Roma v. Shaktar Donetsk

By | April 19, 2018

When I first bought my ticket for the Roma v. Shakhtar game I didn’t think much of it. I was already going to Rome with a few friends and the one of us that knew anything about soccer, Jake, practically begged us to go so I thought, “Why not…I don’t like sports much but I might as well experience the culture. I mean when in Rome right??” I was not prepared for the game to come.
What I didn’t know was that this game was a Champion’s league game, meaning the stakes would be high and the tensions would be higher. What determines whether one advances in the champions league is two games, one at each of the team’s home fields. The scores of the two games are added together and the highest score wins. If the two scores after the games are equal, the team with the highest number of goals when they were away would win. If those too were the same, then the game would go into overtime. Roma and Shakhtar had already played on Shakhtars home field, and though they had lost 2-1, Roma managed to score against them. That meant if Roma could score one goal while preventing Shakhtar from scoring any, they would advance. I of course knew none of this going into the game, but honestly it made the experience more surreal so see the passion and emotion of all of the fans rooting for the team they loved.
We started trekking over an hour early, not really knowing what to expect. Well, I can tell you, we did not expect to get caught in a sea of red and yellow, that periodically kept bursting out into the Roma fight song. The line to enter the complex was no different, the excitement palpable, even to us Americans who had never been in such a unified environment before. In the line waiting to get through security, we could hear the fans thundering in the stadium, eager for the match to start. We took our seats.
The excitement was fairly contagious if I do say so myself. The announcer started calling out the first names of players and the crowd would reply with the last name. I didn’t know a single person playing for Roma, but I felt compelled (and completely unashamed) to scream right along with everyone. Then the game began. I had never cared so much about the outcome of a game before. Every pass, every slip up, every dodge had me on the edge of my seat. Every time the referee made a call the Roma fans didn’t agree with, he was met with a wave of unpleasantly high-pitched and shrill whistles from the Roma fans. I had never wished so badly I could whistle before. All of the fans kept breaking into the fight song. It was in Italian so I had no idea what was being said except in the beginning when they were just saying “Roma, Roma, Roommaaaaa.” So, naturally, I mumbled the tune of the parts I didn’t know and when it was time I proudly belted at the top of my lungs “ROMA, ROMA, ROOOMMAAAA!!!” It was exhilarating to be a part of something backed with so much passion.
While Shakhtar seemed to control the ball for most of the first half, putting a fair amount of pressure on the Roma defense, once the half was over, Roma started making moves. In the 52nd minute, Dzeko, a Roma forward, finally broke Shakhtar’s defenses to put in a goal. The stadium was simply surging with energy. The noise was deafening, the family in front of us started hugging and kissing each other, the old man we didn’t know that sat next to us hugged my friend and went right on cheering. The entire stadium was cheering “DZEKO! DZEKO! DZEKO!” I had never felt investment in really any team but right then in that stadium, I felt a part of the fans, a part of this euphoria and passion. It happened. I was a Roma fan.
The rest of the game was pretty hectic. Shakhtar got a red card and two yellow cards, because one of them (I’m pretty sure) tripped Dzeko and another started cursing at the ref (I think) and another charged the sideline and shoved the ball boy over the fence, took the ball and passed it in as if nothing happened (this one I’m sure about). I learned many new Italian curses after that one. The final few minutes were over shrouded by these calls, and the players played distractedly, leading to the Roma win. The crowd was ecstatic. They were chanting, cheering, crying, hugging. The streets surrounding the stadium were unusable because all of the fans were just in the streets celebrating. I thanked Jake so profusely for convincing us to go that he started ignoring me out of annoyance. But what can I say? I am converted.

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