One of the most famous sporting venues in the world, Stadio Olimpico first hosted an AS Roma match on 31 May, 1953 – a 0-0 draw with Spal that marked the final game of the Serie A season. On 13 September, 1953, Roma kicked off their first full season at the Olimpico in style – recording a 4-0 win over Genoa.
Tiziano Riccardi presents 10 little known facts about the venue that has been home to the Giallorossi for over 60 years…
1. A very special ball boy
On 17 May, 1953, Stadio Olimpico was officially inaugurated with a match between Italy and Hungary. Lining up for the Azzurri were Giallorossi players Raoul Bortoletto, Pietro Grosso, Renzo Venturi, Egisto Pandolfini, Carlo Galli and Amadeo Amadei. Yet there was another Roma man involved: Egidio Guamacci, product of the Giallorossi youth academy and future AS Roma captain, who was on ball boy duties at the Olimpico that day. Just before the teams made their way out onto the pitch, Lucidio Sentimenti even had to borrow the young Guarnacci’s shorts after experiencing ‘technical difficulties’!
2. Those mischievous loudspeakers
Anybody who was there at the Stadio Olimpico on 15 December, 1974 will remember the moment. In the 68th minute of Roma’s match with Fiorentina, Franco Cordova played in Piergiorgio Negrisolo, who whipped a dangerous-looking cross into the Viola area. Domenico Penzo rose highest to meet the ball with his head, Franco Superchi made a desperate save to bat it away but the Roma forward slid in to make the net bulge. At that moment, the new Giallorossi song blared out of the Olimpico loudspeakers. The voice of singer Antonello Venditti boomed round the stadium: ‘Roma, Roma, Roma heart of this city, one love of many, many people, you make them gasp…’. Nothing of the sort had ever happened before during a match, nothing like it would ever happen again. One thing’s for sure, the new song was an instant hit.
3. The lucky route
Sergio Freddi, for years AS Roma’s official driver, was a very important figure on the Giallorossi staff. In an interview some years ago, Sergio recalled that under Nils Liedholm, during the 1982-83 season, he followed a fixed route on superstitious grounds. The route even included entering the Olimpico itself in one manoeuvre: “Over time, we started to believe that when I managed to enter the stadium in a single manoeuvre the team would win. Liedholm took it very seriously, telling me that I had to take great care because if I did it well, the lads would receive a boost and would feel galvanised. Jokingly, I replied that if it was all down to me, maybe I deserved the win bonus too!”
4. World Cup Stadium
The Stadio Olimpico is one of five European stadia to have hosted the FIFA World Cup final - Munich’s Olympiastadion in 1974, Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu in 1982, the Stade de France in 1998 and most recently the Olympiastadion in Berlin in 2006 make up the other five.
Down in the dressing rooms after Germany’s victory in the Italia ’90 final on 8 July, 1990, Rudi Voeller gifted his jersey to AS Roma masseur Giorgio Rossi, who later turned down a 5 million lire cheque (around €2,500) from a German journalist for the precious souvenir.
5. Il Capitano watching on
It’s little more than a single frame, a few seconds, but at the end of the UEFA Cup final second leg on 22 May, 1991, RAI’s broadcast clearly showed the unmistakeable figure of a young Francesco Totti - wearing his club tracksuit - on ball boy duties in front of the Curva Nord. In the second half, behind Walter Zenga’s goal, Totti had a perfect view of Ruggiero Rizzitelli’s goal! At one point during the game, Francesco tossed the ball back to Giallorossi captain Giuseppe Giannini: “When I play at the Olimpico now and have to ask for one of the lads for the ball back, I’m always reminded of that moment.”
6. The derby of Alberto… and Peppino
The Stadio Olimpico was looking its best on 14 October, 1956 as it welcomed 75,000 spectators for a Rome derby that saw Dino Da Costa set off on his way to legendary status with his first goals against Lazio - he scored a brace in Roma’s 3-0 win. The match ended up in the film ‘Il Marito’ (The Husband), which saw Alberto Mariani (Alberto Sordi) forbidden by his wife from going to the stadium to watch the game with his Lazio-supporting friend Peppino or even listening to proceedings on the radio. The final whistle was greeted with an impromptu flares show in the stands which no doubt left a lasting impression in the great Sordi’s memory.
7. Manfredini and… ‘I Mostri’
One of the cult films of the Italian neorealist movement, ‘I Mostri’ (known as ‘Opiate ’67’ in English) was written by the likes of Elio Petri, Furio Scarpelli and Ettore Scola (to name but a few) for director Dino Risi, who recounted the vices of Italian society over a series of episodes. The ‘Che Vitaccia’ (‘What a Life’) episode begins on 10 February, 1963 during Roma’s 5-1 over Catania at the Olimpico. According to the film, Pedro Manfredini had one of his best matches for the club that day. Images of the match - including an Alberto Orlando headed goal from Manfredini’s pass - form the backdrop to Vittorio Gassman’s apparition in the Olimpico stands and his immortal cry: ‘Forza Romaaaaaaa!’
8. Between football and music
On 14 October, 1979, Antonello Venditti ‘dragged’ fellow singer Francesco De Gregori, who’d never seen a match live, to the Olimpico. That day, De Gregori ‘rediscovered his love for the spectacle of football’, witnessing a Bruno Conti goal in the flesh. And after releasing his splendid ‘La leva calcistica del 1968’ (Football’s Class of 1968), De Gregori declared: “It was written in 1980 and is intrinsically linked to my memories of the parish of San Giulio in Monteverde Nuovo, where I used to play as a kid. When I think of Nino, I imagine what Bruno Conti must have been like at 12 years old.”
9. Everyone in the Sud, even Totti!
On 30 May, 1984, Francesco Rocca made his excuses and left Italy’s training centre in Coverciano to take in the European Cup final at the Stadio Olimpico. He was supposed to watch the match from the VIP seats, but ended up in the Curva Sud with the rest of the fans. The same thing happened with Bruno Conti on 30 May, 1991, when the World Cup winner cheered on the Giallorossi from the Sud as they contested the Coppa Italia final first leg.
On 12 April, 2006, it was Francesco Totti’s turn to take in a match from the Sud, with Il Capitano watching Roma’s Coppa Italia semi-final against Parma. Asked how it felt, Totti replied: “What can I say? Better than a Scudetto. I returned home after 15 years. The best feeling there is.”
Marco Delvecchio took in the Rome derby from the Curva Sud on 10 December, 2006, while Vincent Candela made his Curva Sud debut on 6 March, 2010 to watch the Giallorossi take on AC Milan.
10. Mapou wins 100th Olimpico derby
The Rome derby of 25 May, 2015 not only saw the Giallorossi claim local bragging rights over Lazio, but it also ensured Roma sealed automatic qualification for the Champions League. Given the significance of the clash, the goals scored by Juan Manuel Iturbe and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa instantly went down in history. Yet they take on even greater importance given that the second league derby of the 2014-15 season was actually the 100th league derby ever contested at the Stadio Olimpico. A victory to remember!