Chances of football icon making appearance looking even more slender due to 1-1 draw and enforced substitution for Emerson
FRANCESCO TOTTI’S tearful farewell to Roma was spell-binding.
A moment frozen in time.
It will forever remain one of those truly unforgettable days in the history of the game, certainly in Italy.
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There was not a dry eye in the house as the man they call “Il Re di Roma”, the King of Rome, embarked on a lap of honour around the Olimpico.
They had all come for this moment. And Roma’s thrilling 3-2 win over Genoa courtesy of Diego Perotti’s last-gasp winner that secured second place in Serie A was the perfect opening act.
Nobody left the building.
Roma’s players put on No 10 shirts and formed a guard of honour. A giant “Totti 10” shirt was unfolded in the centre circle.
“Grazie capitano” was the message in the advertising hoardings. “Thank you captain”.
Their hero returned as the theme from Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator blasted from the loudspeakers and a giant yellow and red mosaic covered the entire stadium.
Girls and boys and grown men and women shed floods of tears in the stands. And when Totti’s three children son Cristian, 11, and daughters Chanel, 10, and one-year-old Isabel came to greet him the Italy legend couldn’t hold it in any more and broke down.
He then disappeared in the embrace of his wife Ilary Blasi.
After his lap of honour flanked by his family tearful Totti told the tifosi: “The moment I hoped would never arrive has arrived. These days I have read so many beautiful things said about me. I have cried so much, every day, alone. I cried like crazy. You can’t forget 25 years for the good and the bad. I want to thank you.
“I know it’s dinner time and you are hungry. Because I would stay here another 25 years.”
Totti added: “I take off the shirt for the last time, I leave it for good even if I am not ready to say ‘enough’ and maybe I will never be. Forgive me if at this moment I have not cleared up my thoughts but turning off the light is not easy. I am afraid right now, it’s not like you have to score a penalty.
“With your love I will manage to turn the page and start this new adventure. I thank my teammates, managers, presidents and the fans. To be born in Rome and be a Roma fan is a privilege and to be the captain of this team was an hour. You are and will always be in my life, I will no longer move you with my feet but my heart will always be with you.”
Italy’s loudest and most passionate tifosi, flooded this historic venue to say “grazie” and “arrivederci” to their greatest hero.
Roma fans have not had much to sing about over the decades. Just one Scudetto in Totti’s 25 seasons spread over 24 years and three months.
In many ways Totti IS their greatest trophy.
An hour before 50,000 had already taken their seats under the baking Roman sun.
The official attendance was 59,716 but it was packed to the rafters and the only empty seats belonged to those who’d gone to find a place in the shade at the top of the stands.
Deafening boos greeted boss Luciano Spalletti’s decision to leave Totti on the bench in his farewell.
The huge mosaic in the Curva Sud, the South Kop, just read: “Totti is La Roma”.
Everyone was either wearing a No 10 Totti shirt or a T-shirt emblazoned with “Forever our Captain” or “There is only one captain”. From two-year-old babies to 80-year-old pensioners everyone was here for Totti.
A city as one behind one of their own. An authentic symbol of the Eternal City.