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How a love for Roma saved one fan’s life on 9/11

On the 17th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks in America, contributor Wayne Girard recounts the story of Roma fan Anthony Zomparelli whose love for the Giallorossi probably saved his life that day…

"It is an absolute honor and privilege to share this story with all the tifosi of our beloved Giallorossi,” explains New Yorker Anthony. “AS Roma has been a major part of my life ever since I was a young child. My parents are Italian immigrants, and when my father came to the United States in 1970, he brought his love of Roma with him.

“Of course, as every young boy does, I became a fan of my father’s favorite team. The opening theme music for the soccer program ‘90 Minuto’ has been cemented in my mind since childhood. I grew up with the stories of Bruno Conti, Falcao, and the Championship season of 1983.

“I heard of the heartache in the 1984 Champion’s Cup final against Liverpool. And of course, I lived through ‘dark ages’ of the 1990s as Roma failed to contend for the beloved Scudetto - although Giannini was a grand captain who deserved so much more.

“But through it all, I have always been a proud supporter of Roma, the team of my heart, the team of which I love. And without question, the one player who has really had an impact on me is Francesco Totti. He is Roman and a true Romanista, the symbol of Rome and of Roma.

“I followed his progression in Serie A ever since he was 16, and since we are so close in age I immediately felt a connection towards him.

“Following Totti’s outstanding performance in the 2000 European Championship, I entered the 2001 Serie A season with great expectations for Roma. The great reward of finally regaining the Scudetto after 18 long years was an absolute highpoint in my life. I will never forget the joy and tears I shared with my father and brother on Roma’s 2001 Championship victory. Ironically, in the 3-1 win over Parma, my favourite player, Totti, scored, as did my father’s player, Montella - and also my brother’s favorite player, Batistuta. The glory of that win will remain with me always and I thank God I was able to see Roma win the Italian championship.

“With my little history out of the way, here is my story...

“I was an accounting consultant for Marsh & McLennan for over 13 years, which was located in the World Trade Center. I worked on the 100th floor of Tower One.

“On the morning of September 11, 2001, I called my office and said I would not be able to attend work due to an illness. However, the truth was that I was not sick at all. I wanted to be home to watch the Roma - Real Madrid UEFA Champions League game on television.

“This was a truly monumental game to me for many reasons...

  • It was Roma's first appearance in this new Champions League format.
  • Roma were i campioni d'Italia
  • Roma were facing the storied team of Real Madrid in the Stadio Olimpico, and most importantly…
  • The game was to be televised live on ESPN, which is truly special because Roma were never on US television stations back then.

“Unfortunately, what was to be a great day for me turned out to be a complete nightmare.

“We all know what happened in New York City that day, so there is no need to repeat the details.

“On September 11th, my company lost 291 employees, 10 of which were very good friends of mine.

"These people were not just my colleagues, they were a second family to me and no matter where I go in this life, they will always be in my heart.

“I am eternally grateful that I did not attend work that day. And I will forever be grateful to God and AS Roma for being the reasons I am still alive and well.

“When I heard that Roma would be coming to New York to play Real Madrid on August 8, 2002 in an exhibition game, it felt like Roma had won the Scudetto all over again. I purchased six tickets to the match and was as excited as a child would be waiting for a gift at Christmas time.

“I would finally get to see my heroes in yellow and red. What I did not know was that a friend of my father usually drives Serie A players around the New York area whenever they visit the United States. He drove the Roma players around the city and visited the Empire State Building and Ground Zero.

“Upon visiting Ground Zero, my father's friend mentioned my story of how I had missed the tragedy to watch the game on television. According to him, the players were stunned. He says that Batistuta and Tommasi asked if a meeting between the team and myself could be arranged. When I heard the news, I was stunned.

“I was so happy that such great superstars and champions found it in their hearts to want to meet me. I went to the Sheridan New York Hotel on the morning of August 7th to meet the team I have loved my entire life.

“I was able to meet with Batistuta, Tommasi, Candela, Emerson, Samuel, Panucci, Antonioli, Pelizzoli, Bombardini, and Cassano. Unfortunately, Totti had injured his left knee and could not make the trip to New York. I had only a few minutes with them due to their hectic practice schedule, but I will cherish those moments my entire life.

“On this anniversary of the World Trade Center Tragedy, like on every anniversary, all I can say to all of you around the world is to live life to the fullest.

"Live life as though there is no tomorrow. Live life without regret. Embrace your loved ones and enjoy all that makes you happy. I am thankful that I have my family, friends, and my precious Roma, which will always make me happy and proud, in winning or losing. As the song by Antonello Venditti goes, Grazie Roma!”

Anthony Zomparelli continues to work in Manhattan and support AS Roma.