about the game itself, you already got a comprehensive review by Bren. Roma dominated the match and totally deserved the win. A lot of possession, passing, movement, counters, I clearly picked the right match to attend.

Ironic isn’t it? That a fellow Belgian opened the scoring that afternoon. My first Roman goal live at the Stadio. My girlfriend said I almost cried but I deny every statement of her, I’m a grown man. I don’t cry, I never cry. I just accidentally lost tears that came out of my eyes. It’s not the same. During the game I quickly noticed the usual characteristics and strenghts of our players. Pjanic’ vision, Radja’s grinta, Florenzi’s Roman heart, Salah’s speed… I was also surprised by Rüdiger’s stellar performance and Woj’s spectacular save on a Chievo free-kick.

But then, around the hour mark, Il Capitano Totti was about to come on. The stadium was on fire, my body exploded. Everyone shouted Un capitano, c’è solo un capitano. My life goal has been reached. And Francesco nearly scored moments later. He kinda wanders around the pitch, doesn’t move a lot and even looks to be lazy at times, but that’s just a smokescreen. When he has the ball, magic happens. Sure, he can’t hide his 39 years, but you can’t deny the impact he has on this team when he comes on. His passing and football IQ still remains out of this world. I’m very lucky to be one of those that saw Totti play football in his own backyard, in real life. Those 30min I’ll cherish forever.

A nice lap of honor by the players and an emotional Grazie Roma followed after the final whistle. Damn, it all went by so fast. I wanted the game to last 90min longer. I enjoyed every minute, every second of it. I took some more pictures, gave one last look at the Olimpico and then left the stadium as a happy man, like all the other tifosi.

Thank you Rome for this amazing experience. For the hospitality, great food, impressive architecture and cheerful inhabitants. And thank you Francesco, the captain of the most beautiful club in the most beautiful city in the world.

I head back to the centre with my love to celebrate the win, Totti, life in general. Nothing could spoil my day. And in my mind I’m still singing.

C’è solo un capitano.