Capturing the Moment: The inside story of Francesco Totti's final game

Club photographer Fabio Rossi reveals some of what went into covering the Roma legend's unforgettable final game for the club - including arriving at the house of the man himself at 7:30am that morning...

They were photos always destined to be seen around the world. When Francesco Totti retired last May, having seen his boyhood team beat Genoa 3-2 at the Stadio Olimpico to confirm their Champions League spot for next season, one of the greatest stories in football history came to an end.

Twenty-five years, 786 games and 307 goals - all for the club he was born supporting - provided so many unforgettable memories, and led to an emotional final farewell on that May day.

Club photographer Fabio Rossi, along with his father Luciano, captured many of the most enduring images from that day. Here he offers an insight into how it all came together...

How many shots do you have in your archive of the day Totti retired?

“Around 10,000, of which over a thousand have been picked out. The club curator wanted to keep all of the originals though, to keep them safe. There are 6,824 shots, all counted, taken after the referee Tagliavento blew for full time.

"We made sure to immortalise everything, from when he let us in at 7:30 in the morning, up to the dinner with him at a restaurant after the match. My relationship with him changed after that day too…”

Fabio Rossi, right, takes another photo as Totti steps over his youngest daughter, Isabel

 

Changed in what way?

“It’s hard to explain, and it makes me feel strange even to say it, but I always felt a kind of barrier between us, even though we had known each other for so long. I always saw him first and foremost as the captain of Roma, and I almost felt embarrassed every time I had to talk to him. A moment on that famous 28th of May changed it all for me though. It was the break-through which removed that barrier between us, and now we are much closer…”

Which moment?

“Do you know the photo of him sitting on the stairs leading to the dressing room,  looking off into the distance, moments before heading back out onto the pitch for the ceremony?”

The photo that was seen around the world.

“Exactly. As I was looking down the lens at his expression, I couldn’t stop my tears. I had to move away. It was a spontaneous moment: all the tension had been building up and it just needed to break free, so I wept. He turned to me and said: “Hey now, don’t you start Fabie’, it’s not over yet. Enough of that…” The only other times I have been as emotional as I was that night were when my two children, Diego and Eva, were born.”

Why did he sit down on those steps?

“We had to wait for him to be called back out onto the pitch over the loudspeaker. After the match, he headed off towards the dressing room, changed his shirt in front of his usual locker, and then came out and sat on the stairs. In that moment all 24 years of his career must have passed before his eyes.

"That photo summed everything up perfectly, it’s a pity it wasn’t considered for the World Press Photo prize. I think that’s a shame, because those eyes really do say everything: they are the eyes of many of us Romanisti on that day…”

Speaking of eyes, if you close yours and think back to the 28th of May, what else comes to mind?

“Definitely when he greeted us at his home to document the whole day. A lot of people were waiting at his gate hoping that he would come out and greet them. They’d been there since the crack of dawn. It was a nice moment when his daughter Isabel brought him his boots, and when he went into Christian and Chanel’s room to kiss them goodbye as they slept. It was all beautifully simple, which is how Francesco is too.”

The post-match ceremony was a simple one too.

“I cry every time I re-watch that ceremony. The feeling is stronger than I am. Believe me when I say that it’s happened to me a lot since May too. The event was organised in the best way possible, we had all the timings planned out in advance, even when to take certain photos. The result was perfection, without exaggerating or being excessive.”

How was Francesco in those first moments of the day? When it was just you and him at his house?

“He was tense, and he definitely hadn’t slept much the night before. He already had his training gear on and was ready to head to Trigoria. Throughout the whole time he had one of those triangular anti-stress gadgets for children, a fidget-spinner, which he held in his hand. He spoke to Ilary, trying to play things off and make jokes. Then, when little Isabel arrived and hugged him, he dissolved.”

What about at Trigoria?

“Another photo of which I’m particularly fond is the one in which he is entering the Centro Sportivo Fulvio Bernardini for the last time as a player. It had been his home since 1989. That was another special moment.

"De Rossi was waiting for him at the entrance to the changing rooms. After he greeted Daniele, he fell into the arms of his team-mates and all of the technical staff, including the manager.”

What did Totti mean to you?

“The message that the club and the fans wanted to dedicate to him through their tributes – the framed shirt given to him by Pallotta after the match against Genoa, and the choreography by the fans before kick-off – all of that sums it up in the best way possible.

"In essence, Totti is Roma. I’ve joked with him more than once that under the Capitoline Wolf you won’t find Romulus and Remus, but Romulus and Francesco."

 

For more great Roma photos, follow @officialasroma and @fabiorossiromaphoto on Instagram.

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