In this extract from the book ’55 secondi’ (Pagine, 2014), journalist Tonino Cagnucci reflects on the famous European Cup final of 1984 – and the captain that night, Agostino Di Bartolomei…
I think it was a time of wonderful people, wonderful feelings, incredible suspense and it deserved that kind of match…
In the end, Alan Kennedy – who the English all called Barney – scored the penalty to make it 5-3. But that version doesn’t sit well. The end of what? Of who? Of a dream? Could it not be the beginning?
May 30 is a wound that will never heal, a wound that gushes history and pride, that is open and strikes right to the heart. It hurts as love hurts and is tremendous as beauty is in our minds. Clean, innocent, pure, like those white shirts, that nobody shall dare sully. No Roma fan can allow anyone to mock or scoff at that match, at our Captain. That match is and will always belong to us – that night is still ours, that Captain will be our Captain forever.
Have you experienced the love that can be born from pain? Have you experienced the loyalty that can be born from defeat? They are lessons that life teaches, and May 30 will always be one of the significant days in our lives.
We kept ourselves in that game, against the greatest opponent around, until the last possible penalty kick. It finished 1-1 after 90 minutes, after 120 too. With none of Carlo Ancelotti, Toninho Cerezo, Roberto Pruzzo and Aldo Maldera on the field, we lost that cup on penalties. Roma 3-5 Liverpool on penalties. But Roma 3-5 Liverpool is not a result, but a date: 3-5. Thirty-five. The thirtieth of the fifth. 30 May. Keep it in your hearts. Our Captain did – he kept it in his heart along with an image of the Curva that night, right until the end.
That match is our pride. It is truly immense, yet there is something more.
We did something infinitely greater.
That night did not end after the penalty shootout, because the heart chose a different finale. Have you experienced the love that can be born from pain? Did you experience the great, moving wonder of what happened afterwards?
A chant sprang up: “Roma! Roma! Roma!”
Fifty-five seconds after Kennedy’s penalty, we had chosen a different ending.
Fifty-five seconds afterwards, roughly the time between one penalty and another.
“Roma! Roma! Roma!”
Fifty-five seconds afterwards, as if it was the Curva Sud taking a penalty. As if it was the Sud’s turn. Who were we singing to in that moment? For whom were we signing? For ourselves? For God? For what had happened? For what hadn’t happened? For all our memories? For all those nights? For Katsche? For Atletico? For Borussia? For a player? For the captain? I don’t know, but sing we did.
“Roma! Roma! Roma!” we sang.
We sang for everything Roma represented for us – quite simply, we sang for Roma.
“Roma! Roma! Roma!”
My Roma. I carried you forth for years after that night before I realised that it was on that night that you were reborn, even greater. Because it was that match that taught us that Roma is not only bigger than defeat – than the ultimate defeat – but it is bigger than victory, because there is no greater victory that a victory dreamed of, a victory yearned, a victory prayed for, brushed against, grasped for all of 55 seconds.
May 30 taught us that Roma is bigger than any victory. That the men count for more than the result. Especially one man in particular.
I want to see him smile. I loved Agostino for everything he did and everything he was unable to do […] He was the older brother I never had and he made me feel safe. I found the conviction you search for when you concede a corner kick by thinking of Ago. If he was on the pitch, I was less afraid. If he was there, you were sure things were going to be done right.
I played a European Cup final with Ago as my captain. He scored the goal to give us the lead for the first and last time that night. He made us European champions for 55 seconds. He made us champions in life with his serious, loving ways. I will always be thankful to him and to that Roma side. To him and to that Curva.
I will always be proud of Roma v Liverpool. It’s a credit to us. It is an infinite tale. Pure. Pure. Profound. Pure. And now that I am a father, Agostino Di Bartolomei is even more of an example. I’ll never judge what he did. It hurts, but others have been hurt infinitely more.
I’ll always love him. It’s the only thing I can do.
And when we do get our moment’s celebration, I want to hear the stadium offer up an olè for Nappi, Righetti, Bonetti (yes, Bonetti too) Falcao, Nela, Conti, Cerezo, Pruzzo, Di Bartolomei, Graziani… and an even louder one for Maldera, not because he’s no longer with us, but because he wasn’t with us that night. Then we’ll take the cup to Ago. And we’ll dedicate it to him and to everyone else who was left speechless that night.
For now, we must wait for that day. We’ve been waiting since 30 May 1984, waiting to play the game of our lives again.