The New York Yankees had Derek Jeter. The Los Angeles Lakers had Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson. AC Milan had Paolo Maldini. All of these players have the same thing in common: they stayed with one team their entire careers.
For AS Roma, they have become synonymous with Francesco Totti.
The Eternal Captain in the Eternal City
It is not common that a player grows up and plays for the one team he idolizes. For Francesco Totti, who was born in the Eternal City, Rome, he had a calling to be a soccer player.
Fate allowed him to play for “I Lupi,” and join Roma, all thanks to his mother.
In an letter written for the Players Tribune in August, the start of what could be his final season, the history making player wrote that representatives for AC Milan came knocking on his door 27 years ago to sign him. His mother answered and told them no. She also turned down an offer from Real Madrid when he was 12.
It was Roma or bust.
As it often happens, the city boasts two rival clubs, AS Roma and SS Lazio. Both teams play at the Stadio Olympico but represent different parts of the city. Roma is the city’s team and Lazio is the province’s team and the rivalry between these two is worse than any Subway Series or Manchester Derby. People have died prior, during and after games due to fans fighting one another. The rage that was seen by spectators in the Coliseum is still echoed in the modern stadium.
Everyone in Totti’s family are massive Roma fans and for his mother, her son was only going to one club – the home team. The reps from the Rossoneri knew the wrath an Italian mother and left empty handed.
“I unfortunately did not get to know my grandfather because he died when I was a little boy. But he left me with a great gift. Lucky for me, my grandfather Gianluca was a massive Roma fan, and he passed that love down to my father, who then passed it on to my brother and me. Our love for Roma was something we carried on. Roma was more than a football club. It was part of our family, our blood, our souls,” he wrote.
Totti added when the reps from Milan left and the calls from Madrid stopped: “my mother taught me a lesson that day. Your home is the most important thing in life.”
That importance has guided him to one of the most incredible careers in all of world football.
In 2014, Totti became the oldest player to ever score in Champions League when Roma played Manchester City. He was 38.
Now at 40, he is a super sub for manager Luciano Spalletti, coming on for matches he is still diabolical as a goal scorer and playmaker. A man of his breed is rare, they play until their legs fall off.
The Man with the Gladiator Tattoo
Rome was built on the blood and bones of the hardworking slaves that were forced to create a city of dreams. It has also been a city that has a thirst for fighting.
The Greeks created the Olympics but the Romans created the gladiator.
In the city founded in 753 B.C., fighting has been just as important as eating and drinking. Fighting is what Totti has done for his club for 25 years.
In 1992, the wild-eyed fresh-faced boy from the city made his debut for his favorite team. He was 15.
“For 39 years, Rome has been my home. For 25 years as a footballer, Rome has been my home. Whether winning the Scudetto or playing in the Champions League, I hope that I’ve represented and raised the Roma colors as high as I can. I hope that I’ve made you proud,” he wrote.
Once he stepped foot onto the grounds of Stadio Olympico, the rest was history. Having won Serie A just once in the 2000-01 season, Totti is the symbol to what it means to stay the course and stay where you feel at home.
The city and the club have been his life. It is all he knows. He is the local boy that got to live his dream with a vengeance. Not many players have ever been that loyal to a club; he has.
He represents his pride by honoring his jersey and inking his body with a Roman gladiator on his right shoulder.
The city and the club honored him with a special jersey which he wore in what could have been his final Roma Derby against Lazio.
Roma wore their signature maroon Nike jersey with gold outlining and bearing the initials SPQR, which stand for “Senatus Populusque Romanus,” the words used to represent the city for 2,000 years. If, indeed, this was his last Roma Derby, he will be leaving a winner as Roma clinched a 2-0 win.
La Dolce Vita
While Totti continues to break history as a player for the Giallorossi, he also is a God in his city.
When he married his wife in 2005, the wedding was aired on a Pay-Per-View-style network and proceeds went to charity. Nothing this man did was quiet.
On the field he was and still is a brutal player for the enemy. A physical beast and tough player, this giocatori is always ready for battle. Many players from the Serie A would complain how they hated playing against him or had to defend him.
His skills would be useful on the Italian national team when his antics and harsh playing style came in handy. Suddenly, everyone that would ridicule his style embraced it whenever he put on the Azzurri jersey.
In 2006, his greatest triumph came in Berlin when he and the national team won the World Cup beating France in penalties.
It was fitting that he led the parade in Rome days later when the team arrived to celebrate.
As the games and hours tick by and the clock winds down on the illustrious career of Francesco Totti, the man left his mark on all of Italian football and world soccer.
There were injuries and setbacks, there were missed championships, and there were management and owner changes. There were times when the team looked like they could be burning worse than when Nero Caesar took over the city.
Totti was a constant.
To be able to play in the Champions League at 40, to play in such a tactically demanding league like Serie A is an accomplishment all in its own. There were rumors that his friend and former Roma manager Claudio Ranieri wanted him at Leicester City this season. He was also offered a rumored six-month million-dollar contract with NASL side New York Cosmos but he turned it down. A wise move as the Cosmos recently terminated the contracts of all of its players and face an uncertain future.
As for Totti’s own future, it is still unknown. In November 2016, he told SKY News: “Why stop?”
Adding: “I was taken for finished last year, something that happens a lot in this line of work, especially when things aren’t going the right way. Everyone is free to say what they think though. I have faith in my head and my body, I can still give a lot and if I’m feeling good then why stop?”
He has turned down everyone but Roma. The fans and the city have never turned on him.
“Rome is my family, my friends, the people that I love. Rome is the sea, the mountains, the monuments. Rome, of course, is the Romans. Rome is the yellow and red. Rome, to me, is the world,” he wrote. “Sempre.”