I’ll have to admit, this international break was a rough one for me, as I spent almost the entirety of it dreading this Sunday’s match against Juventus, a feeling I imagine is not entirely dissimilar from how Pippin felt prior to the Battle of Minas Tirith. Are we going to win? Are we going to get embarrassed? Didn’t we JUST have an international break? Now, I had to get out of my funk, and what better way to do that than to binge-watch the newest most popular show on the planet, Netflix’s Squid Game.
For the unfamiliar, the premise of Squid Game is that a group of 456 individuals, all deeply in debt to various degrees, agree to enter a contest where they play a set of children’s games in the hope of winning a grand prize of 45.6 billion won (a little over $38 million USD), with the catch being that there are deadly consequences for losing. I powered through the show and finished all nine episodes within two days of starting, needless to say, I was hooked, and I instantly set out on a quest to recommend the show to everyone and anyone I came into contact with.
With a new show to obsess over and an opportunity to flex my Romaverse creative writing muscles, courtesy of the international break, I thought to myself, how would Roma fair in Squid Game if the members of the first team found themselves in the contest?
Given the dark consequences tied to losing in this show, I figured it’d be best to stay away from that element of the games, and instead decided to focus on which Roma player would dominate each of the seven games played in the show. Of course, although there can only be one winner of Squid Game, several members of the squad have the characteristics that could carry them to victory in this fictional universe where Roma participates. For my part, I will do my best to avoid spoilers, although this is your warning in case I do cross the line a little bit on that front.
Ddakji: Nicolo Zaniolo
Okay, while technically not one of the six main games of the contest, Ddakji is no less important, setting the stage for the events to come and illustrating right from the onset what people are willing to do to themselves and how far they are willing to go in pursuit of something they desperately crave, in this case, money. Ddakji is a relatively simple game, where players try to flip their opponents' card (made by folding two pieces of paper into a square) by hitting it with their own.
As evidenced by the depiction of the game in the show, it requires a good bit of force to get your opponent’s card to flip, and this is where Zaniolo comes in. I think we’re all in agreement that Zaniolo is beginning to look like the Zaniolo of old again, the one that terrorized defenders with his powerful runs, and looked on the precipice of taking the league by storm, and it’s that pure raw power that we so often see in Zaniolo’s runs that makes him the ideal Ddakji player in the squad. I’d bet the farm that Zaniolo could go on a run of nine or ten wins in a row in this game, and was my clear first choice for this one.
Red Light, Green Light: Tammy Abraham
We all played this one growing up, right? For those who are unfamiliar, the premise of Red Light, Green Light is pretty simple: Players stand at the end of a field, with the person controlling the game on the opposite side, with the objective being to get to the opposite end of the field. The person at the opposite end will shout either “Green Light”, which allows the players to move, or “Red Light”, which directs the players to stop moving. If you’re still moving after “Red Light” is announced, you lose.
This is THE game in Squid Game, no doubt one that you have seen meme’d to oblivion already, and this terrifying experience is our first exposure to what the show is really about. Given the deadly consequences associated with losing in this show, it is imperative to have excellent body control, the ability to start and stop at a moment’s notice, and great awareness overall while playing this game, and I couldn’t think of a better candidate for Roma than Tammy Abraham.
On this week’s episode of Across the Romaverse, we discussed briefly how in some ways Tammy is the anti-Dzeko, namely in terms of his energy, work rate, and overall attitude, all traits found in the characteristics that will result in Red Light, Green Light success. For someone of Tammy’s size to be as technically gifted as he is, and at such a young age, you’d be hard-pressed to find another player better equipped to win this game.
Ppopgi/Honeycomb: Ebrima Darboe
This is the one that for me, no matter what shape I get, I will 100% lose—my nerves are way too bad to handle this one. In the show, players elect to stand by a door with one of four shapes on it (circle, triangle, star, and umbrella), where they are then handed a tin-can filled with a honeycomb with a stamped shape on it (yep, you guessed it, whatever shape they stood in front of). Seems harmless enough, right? Wrong. The players then have 10 minutes to carve out the stamped shape from the rest of the honeycomb, without breaking any of the cookie, using only a metal pin.
