Everyone’s got a soft spot in their heart for AS Roma, apart from Lazio supporters of course. The club represents the Eternal City, the Italian capital with a history spanning more than two and a half thousand years. Its standing as one of the birthplaces of Western civilization makes anyone’s three-day visit turn into conversational fodder for the rest of their lifetime.
This kind of infatuation with the city is mirrored in the admirable love their own players have for Rome and its club. Frrancesco Totti has proclaimed that “Roma is everything to me, everything a person can want: passion, love, joy — the team I have always supported and always will.”
Roma’s other one-club man, Daniele De Rossi, has mirrored those sentiments by saying, “It’s all about the matter of being Roman…the one feeling bigger than the pride you feel when you play for Rome is the sadness you feel without Rome.”
Prior to Tuesday’s Champions League playoff against FC Porto, Totti delivered the kind rallying cry you might expect before a battle between the legions of Rome and the invading barbarian hordes. It’s more than enough to, like Totti commands, want to die for the Roman cause.
— CareerModeStars (@CareerModeStars) August 23, 2016
However, beyond all the glamor and luster of being the Capital of the World, there’s something insidious plaguing the fortunes of AS Roma. The club are perennial also-rans in Serie A. They’ve won the title twice since the 1978-79 season, but they’ve finished second on 12 different occasions.
Their fortunes in Europe over recent times have been shocking. They’ve failed to advance beyond the round of 16 since the 2007/08 season, experiencing some horrendous defeats to Barcelona (6-1), Bayern Munich (7-1), Slovan Bratislava and Shakhtar Donetsk over that period.
On Tuesday, Roma’s fortunes in Europe took another turn for the worse. Roma had earned a spirited draw in the playoff’s first leg in Portugal as well as a vital away goal. Thomas Vermaelen’s boneheaded dismissal for the Giallorossi in the 41st minute was the only negative from the match. That dismissal would only foreshadow what was to come in the return leg.
With Porto jumping out to an early 1-0 lead in the 8th minute, and 2-1 on aggregate, Roma collapsed faster than a demon in Vatican City.
De Rossi, the Roma captain on the night and the man who considers himself representative of Roman supporters on the pitch, took a second to eye up his opponent and land a clearly calculated leg-breaker on him.
It’s about as bad a challenge as you can expect to see at this level.
When a soccer player has a tattoo like this, it shouldn't be a surprise to see him get a red card. https://t.co/sVOz9iAkt3— AtTheBuzzer (@TheBuzzerOnFOX) August 23, 2016
With Roma down to 10 men, it was time to dig in and fight for the club and its fans. Unfortunately, the man brought on to balance the side after De Rossi’s dismissal one-upped him. Emerson came on in the 42nd minute and by the 50th he too had been given his marching orders.
His tackle is almost certainly assault — it’s the kind of challenge that should land you a serious ban if not jail time.
Porto would go on to score two more goals and Roma would be consigned to playing in the Europa League. For a team boasting so much talent and ambition, it’s a devastating blow.
The Champions League has likely seen the last of Francesco Totti.
Follow me on Twitter: @ConmanFleming