Journalist and Roma expert Massimo Izzi relives the Giallorossi's first-ever win, which took place 90 years ago on Monday...
Roma v UTE: a celebration of sport
The first match ever played by the Roma first team took place on 17 July 1927. They faced off against the Hungarian side Ujpest TE, referred to as UTE by the Italian press. Three days prior to the fixture, Italian newspaper Il Messaggero announced that special transport services would be set up for the occasion, so that spectators could reach the Motovelodromo Appio, where a second football match – the Second Division final between Terni and Savoia – as well as three athletics competitions also scheduled.
Some of the 38 registered athletes from the recently-established Associazione Sportiva Roma, which was set up to compete in football, cycling and athletics, were among the participants at the athletics events. The first Giallorossi eleven to take to the field was a so-called B team, which earned a 2-2 draw against a mixture of UTE first-team players and reserves on 16 July 1927. Angelo Bianchi netted from the penalty spot, marking the first goal scored by a Giallorossi player, with Giulio Scardola adding a second.
The match that signalled the beginning of the new AS Roma was significant enough to attract what both Il Messaggero and L’Impero described in their own terms as a huge crowd. However, the match was organised amid extremely tight time constraints. Forty days had passed since the club was established and there had not been enough time to supply the squad with jerseys. As detailed in a report from March 1928 by Piero Crostarosa, which has been preserved in Trigoria, each first team player would have a full set of kit by September, including: “a red and yellow shirt, a white shirt, a training shirt, boots and socks.”
These would be stored in a “key-locked draw, located in a special wardrobe, under the unique supervision of the warehouseman”, Mr Crostarosa added. He was referring to Francesco Martucci, known as Zi’ Checco, who was born in Rome in January 1862. When UTE came to town, which had been announced by newspapers in the first half of July, the issue was yet to be resolved. So, the question remained: what shirts would the players wear?
This was more than just a small detail; it captured the essence of the journey Roma were preparing themselves to embark upon.
... of course, they were yellow and red
The jersey is more than just an item of clothing - it is a statement of what you are about. The decision was made, and defended uncompromisingly by Italo Foschi, to use the colours of the Rome flag: yellow and red. Foschi believed that Rome was not in need of a new football team, but rather “its” football team, and that taking to the pitch with other colours and with another name simply would not have made sense.
Former player Alberto Marchesi provided a remarkable first-hand account of the day AS Roma was founded, which was published in Il Corriere dello Sport on Wednesday 8 June 1977 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the club’s establishment. Marchesi, who described AS Roma’s foundation as a “difficult birth”, wrote the following: “That night I was at the headquarters of Roman FC, in Via Uffici del Vicario, to play a game of boccette (an Italian version of billiards, Ed.) with Ghigo Liberi, a left-back in the first team who would go on to be a doctor […]. I was distracted that evening, however. Rather than thinking about the balls, I was more preoccupied with the men behind closed doors in another room. I knew that Roma was about to be born and there was one thing that was worrying me, and I saw it as extremely important. What colour would the new club’s shirt be? The white and green worn by Alba, the red and blue worn by Fortitudo, or the yellow and red worn by my club, Roman?
"I confess that for me it would have been unthinkable to pick white and green, or red and blue. There was only one possible jersey for the AS Roma that was set to be founded, and that was a yellow and red one. And that is what came to pass. Italo Foschi let me know when the door finally opened, giving me a little pat on the cheek. He liked me, Italo Foschi, and I had always looked at him with admiration.”
It was most likely Giorgio Carpi who found a solution and put together a selection of kits. They consisted of jerseys worn by Roman, which were red in colour, contrasted with yellow embroidery. Among the few pictures that are available, Luigi Ziroli and Enrico Cappa can be seen wearing the shirt, in an image that also features Pierino Rovida wearing the Alba socks. With the shirt issue resolved, the club’s inaugural match was followed the next day by a first win, as Roma and UTE’s first teams faced off.
On 35 minutes, Ziroli received the ball from Caimmi, lost his marker Fogl III and played the ball into the middle. Cappa was on hand just two yards from goal and finished, etching his name in club history. After the Hungarian side drew level, Tomasz Heger was set up by a Rovida header on 43 minutes to score the winning goal. Heger, who would depart Italy just eight days later, seized his chance and produced a moment that would bind him to the Giallorossi shirt for eternity.
Roma v UTE ended 2-1, on 17 July 1927, 90 years ago today.
Sunday 17 July 1927, Motovelodromo Appio
Roma 2-1 UTE
Scorers: Cappa 35, Szabo 39, Heger 43.
ROMA (2-3-5): Rapetti; Mattei, Corbyons; Ferraris IV, Degni, Caimmi; Heger, Boros, Rovida, Cappa, Ziroli.
Coaches: Jozsef Ging and Pietro Piselli.
UJPEST TE (2-3-5): Baxai; Fogl II, Fogl III; Renner, Lutz II, Wilhelm I; Stroch, Wilhelm II, Lutz III, Schaller, Szabo.
Referee: De Pità (Rome)
Note: Eight of the 11 Roma players that featured would go on to represent the first team in official matches (all except Caimmi, Heger and Boros).
Saturday 16 July 1927
Roma B 2-2 UTE (mixed XI)
Roma scorers: Bianchi (pen.), Scardola.
ROMA 'B' (2-3-5): Ballanti; Canestrelli, Angelo Bianchi; Scocco, Fosso, Zamporlini; Scardola, Iacoponi, Bramante, Sbrana, Sansoni IV.
Note: Six of the 11 Roma players that featured would go on to represent the first team in official matches (all except Fosso, Iacoponi, Bramante, Sbrana and Sansoni IV).
A sheet containing details of the AS Roma first team’s first ever match and articles on the club’s two matches against UTE published in Il Corriere dello Sport on 18 July. The dates refer to when the articles were written. The documents come from the first volume of club records, the AS Roma Chronicle, put together by Vincenzo Biancone, most likely in the 1930s.
Pierino Rovida, who would make 28 league and cup appearances in the 1927/28 campaign, pictured in action at the Motovelodromo Appio during Roma 2-1 UTE, on 17 July 1927. On the day, he played as a centre-forward, which was not his usual position. Rovida would play 33 official matches for Roma, playing mainly as a defensive midfielder. Later he would also become a club employee.
Enrico Cappa, who scored 7 goals in 24 league and cup games in the 1927/28 season, captured in Roma 2-1 UTE on 17 July 1927, a game in which he netted the momentous opening goal. Cappa played on the left of midfield (had they been used at the time, he would have worn the number 10 shirt in Roma v UTE as well as the first game of the league season, on 25 September 1927, against Livorno). He would leave Roma at the end of the season.
Luigi Ziroli, who scored 4 times in 26 matches in the league and cup during the 1927/28 season, takes on a Hungarian defender during Roma 2-1 UTE on 17 July 1927. Ziroli was a left winger and scored Roma’s first competitive goal, netting the side’s opener in their 2-0 win on 25 September against Livorno. Cesare Augusto scored the second.
A report on the AS Roma first team’s debut match, published in Il Messaggero on 19 July 1927.