On 16 July 1950, the day of the World Cup final, Brazilian newspaper O Mundo published a photo of the Brazil team with the headline, ‘Here are the world champions’. What ensued was one of the biggest shocks in footballing history as Uruguay went on to claim the trophy. The man who scored the decisive goal that day was none other than Alcides Ghiggia.
The right winger made it 2-1 with 11 minutes to play and a deafening silence fell on the Maracanà. Even the award ceremony was held in silence because the band that was supposed to play the national anthem of the winning team had 'disbanded' in shock.
Ghiggia had scored the ‘goal of the century’, acquiring instant legend status and forever writing his name into the history books, despite only ever playing 12 games for Uruguay.
AS Roma president Renato Sacerdoti announced that Ghiggia was joining the club at the Sistina Theatre on 31 May 1953.
Gabriele Tramontano recalled: “A few hours before then, I was told that one of the world's best players would be wearing the yellow and red of Roma the following season. The crowd could barely hold their breath, such was the expectation. One fan couldn't take it any more and interrupted Sacerdoti, shouting out: 'The name, tell us the name.'
“Sacerdoti, masterfully prolonging the suspense, replied: 'He has the same name as our prime minister, De Gasperi.'
“’Alcide' echoed back the crowd, while another voice yelled 'Palmiro' [Togliatti], the name of the opposition leader. Sacerdoti spoke over them all. 'It's Alcide Ghiggia, the Uruguayan World Cup winner.' Cue pandemonium.”
The world champion was bought for a fee of up to 40 million lira but what is known is that the match organised to present him at the Stadio Olimpico, against Charlton Athletic, earned AS Roma 15 million in takings. The fans were ecstatic to be able to welcome a true superstar to their club.
AS Roma's long-serving kitman Peppe - who remained at the club until the days of Carlo Ancelotti, Falcao and Rudi Voeller - explained that Ghiggia had a fixation with his boots and screw-on studs, always wanting them perfectly polished and gleaming. With those boots he had the world at his feet. He was a true football immortal.
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