A.S. Roma, one of the two major football clubs of the Italian capital, were founded in the July of 1927, the history books giving us the exact date of the 22nd of July. Of course the other major football club in Rome is Società Sportiva Lazio, more commonly known as Lazio. A.S. were founded by Celestino Italo Foschi. Foschi was a former soldier and a supporter of fascism during the early part of the twentieth century, despite his obvious faults he was heavily into sport. In the early 1920’s he had a hand in the formation of A.S.D. City Giulianova, a club which today plays its football in the lower leagues of Italian football. Foschi also took part in the founding of Sambenedettese, another club today playing its football in the Italian lower leagues. A few years later Foschi played a major role in the formation of Associazione Sportiva Roma, the club that we know today as A.S. Roma.
Roma came about through the merger of three other clubs, Alba Audace Roma, Football Club Di Roma and Fortitudo-Pro Roma Società di Ginnastica e Scherma. Alba Audace were originally formed in 1907 in the Flaminio region of the Italian capital. F.C. di Roma were from the Northern region of Rome in Parioli and were formed in 1901 and Fortitudo-Pro Roma Società di Ginnastica e Scherma were formed in 1908 in the historic area of Rome known as Borgo. To be honest it wasn’t like these three clubs had a choice in the matter of the founding of A.S. Roma, they were ordered to by the Fascist regime in power in Italy in those days. However, Rome’s other club Società Sportiva Lazio were able to successfully ward off any involvement in Roma’s founding, they were indeed put forward to be one of those clubs to be involved in the amalgamation but they weren’t having any of it and today remain an independent club in Italian football. Incidentally Lazio are Rome’s first and oldest club, being formed in 1900 and have certainly seen more European success than their city neighbours A.S.. During Roma’s early days the club played its home fixtures at the Motovelodromo Appio stadium, in 1929 A.S. moved in to the Campo Testaccio stadium. Roma were there until 1940, when they moved into the Stadio Nazionale del PNF. They didn’t move into their present home the Stadio Olimpico until 1953, a stadium they now share with Lazio.
In 1929 Italian football saw the introduction of Serie A, the league system that has endured and is in practice today in Italy. Before Serie A was introduced the football league system in the country was organized into regional group format, quite similar to what was going in England before the formation of the Football League. Serie A is often called the Scudetto, which means “small shield”. The Turin club Juventus has been the most successful club in this competition, with at present thirty five titles. The first champion of Serie A was Inter Milan then for the next five years until 1935, the Old Lady of Italian football claimed the title. Once the club was up and running, it took A.S. Roma some time to come to prominence in Italian football. They finished runners up in Serie A at the end of the 1930 – 1931 season, finishing on fifty one points, four points behind Juventus. Roma had finally arrived in Italian domestic football; a feather in their cap for that season was Rodolfo Volk who finished that season as Serie A’s top goal scorer with twenty nine goals.
Other famous names of A.S. Roma from that time in the clubs history include team captain Atillio Ferraris. Ferraris played for Roma for a decade playing over two hundred and fifty games, sadly Ferraris died in 1947 whilst he was on the pitch during a game. Fulvio Bernardini, a former Lazio player took the captains armband from Ferraris in 1934. Bernadini played for Roma from 1928 until 1939 when he was transferred to the now defunct team Motori Alimentatori Trasformatori Elettrici Roma, or M.A.T.E.R. for short. M.A.T.E.R. were only in business for twelve years, dissolving at the end of the Second World War when the Fascist regime in Italy came crashing down. M.A.T.E.R. aren’t the only dissolved football club of the Italian capital, F.C. Fidene very recently went out of business in 2013. Atletico Roma F.C. are another recent team to have bitten the dust, doing so in 2011.
However, Roma and Lazio do not remain alone in Rome. Associazione Sportiva Dilettantistica Astrea plays its football in the lower leagues, in fact in Serie D. Lodigiani Calcio is another Roman club, playing in the lower echelons of Italian football, as do Associazione Sportiva Ostia Mare Lido Calcio. Roma won their first Serie A title at the ends of the 1941 – 1942 season, remarkable to think that domestic football still carried on in Italy despite World War Two, but it did. It would be another forty years before they would claim another Serie A title, and they would have to wait until the end of the 2000 – 2001 season to claim their third. Only the three Serie A titles in their history, but they’ve done better in the Coppa Italia, which is essentially the Italian FA cup winning nine titles in this competition and finishing up runners up on seventeen occasions.
