“It’s a sad day,” said Luigi Carinci, 65, who had sat in the front row in Testaccio, the neighborhood that is the club’s spiritual home, and dabbed his eyes whenever the screen showed Totti stretching his legs or sipping water on the bench. “Rome is a mess. The bus never comes, they don’t pick up the garbage and the cops do nothing. Now Totti’s leaving. It’s the last thing we need.”
Totti’s final game on Sunday, after a quarter century with Roma that has made him the most celebrated and beloved player in the club’s history, was a kick in the stomach to a city already knocked to the ground and then rolled into a pothole filled with trash. The past decade or so has not been kind to Rome. Garbage piles up in the piazzas. The parks look like littered Iowa cornfields. The city’s sputtering economy hemorrhages jobs, and the mayor’s name has become a national byword for urban disaster.
But at least it had Totti. The Golden Child. The Phenomenon. The Captain. The Legend. The greatest player who ever wore the Roma jersey, and one who grew up not far from the Colosseum, as a die-hard fan. He refused to leave Rome — the team or the city — no matter how much money bigger clubs threw at him. Fans, including some supporters of the rival Roman club, Lazio, called him “the symbol of Rome,” “the emblem of Rome,” “Rome.”
“Rome is a city of symbols, the pope, the Colosseum. And Totti is part of this,” said Maurizio Crosetti, a sportswriter for La Repubblica, who considered Totti essential for beleaguered Romans who struggled to tell a good story about themselves. “He was something not to be ashamed of.”
And so Romans, both fans and citizens, took his departure especially hard. “Today it’s hard to live in Rome,” said Giulio Lucarelli, whose Core de Roma…