It feels like a slow news week here on the periphery of football. Deep in the heart of the action is a different story, where Roma just officially announced their new kit sponsorship deal with New Balance and may soon appoint an ex-Adidas executive as their new marketing guy. But such high-society affairs aren’t for Totti Today, no.
We’re here right we’re most comfortable: In the low-brow, backpage section of Roma history coming full circle with the salacious gossip of today. Our three Roma faces haunting the club this week are none other than Luigi Sartor, Luciano Spalletti (or his likeness) and Gianluca Petrachi’s SMS sent folder.
Luigi Sartor’s Post-Football Life Continues to Spiral
All I remember Sartor for, even though I do remember his name well, is being the gamble take on your FM file when you’re feeling like rounding out your squad with a defender who might come good or might not. You know the type: the Marco Andreollis, the Matteo Ferraris and... yes...the Luigi Sartors of the world.
In real life, Sartor must have provoked similar sentiment out of coaches who saw fit to sign him for clubs the size of Juventus (where he was poached from Padova as a youth), Inter, Parma (back when they were a huge, trophy-winning force) and Roma. Not a bad CV of clubs at all, but Sartor never really set the world on fire with his performances and saved the most hard-hitting chapters for his twilight years.
By 2005, Sartor was loaned out by Roma to Genoa, where the Italian defender would wind up in a fight with two Italian police officers during a match in Piacenza. The incident would come back to bite him a year later when Sartor (by now having terminated his contract with Roma) was convicted of assault for the very same incident. And the violence and troubles with the law didn’t end there.
Sartor would be banned from football for five years, in 2011, when he was found guilty of involvement in Italian football’s most recent betting scandal by football authorities. That was mixed in with a domestic violence charge after splitting with his partner, and even allegations of stalking against Sartor after that personal relationship was done. Now the news has hit that Sartor is under house arrest, after being detained by the Guardia Finanza di Parma for growing 106 plants of marijuana.
Could Sartor eventually turn all of this around? It’s the same question that was asked of him as a player, all the way back then. But stranger comebacks have happened.
Gianluca Petrachi’s Text Message to Pallotta “Revealed”
And if you’re looking for more comebacks, look no further than the Return of the Piccolo Uomo. Once a term brandished by Francesco Totti’s wife Ilary towards Luciano Spalletti (more on that below), it’s been resurrected by Gianluca Petrachi during his final words as Roma sporting director towards his boss James Pallotta—if you believe the report by Siamo La Roma.
Now I’m not casting doubt on that report, but just putting a disclaimer in case it turns out not to be 100% accurate. By apparently the text that got Petrachi fired reads:
“Good evening President,
I’m sorry to confirm that you are a piccolo uomo... I hoped so much to be able to represent you here in Rome, in a way that made people take you seriously and not had you getting robbed of money like so many others have done in spades. Evidently, I haven’t been able to make myself understood or appreciated enough. Now you find it convenient to send me away because I couldn’t be of help to you after what you’ve wanted to get done in a vile manner.”
If you ask me, ‘vile’ is a far more cutting word to throw someone’s way. Whereas piccolo uomo makes me laugh, and I’m actually glad Petrachi brought the term back into Rome’s lexicon for however short it lasts, this time around.
Spalletti’s TV Actor Hopes Luciano Isn’t Offended, But “It’s Not My Problem”
And now onto the original piccolo uomo incident, which is bound to roll on for as long as Speravo De Mori’ Prima is streamed as a television drama. The show has already come under criticism from Roma fans on the web, who are less than impressed with the choice of cast to play Totti, Spalletti, and others—at least as far as appearances go.
That’s why Roman actor Gian Marco Tognazzi—the man cast as Luciano Spalletti—took to the defence of the show before it’s even aired, in an interview earlier this week.
Did you expect all this uproar?
“People have seen all of four images [of the show] and have already talked themselves into a series of negative opinions. It’s the reconstruction of a champion’s story, taken from his own book, and [the production of the show] was watched over by none other than Totti himself. I’m Roman and I’m sorry to read [comments] about how much the actors don’t look like the protagonists, I don’t understand that attitude. I think these kind of polemics are futile.”
So it’s not true that you set out to make a satire around the people you were interpreting? Does Spalletti play the villain in this show?
“I wouldn’t say he’s the villain, he’s an antagonist. We took everything from the book and it’s Francesco’s version of events, how he remembers the moments he went through. I’m hearing all sorts of premature critiques of the show, where the most profound of those comments so far can’t be compared to anything other than gossip.”
Don’t you think you’re touching an open wound?
“No, because it’s all taken from his book.”
What was the hardest thing about playing Spalletti?
“You look to find resemblance in his ways but not to imitate him. I didn’t try to do that, I was looking to find a state of being, a trait that could evoke memories of that particular story. It needs to be based on the story, not on anything else. Will he be offended [by my interpretation of him]? It’s not my problem, I hope not. We tried to re-tell a moment in Totti’s career from [Totti’s] point of view. If Francesco didn’t like the way we did it, then what reason would he have to then join in the teaser trailer alongside [Totti actor Pietro] Castelitto?”
Wasn’t it too soon to be filming a television drama right now?
“I don’t know, maybe. It’s not up to me to decide. I’m sorry that Roma fans haven’t taken it well. As for Sky having to deactivate comments on their online page, this TV series wasn’t made only to be broadcast to Romans.”
Did you ever talk with Spalletti?
“No, I don’t know him personally. I haven’t spoken with him, nor with Totti. If Luciano were to propose a sequel to me, I’d do it, no problem. Cinema is a synthesis. It looks like a simple job, but it isn’t.”
If you were to base your expectations of the show on the interview above alone, then Speravo De Mori’ Prima sounds like nothing more than opportunism. A show where actors didn’t even talk to the original characters involved and used one side of the story for research. Not promising.
But maybe Tognazzi is just on the defensive, and the show will surprise for the better. Maybe if they re-filmed it in Turkish, and Totti was plotting Spalletti’s downfall by marrying his daughter while Totti’s evil twin brother lurks in the shadows to take them all down with the help of Antonio Cassano, then I’d be the first to watch. That’s just my kind of TV.
But for what it’s worth, everyone I know (including some friends who aren’t even into football) who’s seen Mi chiamo Francesco Totti (Totti’s other biographical show) says that that show is top draw TV.