As I was driving home today, listening to my local sports radio duo blathering on about the NFL, the discussion shifted towards the notion of having a second favorite team, or a least a subsidiary rooting interest. The hosts readily admitted that, as children, they had second favorite teams in virtually all sports, a sort of side interest to root for when your actual team wasn’t playing or you couldn't catch the game. This sort of dual fandom usually subsides when you get older, but it got me thinking about football, actual football not behemoths colliding into each other in plastic armor.
The real beauty of following European football is that you can, in certain circumstances, cheer for two teams without feeling like a fraud. Yes, I love Roma with all my heart, but I will, on occasion, catch a Spurs match or stream Ajax on an early Saturday afternoon, but these are rooted in my interests in certain players, not so much an actual affection for those teams, so I don't really feel conflicted.
There is, however, one other team for whom I have a particular affection, Boca Juniors. And today, my friends, those worlds collided.
We like to think of Roma as a club full of grace and guile, La Magica, but so often the players we love most are the grinders; the one's not blessed with extraordinary talent, the one's who will themselves into professional footballers through the sheer weight of their efforts; they are the one's we hold the closest because they work the hardest.
That was Nicolas Burdisso. For parts of five seasons, Burdisso roamed Roma's backline, playing with a ferocity seldom seen outside of Daniele De Rossi. Burdisso had the heart, the hustle and every other intangible quality you can think of—Burdisso wasn't built to be a generational talent, but his intelligence, his tough tackling and his commitment to the game kept him gainfully employed for nearly 20 seasons, winning over hearts and minds in Boca, Roma, Inter, Genoa and Torino.
And he is precisely the sort of player who typically makes a good coach or executive; it's seldom the superstars that become successful suits. When the game doesn't come as naturally to you, you're forced to study the game, analyzing every angle looking for an advantage; the exact traits that make a good manager or executive.
And today, Burdisso took the first step in his next career, becoming the Director of Sport for Boca Juniors, the place where it all began. On his new venture, Burdisso was obviously quite excited:
It’s a very special day for me because I’ve come back to a special place in a very different role to the one I had before...I talked to [President Daniel] Angelici in length and clarified what I always thought about football, my principles and values.
This is a great opportunity and challenge for me. I’m here to make decisions and take responsibility.
I thank the club and the President for this chance. My objective is to leave this club in a better place than it’s in now.
As Roma fans, we can only hope that, in leaving Boca a better place than it is now, he sends a few prized prospects our way.
Buena suerte, Nico. Go get em!
De Sanctis and Balzaretti are on their way, but what current player is most likely to be an executive?
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Daniele De Rossi
Other (drop a name in the comments)