Life was a competition for Attilio Ferraris, living and competing with two sides of the same coin. On 21 April, 1923, whilst on military service in Messina - he would later be transferred to Spoleto and then Rome - he received a call to play for an Italy Students XI, who were due to play their English counterparts.
It was a high-profile game, with the likes of Luigi Allemandi and Fulvio Bernardini representing the Italian side. Attilio wasn't allowed to play because he had been 'confined'. He tried his best to resist but after the game had already started, he turned up at the pitch. There was no chance of him getting away with it – his superiors were bound to find out because the match would make all the sports papers and his name wouldn't go unobserved. But Attilio played all the same. He just couldn't help himself.
Testament to the incredible athletic and combative qualities Attilio brought to the table is the lengths Italy manager Vittorio Pozzo went to be able to play him at the 1934 World Cup in Italy.
Pozzo travelled to Rome to meet a player who hadn't played for months before calling him up on blind faith, even though Ferraris told him: “Look, I'm 30, I haven't played for months and I smoke 30 cigarettes a day.”
Nonetheless the Italy coach placed all his hopes on bringing him back and Ferraris IV went on to make a huge contribution to the Azzurri's World Cup success. After the quarter-final against Spain, journalist Bruno Roghi wrote, “Ferraris IV was magnificent in midfield. This young man, who takes to international matches as a dog takes to a hare, turned in one of the best performances of his international career.”
Attilio Ferraris personified the role of Roma captain handed to him upon the club's foundation and which he later shared with Fulvio Bernardini. For example, he would call on his team-mates to take an oath in the Testaccio dressing room before entering the field – a binding promise that everyone would give every last ounce of energy to achieve victory. Ferraris IV, the “talented Italy player and captain” as the Canzona di Testaccio (an early Roma anthem) goes, was and will forever remain one of AS Roma's strongest heartbeats.
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