For the purposes of this exercise, we’re going to assume that the umbrella shape was chosen, there’s a clear difference in difficulty between that shape and the others. But who do we choose? May I suggest a younger player? A player who seems to thread the needle with his passing every time he plays, perhaps? I think I’m going to have to go Darboe here. The combination of his youthful exuberance, which will be key in combating the nerves this game is sure to produce, combined with his tremendous passing ability, as evidenced by his performances thus far, make Darboe the favorite to come out of this one unscathed.
Tug-of-War: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
With Roma’s representative for the previous game being partially selected on the basis of youth, it’s only fitting that this next game goes the other way in its selection criteria. As my beloved Oh Il-nam led the charge in tug-of-war for Squid Game, so shall Mkhitaryan lead the way here. For those unfamiliar, the game of tug-of-war is also very simple: two teams hold opposite ends of a rope, with the goal of overpowering their opponent and bringing them across the divided line at the center of the two teams.
Now imagine playing this a few hundred feet in the air, with no safety net below should your team lose. Yikes. Similar to how Mkhitaryan is the wise old sage and guiding hand in the attack given the amount of youth in the front four, could there be anybody but him to lead Roma to victory in this game? As seen in the show, strategy is an extremely undervalued aspect of the game, and you want your more experienced veterans calling the shots on this one.
Marbles: Federico Fazio
Okay, admittedly, this one is a little mean of me. For those who have seen the show, there is certainly an underlying element of deception involved in the game, whether that be on the part of the organizers or the players themselves, and considering there’s such a wide variety of games to play utilizing the marbles, we’re going to lean into the deception element here, which is where Fazio comes in. In the show, players pair up and are each given 10 marbles, with the objective being to acquire your partner’s marbles within a set amount of time, playing any iteration of marbles that the players decide, even if it’s made up.
The only reason I wish Javier Pastore was still at the club was to be able to use him for the purposes of this exercise, but for now, Fazio will do. Now, there’s nothing inherently deceptive about Fazio since he has been at the club, but being one of the redundancies in the squad who refused to leave in the summer despite receiving offers to leave, in addition to the report that Fazio was considering legal action against the club to force his way back into the first team, solidifies his position as Roma’s resident trickster for the time being and is my vote to come out on top in the marbles event.
Glass Stepping Stone Bridge: Stephan El Shaarawy
Truthfully, the mental image of seeing SES play this game is what inspired me to write this piece in the first place. The penultimate game of the show, and easily the most terrifying, as it’s nothing more than a game of luck, has the players playing a sadistic twist on hopscotch where they are on a platform several hundred feet above the ground and are required to jump from glass-panel to glass-panel all the way to the other side of the room, with the catch being that if you choose the wrong option along the way, you’ll fall plummeting to the ground below.
Now, as viewers of Squid Game will tell you, that unless you’re a glass manufacturer, there is almost no way for an ordinary person to guess correctly between regular and tempered glass, which is what you have to choose between along the way. So, aside from an abundance of luck, we’re looking for a player who, in theory, might be able to make it across even if they choose incorrectly, and is there any player more suited for this than SES?
Honestly, I can watch SES run with the ball for hours, it always appears so graceful and effortless, and is just a joy to watch when he’s in form. I can easily see that ability transferring well to this game, and combined with his ability to make the most acrobatic of movements, this was definitively the easiest selection of the bunch.
Squid Game: Lorenzo Pellegrini
This one was probably the toughest to decide. The titular game is as unique as the show is, where players are separated into attackers and defenders, playing on a field drawn in the dirt, with the objective of either crossing the field on one foot to the center before being able to use two feet to reach “home” if you’re the attacker or, if you’re the defender, to stop the attacker by any means necessary. That description certainly doesn’t do the game justice, with the appropriate context, conflict, and emotion all missing, but in essence, it’s the game that you want to see your main protagonist participate in, and who else for Roma but the captain himself, Lorenzo Pellegrini. Everything goes out the window in this final game, similarly to how everything seems to go out the window in the biggest Serie A matches, whoever manages the occasion best typically ends up winning, so you’re certainly going to want your leader on this one, and with the form Pellegrini has been in this season, he’s going to be your guy here.
Well, I hope that was as fun for you guys as it was for me! Disagree with any of my selections? Think any of the players mentioned would be the best at multiple games? Feel free to let me know in the comments, as well as which Roma player you think would win the game overall! And if you haven’t seen the show yet? PLEASE give it a try.