“Loyalty is still the same, whether it win or lose the game; true as a dial to the sun, although it be not shined upon.” Samuel Butler.
Football will never cease to amaze us. Accurate data may be gathered, and sophisticate match predictions might be done, but miracles can always happen.
The week that passed left us with two breath-taking matches that went against all odds. After winning 4–1 at Camp Nou on April 4 against AS Roma, Barça had a three-goal aggregate advantage heading into the second leg, looking for another solid victory against the Italians. Though chances were against them, Roma’s team went to the pitch with everything they had and played with honor, courage and passion. Surprisingly, AS Roma won 3-0 at the Estadio Olimpico, disqualifying Barcelona in a historical recovery.
As it wasn’t enough, on Wednesday Juventus faced Real Madrid in the second leg with a three-goal disadvantage: again, the same situation. The odds were strongly against ‘La Vecchia Signora’, but the squad stood up proudly and had the determination of replicating Roma’s miracle. Gianluigi Buffon commanded the legion of men that fought fiercely, neutralizing all the magnificent stars that played at Madrid and almost got to disqualify the two-times reigning Champions League winner.
Juventus taking the ball back to the center after scoring the first goal on the 3rd minute against Real Madrid.
In a time when jaw-dropping investments have broken all spending and transfer records in the history of football, millionaire-owned clubs can compose dream-teams that would seem unbeatable. Still, modest clubs such as AS Roma, continue to amaze us giving the fight in difficult matches with the odds against them (see: Can the wallet buy titles?).
The reason for this is the fact that the ones who are on the field are human beings and their love, passion and intuition are more important than mere statistics. In fact, passion and instinct, both from players and fans, is what gives the beauty to the game. Football transcends mere entertainment; on and off the field, human values and emotions play a crucial role. Results in this week’ Champions League matches remind us that, on given occasions, determination beats over-confidence; effort beats talent and passion beats technique.
In both matches, Italians were protagonists. They played against arguably the best players in the entire world, and, with pure heart, they won. The passion and commitment displayed by Roma’s and Juventus’ players made us wonder what values fuel such a formidable way of playing. Our answer? Loyalty. Maldini, Gattuso, Del Piero, Totti, Baresi, Chiellini, Zanetti: The list of legends that have stayed loyal to a team in the Serie A is numerous, but as a tribute for their recent sacrifice, Foothunch wants to make a special mention to two players that continue to display loyalty, the most remarkable, yet scarce value in modern football: Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi.
Considered by many one of the best goalkeepers of all time, and by some, as the greatest ever, Gianluigi Buffon began his epic career at Parma. His height and overall physical strength, gave him an advantage over his adversaries, and was as such chosen ahead of teammates Luca Bucci and Alessandro Nista for the 1996/97 season. He kept 15 clean sheets in his first Serie A season, at a time when he was only 19-years old, and just conceded 17 goals overall. His amazing performance didn’t go unnoticed, and over the next few years Buffon’s reputation continued to grow.
Gianluigi Buffon has participated in 5 World Cups (won in 2006) and 4 Euros with the Italian national team.
Gigi held the title of Best Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year twice while at Parma, before being transferred to Juventus for a world-record transfer fee (€52 million) for a goalkeeper; a record that’s still unbeaten to this day. Coach Marcello Lippi gave him shirt #1, replacing Edwin Van der Sar who was sold to Fulham. Although negotiations were made in parallel with AS Roma and Barcelona, Buffon’s father convinced him to choose Juventus, as he had the firm conviction that his son would likely achieve with this decision, his ambition of winning the Scudetto.
The rest is history. Buffon became a living legend in the Bianconeri, winning a total of eight Serie A titles, as well as three Coppa Italia titles, and five Supercoppa Italiana titles. His magnificent positional sense, courage, class, quick reflexes and power turned him into a key player in Juventus, and this week’s match showed he’s maintain ever since optimal performance.
Despite his importance in the team, he truly won the heart of Juve’s fanatics when he showed loyalty to the club at a critical time: the Calciopoli. That scandal proved to be a turning point in Buffon’s career, and one that is potentially the reason he’s worshipped by calcio fans across the globe. Juventus was relegated to Serie B in 2007, causing most of star players to leave the squad for new opportunities elsewhere. Not Buffon, however. He stuck with Juventus along with Alessandro Del Piero and Chiellini, helped the team re-gain promotion back to the first division and showed his love and commitment for the Old Lady. Absolute respect for Gigi; we’ll miss him greatly when he hangs up his gloves.
Daniele De Rossi
Daniele De Rossi was born in Rome, and he’s the son of Alberto De Rossi, former Roma player. De Rossi joined Roma’s youth system, and made his first-team debut in 2001, the same year that Buffon was transferred to Juventus. He has remained with the club ever since. Despite his age, he soon established himself as a permanent member of the starting line-up in the holding midfield position because of his leadership, tenacity, and maturity on the field, and was considered one of the most promising young Italian players in the league.
With AS Roma, he has won the Coppa Italia twice and the 2007 Supercoppa Italiana. He was named Serie A Young Footballer of the Year in 2006 and the Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year in 2009. While the majority of one-club legends have won everything they could with their teams, trophies have not been numerous in De Rossi’s career. Why then, he has shown so much loyalty to As Roma?
The one-club man said he has rejected offers from some of Europe’s heavyweight clubs because of his love for Roma. As simple as that. As he told Sports Illustrated: “’It’s all about the matter of being a Roman. Sometimes on my couch I think, if I were not born in Rome, I would never be a Roma fan. I would never feel this sort of debt, this duty, to my fans, to my people, to my city.”
Daniele De Rossi made his debut with AS Roma back in 2001 and has played more than 550 matches with the ‘Giallorossi’.
When Manchester City made a ridiculous offer for the Italian midfielder in 2012, he politely declined, and stated his reason: “I’m staying for this team, for the affection of the fans, because I am a Roman and because I believe in this project”. Roma hasn’t won a lot of titles, but De Rossi never took that as a negative aspect of the team. As he said once, a great ambition does not only refer to be in the best club and win everything, but also to try to win where nobody has ever won.
Since the departure of Francesco Totti, De Rossi inherited the captaincy of Roma. After an outstanding performance against Real Madrid, he’ll lead his teammates to the Champions’ semis, hoping to beat all odds and find glory. Even if Roma loses in the next round and gets disqualified, what they’ve done was historical and restored the sense of wonderment and faith in football. The miracle will remain in our memories for many, many years.
Values on the field that Buffon, De Rossi, and many other great players from Italy and elsewhere have historically shown, cannot be lost. Footballers are human beings after all, not necessarily money-seeking machines or brainless belongings of the richest bidder. The sacred essence of the beautiful game is composed precisely by their passion, honor, loyalty, fairness, respect and courage. We can be hopeful; since players of the rare breed that gives more importance to loyalty, rather than money continue to play, Football will persist.