‘Roma non dimentica i suoi figli’: love, sacrifice and emotional attachment to football heroes
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 January 2016
Italian football is renowned as much for the passion of its spectators as it is for the quality of its players, yet these spectators are understudied. Those studies that have been conducted have generally focused on the problems of violence and racism associated with some of the more extreme supporters, the so-called ultras. This paper aims to complement that research by analysing a different aspect of the passions of Italian spectators, namely the emotional ties they create with particular players upon whom they confer a special, hero-like status. Our interest lies not in questioning the legitimacy of this status, but rather in looking at what the history of these emotional attachments reveals of the football supporters themselves, and of their relationship to the football club they support. This paper focuses on the intense relationship supporters of Associazione Sportiva Roma have had with two key players: Agostino Di Bartolomei and Francesco Totti. Drawing on a large body of texts including graffiti, newspapers, talkback radio, popular accounts and internet fan forums, along with psychoanalysis and classical mythology, the authors trace the way each of these players was granted a specific heroic status that evolved and changed over time, and how the passions they provoked became part of the ever transforming culture and identity of Rome. In particular we explore how the tales and cultural texts devoted to football players can reveal something of the emotional worlds and experiences of a city's inhabitants, and the way local memories and identities are remembered, retold and forgotten through passionate engagement with the football players who represent them on the broader national and international stage.
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