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FOOTBALL

Roma star Totti fails to impress with 300th goal

It should have set the bells ringing around the red and yellow half of the Italian capital, but reactions to Francesco Totti's 300th career goal for Roma on Sunday have been unashamedly muted.

Roma star Totti fails to impress with 300th goal
Totti was 17 years old when he hit his maiden goal for Roma. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

“Well done to our captain for your 300th goal ! What an achievement ! Major respect,” screamed a message posted on Twitter by club teammate Antonio Rudiger.

For its sincerity, Rudiger's message was spot-on. But it was Roma's failure to beat Serie A minnows Sassuolo, in a 2-2 draw, that stole the headlines from the veteran forward's achievement.

Totti was 17 years old with a 'short back and sides' haircut when he hit his maiden goal for Roma against Foggia in 1994 – and his longevity and loyalty over the tears have made the 38-year-old forward a global icon.

But the socia media tribute from Roma's newly-signed German defender Rudiger stood virtually alone in a sea of silence – and relatively muted reactions to Totti's feat in the Italian sports media are testament to a general feeling that Totti is playing on borrowed time.

“A record for Totti, but little to smile about,” was the headline of an editorial on Totti by Rome-based daily Il Messagerio, who dedicated a full page to the city's favourite footballing son.

Il Messagerio's sports section, meanwhile, contrasted the bittersweet taste of Roma's defeat with Totti's personal feat. “Only Totti is celebrating,” said the headline.

In what is his 21st season with the club, Totti can still bang in the odd goal. Although it was marginally offside, his 300th Roma strike in all competitions on Sunday took his Serie A tally to 244, 30 behind the all-time leading tally set by Silvio Piola before his retirement in 1954.

Indeed, ask fans of Roma about how they feel about 'Il Re di Roma' (the King of Rome), and the answers will be almost universally positive.

Totti's contribution to Roma over two decades of unflinching loyalty are virtually unrivalled in a sport where chasing big-money contracts is the norm, and that has endeared him to fans across the world.

When he hit a brace of goals in a derby win over Lazio last season, Totti's trademark showmanship came to the fore when he took a 'selfie' of himself during the game with Roma's fans in the background.

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

But lately, Totti's star has been on the wane. Roma, who have finished Serie A runners-up the past two seasons, have played notably better whenever their club icon has been on the bench and, with the advancing years, Totti's days appear numbered.

Totti made only his second start of the season on Sunday as coach Rudi Garcia made six changes from the side that battled to a precious 1-1 draw with defending Champions League winners Barcelona last week, when Totti remained on the bench throughout.

But their failure to beat a Sassuolo team that won promotion to Italy's top flight only two seasons ago by far outweighed Totti's feat of scoring a goal that Italy's sports press unanimously labelled offside.

Garcia, who has done well to command the respect of a dressing room in which Totti's influence has been felt for over two decades, was less than happy with the draw.

Indeed, the Frenchman appeared to point the finger at several players when he said post-match: “What I find strange is that the players who did not play against Barcelona struggled more, in physical terms, than the ones who did play.”

Although he applauded Totti's feat, Garcia added a caveat. “It's an amazing landmark, but I'm sure he would have liked to celebrate it with a victory,” said Garcia. “Soon, he will be 39 years old and, when you play as a forward, it's difficult to play a lot.”

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FOOTBALL

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.

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