In the latest Roma World, we make the (relatively) short trip to Austria to speak to an avid Giallorossi fan who fell in love with the club in unlikely fashion...
Name: Andreas Fank
Where did you grow up?
"I grew up in Graz, Austria."
Why did you choose Roma?
"My neighbour took me to the football ground of our hometown team Sturm Graz when I was 11 years old. This was the same club where AS Roma legend Giuseppe Giannini signed for one year later in 1996. I did not know a lot about him, but all of us were pretty excited that a player with such a famous name signed for our club. As the season went by Giannini unfortunately didn't show as much as we had hoped, but I started to inform myself about AS Roma and this started my passion for the Giallorossi."
What is your first memory of Roma?
"The 1997-98 season was the first one that I really followed as an AS Roma supporter. For me it helped a lot that Roma acquired Austrian goalkeeper Michael Konsel from Rapid Vienna, along with the Brazilian Paulo Sergio from the Bundesliga, so there was enough German media available for me to keep up with results."
Who was your first Roma hero and why?
"As I mentioned the first Roma season for me was 97/98, which was also the breakthrough season of our capitano Francesco Totti. He played with so much talent and as he was used a lot on the left wing by Zeman, he connected perfectly with Abel Balbo and Marco Delvecchio. Even then everyone knew that this son of Rome would have a bright and successful future with the club."
Who has been your favourite Roma manager and why?
"Since his first stint at Roma, for me it’s definitely Luciano Spalletti. He is a person with so much positive energy - you wouldn’t find a coach elsewhere who smiles that much in training sessions, hugs his players, talk positively and honestly in press conferences and also has that fire and passion for the club and its fans. I was really delighted when he was brought back to Rome, although I was a big fan of Rudi Garcia too."
What has been your lowest point supporting Roma?
"What was really hard to handle was losing the Coppa Italia Final to Lazio in 12/13. It would’ve been the perfect moment to end an average season with a win against our arch-rival.
"Personally the 1-6 defeat against Barca was also kind of a low point because we were at the Camp Nou to watch the game live. I guess every Roma fan knew that the chances to win were low, but Barca outplayed us as if we were a youth team."
Have you been to a Roma match and if so, what was your memory of your first game?
"I was lucky that AS Roma was in Austria a few times for their training camp, so of course I went to every friendly match that they played. The first I attended was in 2004 against Grazer AK, which was also the first appearance of Philippe Mexes and the first match we saw together as a small group of the newly founded Romazone (in 2003).
"My hometown, Graz, is only three hours away from Udine, so we travel there every season when AS Roma have a game there. But my first live Serie A match was in 2007 at the San Siro, where Mirko Vucinic scored the winning goal in a 1-0 win against AC Milan.
"My first match at the Stadio Olimpico was the derby in 2013, where Totti scored the equaliser."
Where were you when Roma last won the Scudetto?
"I watched the match against Parma in a pub in Graz with some friends from school. It was a great memory because we were in Rome on a school trip only a few weeks before and the whole city was electrified, waiting for this Scudetto to happen."
Do Roma have a passionate fan base in the city you live?
"You probably wouldn’t believe it but there are quite a lot of Roma fans in Graz – at least enough to meet regularly at the pub to watch the games together. But we never thought of founding a “Graz-only” Roma supporters club because the Romazone community started out as an online message board for all German-speaking fans. So we had connections to Roma fans from across Austria and also Germany and South Tyrol."
Which team do you most enjoy seeing Roma beat?
"Of course Lazio but also Juventus, because some of my good friends are Juve fans. And for our Romazone-group it is also Udinese. Why? Well, we are always there to watch the game live, so we hope to see the Giallorossi winning the three points!"
What makes Roma so special to you?
"It’s a lot about the past - how Roma was founded in 1927, how Roma became the team of the city of Rome, how it plays in the colours of the city. Nowadays I like the way the president, James Pallotta, handles the club with respect. This can’t be taken for granted in the modern game - you just have to look at most team owners of the Premier League teams in England."
What does Totti mean to you?
"You could fill books with the answers to this question - Totti is a Roma legend, a great player, a person who dedicates everything to the club and its fans and a son of Rome. This combination, along with all the stories we know about him and his actions - just take the “Totti-selfie” as an example - on and off the pitch are reasons enough to make sure that he is and always will be the face of AS Roma."
Who is your favourite current player and why?
"Definitely Alessandro Florenzi - he is such a likeable person who gives everything to be part of the AS Roma team. On the pitch he is the perfect modern football player. He is versatile, intelligent, can play in a variety of positions – sometimes all in the same game. He can score, he has good speed, can dribble fast, gives great assists and has beautiful ball control. I like to compare him to Austria’s David Alaba, except a right-sided version!"
If you could meet anyone connected to Roma - past or present - who would it be and why?
"I guess any Roma fan who hasn’t already had the chance to meet and talk to him would answer the same: Totti! Why? He symbolises AS Roma. The past, the present and hopefully also the future."
What makes you most proud to be a Roma supporter?
"I have this golden rule: you only choose your team once, so choose wisely and never ever think about changing your team - never! So I’m proud that I never ever had the feeling, that I choose wrong. I’m proud showing the Roma colours and I’m also proud how our community has developed. And the Roma fans from Rome are the icing on the cake - when you meet them (like I did for example in Milan or in Barcelona), they’ll never give you the feeling that you’re the stranger from abroad, who accidentally wears the same jersey."
Finally, what would be your perfect day as a Roma fan?
"So let’s make this corny: the perfect day would be attending the final match of the season in the Stadio Olimpico, winning the game – and as a result claiming the Scudetto. Afterwards we would head to the city centre, where Antonello Venditti is performing “Grazie Roma” live in front of thousands of Roma fans."
You can keep up with Andreas and his supporters group on Twitter: @Romazone