When you have an older brother, they can shape your whole world. When you're young and you're learning about pretty much everything, your older brother is the one person in your life that you can look up to and the one person who helps you to draw the path where you want to go. Sometimes that drawing comes in the form of a couple of words, sometimes as a cool band he showed you or sometimes as an image, an vivid moment that burns within you.
This story is about brothers and about vivid moments like that, but more importantly, it's about creating memories.
My older brother has always been a sort of mentor figure to me and has always been the one person I'd always talk to about my interests, whether it was football, music or literature. Regardless of the subject, he'd listen and make sarcastic comments about it. Brothers would be brothers. As a kid that didn't have lots of friends growing up, you tend to appreciate the few gestures of attention.
Actually, he was the one who got me into football; he is a Real Madrid supporter and a Premier League fan, so thanks to that I knew Manchester United and became a fan of Ferguson's team back in 2005 (my other passion, I must admit, so please don't ask me about the 7-1). I didn't understand a lot of football. Sure, I knew you had to score more goals than your rival, but stuff like deep lying playmakers, full-backs and the likes were beyond me at the time. God, I was only 11.
Around October that year, my brother got sick with hepatitis. My mother and I came home after doing some errands and we saw him with bloodshot eyes, yellowish skin and extremely tired. Without thinking much, we took him to a hospital and a couple of days later he was much more established there.
Two days later, I came to visit him at the hospital with some of his favorite football magazines and we talk a bit about it. He had this little TV on his room and we started to change channels until finding something interesting to watch. We get to the Italian channel, Rai, and there was this Serie A match going on; it was Inter against Roma.
Mind you, Rai was the only channel showing Italian football at the time in my country, Venezuela, and the commentators were speaking in Italian, so I was never really interested in watching (dumb thinking, I know; it gets worse now because I want to learn Italian). I had the remote control and I was going to change it, but my brother told me he wanted to see the match because there was a player at Roma that was, according, "really, really good".
You know who that player is. I know who that player is. And a few minutes later, Julio Cesar knew who that player was.
Francesco Totti was at that time of my life a distant figure that I heard a couple of times, but never gave too much attention to it; I was only watching La Liga and the Premier League at the time, so I only knew him by name. But sometimes players, just like bands, books, people and life in general, can surprise you and grab you by the neck to never let you go. Sometimes they want your attention and they want you to never forget who they are. That October 26th of 2005, Francesco Totti did that at San Siro.
The match was already 0-1 when we tuned in; some guy named Vincenzo Montella scored the first goal, but then it happened: one of the many moments that explain why this is Francesco's church and why it was built.
I see this man with long hair, the armband on his arm and dressing in full white like a knight, getting the ball on the halfway of the pitch, just to get past a couple of Inter defenders (who at the time I thought were just average dudes; I didn't know Inter nor Roma) and then I stood in silence as that man with the no. "10" behind his back made the ball float with the grace of hundreds of flying swans.
I didn't know anything about football at the time. I didn't know stats. I didn't know tactics. Hell, I didn't even know their names. But I knew that was a fucking brilliant goal, the kind that sticks with you and never leaves, like the kiss of an unforgettable lover.
You don't need to understand football to appreciate that goal. You don't need to understand football to know that Francesco Totti is a genius.
Even the celebration itself made an impact on me: there was this man sending kisses to the fans on the stands, with his long hair flowing up and down, like a gladiator celebrating with his people and it was just like that. The first reminder that this man was made for these people.
And just as I was amazed by what I just witnessed, my brother, weakened by hepatitis and his medical treatments, just smiled and said: "Told you Totti was good. You should see him play more often. You won’t regret it."
Sometimes you have to listen to your older brother. If I weren't for him, I wouldn't probably be here.