It’s that time of year again. All of Roma’s kits have been released, the players have taken part in the somewhat kitschy release photoshoots, and also, you know, they’ve played football in all of the kits. Given that, my annual tradition of removing somewhere between $90 and $125 dollars for a Roma kit is about to rear its head once again. On some level, I’m mad that I’m doing this to myself - I just started graduate school in a new city, and it’s not like I’ve got hot and cold running cash flow right now. So why will I probably be buying a new Roma kit in the next few weeks?
As much as I just talked about forking over a Benjamin as if it was a necessity, I don’t have to do this. I could be satisfied with my collection of Roma kits as it currently stands: quite a few Francesco Tottis, two Daniele De Rossis, and one each of Alessandro Florenzi and Mohamed Salah. I’ve got home kits, away kits, even a third kit thrown in there for good measure. The ghost of Michel Bastos won’t follow me around with a Lazio Merda scarf until the end of my days if I don’t throw Nike and Jim Pallotta my money. So why do I feel such a need to do it?
Part of it is getting to feel as if I’m part of a worldwide club of Romanisti; it’s easy work to follow Real Madrid or Manchester United for a boatload of reasons, but following Roma has been effort sometimes, especially when ESPN+ didn’t have streaming rights. In my mind, my overgrown collection of red and yellow polyester shirts is a testament to the highs and lows of my experience as a Romanista. When I’ve (very rarely) seen some random person in a crowd wearing a Roma kit, even if it was a Michael Bradley kit, an unexpected smile creeps onto my face.
Another element to my addiction is that, well, Roma has incredible colors. There’s a reasons even some of my least favorite Roma kits rank towards the top of several websites’ “Best New Kits” articles each year. You can’t really mess up giallo e rosso; it looks great with anything from sweatpants to blue jeans to black jeans; and again, in my part of the world it’s a unique thing to wear.
Now we come to the more pressing questions facing me as I consider my Roma kit purchase for the year: which kit to buy, and should it have a player’s name on it? The first part of this question is relatively easy for me; I’ve got more home kits than I can shake a stick at, the away kit is nice but a little too out there for everyday wear, but My Totti that third kit. Even the Qatar Airways sponsor can’t ruin that one. Add in the fact that I’m a sucker for collars on kits and I was sold on that shirt since the moment I saw a leaked artist’s rendition of it five or six months ago.
Particularly given the context of this season, the far more difficult question is if I should get a player’s name on the back. This was an easy decision to make when obvious lifers like Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi were plying their wares at the Stadio Olimpico, but with both of those legends having ridden off into the sunset, there are far fewer players’ names I want to plaster on my back everywhere I go. Nicolo Zaniolo and Justin Kluivert were intriguing options, but if they make a big-money move to Real Madrid, Barcelona, or any of the other super-clubs in the next few years, I’ll feel weird wearing that kit around, just as I feel slightly weird wearing my Lupetto away kit with Mo Salah’s name on the back. There wasn’t any bad blood when he left Roma, but I’ve been spoiled by Roma’s history of bandiere. Players like Edin Džeko, Aleksandar Kolarov, and Federico Fazio seem like a decent alternative, yet despite their long service for Roma, do they stack up against the Tottis and De Rossis in my closet?
After all of that mental calculus, I’ve decided to get the Roma kit sans player name and number this year, for the first time ever. One big reason for this is that the only place to get that numbering is on Roma’s official store, and another is that it adds even more cost to an already-expensive purchase. But more than the increased sting for my checking account, the emotional reason for this is that I don’t know if I can trust anyone on this side, bar Alessandro Florenzi, to be here that far into the next decade. I’d love to be proven wrong, for the Italian spine of this new Roma to last for quite some time, make some noise in the Champions League, and hey, maybe win a Scudetto. I’m just not throwing all my eggs, or my kits, into that basket just yet.
Who knows, though. Maybe I’ll splurge for the name. After all, it was fun to watch Salah play while we had him.