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Totti's reflections: From being kicked on his debut to crying at his farewell

With less than a week to go until the publication of his autobiography, on Friday Roma legend Francesco Totti was the cover star for La Repubblica's pre-weekend magazine, Il Venerdi ('Friday').

The Giallorossi icon sat down for an interview, discussing many famous moments from his career - and a few others some fans might not recall so well.

Read a selection of answers from the interview below, as Totti discusses rejecting AC Milan as a boy, hiding from fans at a monastery, and more...

Do you wake up not knowing what to do with yourself nowadays?

“Not yet. My daily routine is still much the same as it was when I was playing. I wake up, take the kids to school then head to Trigoria. I chat with the coach and the lads and watch all the training sessions. After lunch I go home and spend time with my kids.”

Why did you decide not to end your career in America?

“Because I would have ruined my 25-year career. I always said I'd only ever play for one club. And I'm a man of my word.”

AC Milan were willing to pay 300 million Lira for you when you were 12...

“On that occasion it was my family who said no. My mother especially. She's pretty old school: apprehensive and possessive. My dad used to work till late so she was the one who looked after me most of the time. She didn't want me to move away – she wanted me all for herself.”

Kids aren't really allowed to play football in the streets these days but you learnt by kicking the ball against the wall and playing 'Paperelle'. What was that exactly? 

“It's a game we invented. There was this entrance to a school with long steps running for nearly 50 metres. One of us had to work his way down the steps running back and forth while the other two tried to hit him with the ball from about 10 metres away. It was good target practice.”

When your parents left you at home you'd pretend to be dead because you were afraid burglars or the bogeyman might get you.

“I figured a burglar wouldn't do anything to a kid who was already dead.”

Does any of that fear remain?

“No, but when Ilary makes me watch horror movies I cover my eyes.”

On your full debut for Roma, at home against Sampdoria, Pietro Vierchowod gave you a nice early introduction to the game...

“It was a Coppa Italia match. After just eight seconds he came in really hard from behind. He wanted to scare me – and he did a bit. I thought, 'If this is just the start, how am I going to survive 90 minutes?' Vierchowod was a pitbull on the pitch but off it he was a great guy.”

While celebrating the Scudetto you had to take refuge in a convent on the Aventine.

“I was having dinner in a restaurant with my family and friends when we heard this roar from a crowd. Word had got out that I was there. I went to look outside and there were 5000 people in the streets and they wanted to come in. The owner told me there was no other exit so the only way out was to climb over the railings and escape up the top towards the convent. Three or four friends and I climbed up the slope between the plants in the dark. As soon as I jumped down the other side I thought, 'If there's a guard dog here he's going to have us for dinner.' Instead a guy with a torch came over – it was a monk. He shone it on my face and said, 'You're Totti!' He wanted my autograph before he'd let us out.”

Totti in action against Slavia Prague in 1996

What were the biggest disappointments of your career?

“When we conceded right at the end against Slavia Prague and missed out on a semi-final spot in the UEFA Cup. A couple of derbies and the Euro 2000 final against France.”

That was the year you scored that chipped penalty against Holland in the semi-final. In your book you say: 'When you step up to take a crucial penalty, it's best not to think about the millions of people watching and just take it as if you had to win a bet with a mate at the pub.'

“That time I really did have a bet with [Paolo] Maldini, [Alessandro] Nesta and [Luigi] Di Biagio. I told them if the game went to penalties, I was going to chip it down the middle. They took the mick out of me – they thought I was just saying that on the training ground but it would be different during the game. When the day came, I turned to them and said I was going to keep my promise and they begged me not to. They said, 'You're mad! If you miss, we'll kill you!”

Is it true you used to stick Lazio stickers in your album the wrong way round?

“Yes, upside down. The only ones in the whole album.”

Totti goes for the chip in the penalty shootout at Euro 2000

But when you retired, the hardcore fans of the Curva Nord produced a banner saying 'Your lifelong enemies salute you, Francesco Totti'.

“You always get the odd idiot who will insult you or crack a nasty quip but when I meet Lazio fans in the street most of them are fair game and just pay me compliments. The same goes for other fans when they see me in the stands in Bergamo, Milan or Turin. When I was a player they used to call me all sorts. Maybe they liked me back then too but couldn't say it.”

How much did you cry on the day you hung up your boots?

“In public, lots. And even more in private.”

 
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