The only team that have won more Coppa Italia cup’s is Juventus who have thirteen Coppa Italia titles. Despite being one the world’s most famous clubs, A.S. Roma’s European record is quite modest. They only have two European trophy wins to their name, the Inter City Fairs Cup and the Anglo Italian Cup. They lifted the Fairs Cup in 1961 when they beat Birmingham City of England 4 – 2 on aggregate; the Anglo Italian Cup was lifted during the summer of 1972 when they another English side Blackpool 3 – 1.
As I am sure you’re aware to some extent, Italian football has had its fair share of corruption charges and finger pointing resulting from scandal after scandal. Let’s be honest, down the decades it’s something that has been rife in the Italian game. A.S. Roma have had their fair share of trouble in this regard. During Roma’s European Cup semifinal clash with Scottish side Dundee United, the Roma director Dino Viola was found guilty and has since openly admitted of trying to bribe the referee before their home leg of the semifinal with the Tangerines.
Aided and abetted by former Roma players Spartaco Landini and Giampaulo Cominato, Viola was seemingly successful in having some effect on the game. Dundee United had battered Roma at Tannadice, out playing their Italian opponents in a game that Dundee United were unlucky not to score more. Roma needed a small miracle to reach the final, but they got their win beating the Scottish team 3 – 0. As I’ve said, since that night in 1984 Viola has openly said he bribed the ref with a £50,000 bung. The then Dundee United manager Jim McLean has gone on record as saying…
“Roma were under pressure because the European Cup Final was being played in their own Olympic Stadium but it is no excuse to stoop so low as to cheat their way there. I’m glad the truth has come out and, now it has, I feel for my former players and Dundee United fans who were denied the greatest game the club would ever have played. A European Cup Final would have been wonderful for everyone. We had the players to beat Liverpool in that final – we had the players to beat any team when we were on song. I would have loved the opportunity for them to have played in the Final because some of the results they achieved that season were unbelievable. The defeat left a bad taste in my mouth and I’m sad to say we were right, even though we never thought of asking for a probe and accepted we lost over two legs. However, a couple of months after the match Ernie Walker told me had done everything within his power to have UEFA look closely into the game. He was convinced an attempt at least had been made to bribe the referee but UEFA brushed his suspicions under the carpet.” Jim McLean.
On that bribe incident, Riccardo Viola, son of Dino Viola, recently spoke to Italian TV company Mediaset Premium…
“Roma gave a middle man 100 million lire (£50,000) destined for referee Vautrot. That is true and a shameful fact. Spartaco Landini, the director of football at Genoa, came to see my father. He told him Vautrot was a friend of his and that we could get at him via another friend but the referee would have to be given 100million lire. He said a dinner would be organised with the referee on the eve of the game and a signal to show the deal had been done would be demanded. During the dinner a waiter went up to the referee saying ‘Telephone call for Mr. Vautrot’. That was the prearranged signal. Vautrot left the table and when he returned said, ‘My friend Paolo rang and he sends you his best wishes’. Then I got up, rang my father and told him, ‘Message received’. All this was done because we had a difficult game ahead of us against Dundee United. Going out of the competition would have had serious repercussions.” Riccardo Viola.
As we know Roma went on to lose to Liverpool in the final, particularly cutting for Roma as the final was played in their home stadium. Roma reached the final of the 1990 – 1991 UEFA Cup, the final was played over two against fellow Italian side Inter Milan, luck deserted them again in a final, Inter ran out 2 – 1 winners on aggregate, once again Roma saw their final opponents lift a European trophy in their home stadium the Stadio Olimpico. Happily for Roma that season things did go their way in the Coppa Italia when they beat Sampdoria 4 – 2 on aggregate, the goals coming from Luca Pellegrini, Thomas Berthold, Aldair and Rudi Völler, so at least for that season Roma did indeed lift silverware.