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De Rossi ‘93: Sun, Sea and the City Calling

Daniele De Rossi first said ‘no’ to joining Roma, until father Alberto called time on his own playing days in Ostia.

UEFA Pro Licence Master At Coverciano Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Daniele De Rossi is not dead, nor is he dying. I have to remind myself of that like a mental post-it; the temptation to write about DDR in past tense is now around every corner. Nonetheless, the man is very much alive and wrapping up a life chapter that spans all the way back to 1994. But Daniele was originally called to join Roma two years prior, in 1992, and he didn’t want to hear about it as a 9-year old.

DDR told Roma scouts that he preferred to stay with his childhood friends at hometown club Ostiamare. There was no reason to uproot his life from the seaside to the imposing city limits, until father Alberto rejoined Roma in late July of 1993 - around Daniele’s 10th birthday.

The call came from Bruno Conti; an unexpected interruption to Alberto De Rossi’s busy day lying around on the beaches of Ostia. Alberto remembers it well enough, almost to the exact July day, claiming he missed Conti’s call while he was washing off at the sea. Conti was in a hurry, as Roma’s U-10s youth coach had just walked out on the club and left them needing a replacement.

“[Conti] asked me if I wanted to replace him,” recalls ADR to TuttoAsRoma, “and my reply was an enthusiastic ‘yes’.” ADR took up the call to daily life back inside the city limits of Rome, after he’d spent two years wondering what life would bring him and his family after football.

Alberto De Rossi: 407 Peninsula Memories

ADR’s own A.S. Roma playing career ended in the late 70s, being turned loose by Roma Primavera into the shark-tank of lower-league professional football. That was around the same time big-money striker Roberto Pruzzo walked the other direction through the club’s entrance.

A lot is made of ADR’s good-natured character, known for his honesty in football circles. Yet increasingly little is known about the true tests his character must have faced during the days ADR was earning his way as a central defender, throwing himself into a lifetime of tackles in Serie C.

Alberto De Rossi and son Daniele at Livorno’s Ardenza Stadium

Back then, C was going under a new “split” format as Serie C1 and C2, but the meaning of Italy’s third division has always been the same: the outer limits of professional football. If you can’t cut it in C, the only place left is the world of part-time clubs and amateurs below. Alberto De Rossi played 378 professional games in at that level before going for one-last swansong season at hometown amateur club Ostiamare in D.

Among the Serie C clubs of his career, coincidentally the Livorno adventure begun in 1983-84 would leave the most impression on the De Rossi family. A Falcao-inspired Roma had conquered Italy and were busy trying to become kings of Europe as the city hosted the European Cup final. But a 2-year-old Daniele De Rossi remembers that period for the raucous atmosphere down in C, kitted out in Livorno colours while he accompanied his dad out onto the Ardenza Stadium pitch.

“[My first memory of football was] a house in Livorno where dad played,” Daniele De Rossi told Radio Due in a 2011 interview. “I have this memory of this house and all the little games I played. It’s a house I’ve never seen since. Maybe it was there I first felt at home, I was very small and only three years old. The first football stadium I remember is Livorno’s. For me, it was like the Maracana: very explosive. My very first memories are tied to that city, where my father made happy memories.”

We’ve heard similar from Daniele over the years; he frequently holds Boca Juniors in high esteem for the stadium atmosphere at the Bombonera. The (then-named) Stadio Ardenza is a curious choice by which to remember first impressions, because Livorno’s home is one that’s struggled to find its place in history since inception.

The stadium was first opened in 1933 before it was even finished, in a hurry to be named after Mussolini’s daughter, as the Stadio Enna Ciano Mussolini. Unsurprisingly, that name did not last after the war (the stadium even went through a period of being named the “Yankee Stadium” thanks to the American military base influence nearby) and the fascist-inspired Marathon Tower that served as a stadium landmark was torn down in the 1980s of DDR’s infancy, along with it.

Alberto De Rossi spent three seasons there, scoring the last-ever professional goal of his career (11 goals in total) in a Livorno shirt in the ‘84-’85 season before leaving for Lucchese in the summer of ‘85. Further moves to San Marino and Sanzarnese followed, until ADR called time on his professional career in 1991. He took one final season back home, playing for Ostiamare in the inter-regional amateur leagues before hanging up his boots.

Between Generations Back In Ostia

“[Ostiamare] is not your typical amateur club,” De Rossi told in a UEFA Training Ground feature, “because it isn’t your classical countryside club of the suburbs. It’s actually a club representing a city of over 400,000 people, so it’s already halfway between what you’d expect of a local club and a professional football club, like what Roma or Lazio can be.”

Can you spot a young Daniele De Rossi? Hint: He is unapologetically blond.
Gino Mancini

It was at A.S. Ostiamare that the elder De Rossi used his playing career to bring in his 8-year son Daniele as a pulcino inducted to the class of ‘83.

“Those years [at Ostiamare] were important for me,” Daniele recalls. “I was having so much fun and I remember that Roma first came calling when I was nine years old, in 1992. I always turned them down because I wanted to stay with my friends, but I finally went to Roma when I was 11 going on 12 years old.”

A Sidenote: Daniele’s First Derby of 1990

Daniele took pride in turning down Roma for his loyalty to Ostia, but one abstract tale from Tonino Cagnucci’s book Mare di Roma betrays DDR’s memory of where his love affair with Roma truly began.

According to Cagnucci, the younger De Rossi first traveled to the city for the Lazio-Roma derby of March 1990 without his father’s knowledge at the time. Once Daniele came back home from witnessing Rudi Voeller’s derby winner, it was obvious to the Ostia household that the kid’s future wouldn’t be too far from A.S. Roma.

And so DDR finally stepped in through the Trigoria gates a few years after, while his father made sure to coach the class of ‘84 - a group of players a year younger than son Daniele; a group that included names like Damiano Feronetti, Daniele Corvia and Alberto Aquilani. DDR would train a year higher than his dad’s coaching group, but it was far from super-stardom and rave reviews at that point.

The adolescent De Rossi had been brought into the club, like Lorenzo Pellegrini after him, as a striker from his Ostiamare days up front. He’d spend a large part of his teenage years on the bench with the Roma Giovanissimi (U-15s), failing to get noticed by anyone at the club for anything other than his warm character.

It wouldn’t be until Roma Primavera coach Mauro Bencivenga got his hands on De Rossi, that the Ostia-born kid would emerge from out of the shadows of Cesare Bovo and Gaetano d’Agostino as a potential midfield leader in the making.