Stefano Sale, the founder and president of Roma Club Ireland, explains how he ended up on the Emerald Isle and why he set up Dublin’s first ever official Giallorossi fan club...
How did you end up in Dublin?
“I have been an expat for a while. I went to London in my youth and ended up staying for many years there doing my degree then had a stint living in Spain for a while. I moved to Dublin in 2003 for pure choice. I always loved the Emerald island and Irish culture. In the meantime I was lucky to travel extensively around the world - I also spent a couple of years in India and Colombia for work reasons but now I am back.”
When and why did you set up Roma Club Ireland?
“The idea came about in the summer of 2014. I had been going for years to this pub to watch the Roma matches and the place was always packed with Roma fans - yet many others were going to a different pub to watch and others still were staying at home with friends.
“At this stage I thought, why not try to bring them all under one roof? The idea was to build one home for the Roma fans and I think we did it. The club had more than 60 members after only three months - the majority are Italians living in Dublin but we also have a bunch of Irish members who have travelled with us to the Rome derby and Barcelona in the Champions League. Ever since we launched we have received extensive media coverage from Ireland and Italy. It's going well!”
Where did you grow up?
“Ostia Antica, the ancient port of the Roman Empire.”
What is your first memory of Roma?
“Panini sticker album 1977-78. So many hours spent collecting packs of stickers, playing buy-and- sell with my mates but Roma players were just not for sale.”
Who was your first Roma hero and why?
“Roma-born boys, Bruno Conti - he was really special, his left foot, the pirouettes, back heels, a Rome-born player to win the World Cup in 1982 and Scudetto in 1983 - and Agostino Di Bartolomei, power and leadership, our captain. And last but not least, Paulo Roberto Falcao, a Brazilian wizard who would change the history and outlook of our football club forever."
Who has been your favorite Roma manager and why?
“Niels Liedholm – a Swedish great who won everything with Milan but he loved Roma so much, he came back as coach and invented the ‘spider web’ - what people today call ‘tiki taka’ for Barcelona – and we won our second Scudetto in 1983 after 43 years."
What has been your lowest point supporting Roma?
“Roma-Liverpool, 1984 European Cup Final lost at penalties. Thousands slept outside the ticket office to get a ticket. I couldn’t so I went to watch on a giant screen at Circus Maximus. I was there, front row at 11am, another million people followed later. Roma-Lecce in 1985, a huge comeback under Sven Goran Eriksson took us to lead the league with two points over Juve with only two games left. Roma lost 2-3 to the bottom team who had already been relegated 13 weeks before and of course we lost the Scudetto."
What was your memory of your first Roma match?
“My dad took me to my first ever match against Milan in 1977 to watch Gianni Rivera at the Stadio Olimpico. I can only remember glimpses of that match. The first game I remember well is Roma-Perugia 4-0 in 1979 with Paolo Rossi on the pitch.
At the end of the match a number of police cars appeared inside on the stadium track; the first Italian football scandal for match-fixing erupted, culminating in mass arrests and in the aftermath AC Milan and Lazio were relegated to Serie B, Paolo Rossi was banned for three years and then he came back and won the World Cup with Bruno Conti.”
Where were you when Roma last won the Scudetto?
“I flew from London the same day of Roma-Parma and watched with friends and family in a local pub, then we all went to Circus Maximus to celebrate until early hours in the morning. Then Roman singer Antonello Venditti staged a concert with millions of fans in the arena. Like in 1983, the city stayed up for a celebration that went on for months.”
Do Roma have a passionate fan base in Dublin?
“Roma has a huge fan base in Dublin. Our club counts about 70 members but there are many more out there. We watch the games at Murrays Bar, the atmosphere is Curva Sud style. We have our Club banner at the Stadio Olimpico and we follow the team for away matches in the Champions League and have already been to Manchester, Leverkusen, Munich, Barcelona and Madrid very recently.”
Which team do you most enjoy seeing Roma beat?
“Always love seeing Roma beat Juve because of their power and arrogance. Lazio are too easy to tease.”
What makes Roma so special to you?
“The city, the old colours, the mother wolf and the passion of the Curva Sud.”
What does Totti mean to you?
“He is King of Rome. The heart and soul of AS Roma. The tribute of the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid shows he is still admired worldwide. It is our duty to preserve him as our immortal icon.”
Who is your favourite current player and why?
“Diego Perotti. He quickly integrated from day one - a very intelligent player with great vision and technique. His style of play reminds me of Totti.”
If you could meet anyone connected to Roma - past or present - who would it be and why?
“Totti, for obvious reasons. Then my old captain, the late Agostino Di Bartolomei. Falcao and Bruno Conti, Roma’s other greatest, Rudi Voller and Peppe Giannini, my other heroes as a Roma boy.”
What makes you most proud to be a Roma supporter?
“To be able to chant the name ‘Roma’ instead of ‘Lazio’.”
What would be your perfect day as a Roma fan?
“Going to meet the players before an important match, go to the stadium to watch them win and lift the trophy!”
Finally, how will you celebrate St Patrick’s Day?
“Most probably I’ll be going to see the parade with my wife and three kids, relax and enjoy the craic! Slainte! Forza Roma!”