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'Roma, here, in my town!': Andreas' dream game in Graz

Roma's Europa League draw with Wolfsberg last week may not live long in the memory for most Roma fans - but for one in particular it will always be a very important game.

Andreas, a long-time Roma fan from Graz, finally saw the side he adopted as his own more than 20 years ago in his hometown - albeit facing another Austrian team.

We spoke to Andreas to learn more about how his passion for the Giallorossi came about, and what he made of the experience of watching his team play in his home town.

The starting point: Giuseppe Giannini joins Sturm Graz

"My hometown club Sturm Graz signed a legendary player from Roma: Giuseppe Giannini (Il Principe) joined - and at his presentation he was actually wearing a Roma scarf. I was curious about Giannini and curious about his old team, so I started to research Roma and I quickly became a fan. This developed even further in 2001, when we went on a school trip to Rome and I was able to buy my first Roma shirt, with Totti on the back."

"Giannini only played one season in Graz, but it changed a lot of things for the league: he was the ultimate star player, they did everything to make him feel comfortable and welcomed and on the pitch he always tried to make the difference - even if, being honest, he didn't do it that often. But after his departure the team really seemed to have matured a lot, and they went into the club's best phase - winning a few trophies and enjoying a great run in the Champions League one year."

The Scudetto in 2001

"When Roma won the league title in 2001 I won a bet with a school friend who was a Juventus fan. So he had to buy me a Roma scarf and hand it over to me in front of the class. By this time I was infected by the Roma virus and it was very clear to me that I would support this team forever."

The passion grows

"A year later I started studying at university, and I met a few other people who also liked Roma - so I started the 'Romazone' discussion board, which is still online today even if I keep the Twitter handle updated much more. We started to meet up and eventually we'd go on road trips - we went to friendly games in Styria, we'd organise yearly away road trips to Udinese and Milan, we even went to Champions League games in Munich and Barcelona. Of course we'd go to home games as well. We never started a Roma fan club but within the Romazone community we had fans from Styria, Upper Austria, Vienna, Germany, Switzerland, Sudtirol and Hungary."

Europa League draw joy

"A friend of mine, who is also a Roma fan, is from Monchengladbach - so we joked about how cool it would be to have a group where all our local teams were involved - but we never thought it could have that Roma would really be drawn with Wolfsberg! I would have driven to Carinthia, Klagenfurt to watch that game of course - but because of the 'for forest' project I knew that Wolfsberg would play in Graz in the Europa League. So it was awesome to get to see AS Roma in my hometown for a competitive match. It could only have been better if it would have been against Sturm Graz!"

The day of the game

"It all started with the same tradition - one we had for years and years while we had season tickets at Sturm Graz. We would meet near the city centre and walk down the 'CvH' street to the stadium. It's about a 30-40 minute walk, but the weather was fine - so some friends and I got out of work early to do it. Then, two hours before kick-off, we'd all meet up for a pre-game beer. We met a lot of other Austrian fans there, and also some from Italy.

"Our section was next to the Roma away fans - when we got in that section was already filling up and there was a good atmosphere building. Watching the team warm-up so close was a new experience; only when go to Udine are we normally so close to the pitch as we were."

The match itself

"The atmosphere from the Roma fans during the game was awesome - we were with some friends who had little interest in Italian football and they were impressed with how the 'Curva' played their part in the experience.

"To be honest I was always a bit worried about the game: in a situation like this Roma can only lose! Every newspaper and fan is expecting a big win against a team from Austria, even if they had impressed against Monchengladbach, especially because they weren't really at home. So I was scared, both that we would underestimate them and that we would struggle with the injuries we had.

"Unfortunately I was right and Roma weren't able to win the game - but respect to Wolfsberg for fighting so hard and never giving up. So despite the disappointing result it was a great day, and I hope Roma will play in Graz again someday - hopefully against Sturm! 

"Now we are looking forward to Udine; it will be great to watch two Roma games in the space of one month!"
 

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