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Francesco’s Finale: Roma v. Genoa

It’s okay to cry.

AS Roma v Sevilla FC -  Preseason Friendly Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

I have no idea how to write this, or what I’m supposed to really say, but I just keep reminding myself that, despite the fact we’re the Chiesa di Totti, this is a Roma site. We don’t write match previews tailored to one player, no matter their stature, so although it might seem impossible, I’ll try not to make this a maudlin display. Roma has a job to do tomorrow, a job that could potentially net them tens of millions euros, so we’ll focus largely on the task at hand.

Roma v. Genoa: May 28, 18:00 CET/12:00 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.

That task is, of course, defeating Genoa and, in the process, securing second place and automatic qualification into the Champions League next....

Ah, fuck it. I can’t do this. I can’t pretend like tomorrow’s match is just another run of the mill fixture. This is it. This is the last time we’ll see Totti in a Roma shirt. Despite all the thousands of words we’ve dedicated to his farewell tour over the past year, the prospect of never seeing that again hasn’t sunk in until now.

It’s real, it's happening, he’s leaving. So you can spare me all the “Roma is bigger than one man. Roma will prevail” because it’s bullshit. This isn’t a small, trifling matter. This is the man that kept the club afloat for 25 goddamn years, you don’t erase that so flippantly, you can’t move on from something that significant so casually, and if you can, you’re missing a significant part of the Roma experience.

And whether you call us “fanboys”, as if that’s supposed to be pejorative, or simply ignorant, let me turn it right back at you. What do you love Roma? Do you love the corporate signage on the website? The banal press releases? Did you really love that WIND phone?

Of course you fucking don’t. You love this club for the same reason I do, they’re special. They’re special because a man who by all rights should have left them in the dust didn’t. He stayed because he loved the team, and in the process that love spanned the globe, enrapturing a whole new generation of fans. He stayed despite the fact his employers let him down time and time again, preferring a life entertaining his family and friends over fame and greater fortune. What would have happened to this club without Francesco Totti over the past 25 years?

Francesco Totti is AS Roma and AS Roma is Francesco Totti, and if you don’t see that or simply don’t care, then I’m afraid we’ll never see eye to eye, but just know this...

You will never hear this again.

Attempting to wrap up this “preview”, a term I’ll use loosely here, is exceedingly difficult because it’s nearly impossible to escape the sense of finality about it—whether he moves onto a different club or not, this isn’t the end of Francesco Totti and Roma, that relationship will carry on in some capacity—but I can’t shake this feeling of emptiness.

While our detractors will say we’re putting Totti above the club, what they fail to realize is that, for a significant portion of the Roma fanbase, particularly those outside of Italy, they quite literally don’t know a Roma without Francesco Totti. His grace, his selflessness and his excellence conflated the identity of the two—the man became the club and the club became the man.

If you joined the ranks of Roma fans at any point since 1993, this is all you know. The site of Totti orchestrating the attack, his audacious passes and thunderous goals, swelled you with pride and joy and gave you solace when nothing else could. And while I’m not foolish enough to equate this with losing an actual loved one, if you’ve invested any part of yourself in Totti, and by extension the club, this is a loss, and a significant one at that.

How do you process that? How do you accept that? How do you move on? These are questions we’ll have to learn to deal with, for while we’ll always love Roma, that love may never feel quite the same without Totti—not until we find another flag to rally around.

In the meantime, we’re left to confront this emptiness. A void which seems like it could envelop an entire city, and while you know he’ll never come back, his presence will never fade. Totti’s aura will always paint the past, present and future of this club because he is, like or not, the embodiment of everything that makes Roma special, the embodiment of everything that made you love Roma in the first place.

And that can’t be dismissed, ignored or forgotten.

Leggo il tuo nome ovunque intorno a me, torna da me amor e non sarà più vuota la città