Men in Masks

I spent a few weeks of June 2001 in Rome, in order to live out a dream and witness football history as it happened. A friend, who showed me the ropes at the stadium so to speak, was excited about the prospect of winning our generation's first scudetto, and only Roma's third ever. But he also carried a grudge. 'Round midnight of June 16th, he told me about his plans for the game the next day. He would hang up a big banner which read Antonioli Fanclub, and at kick-off he would drop down another smaller banner that covered over part of it so that it would instead read Antonioli Fanculo. All season long, Antonioli had demonstrated a predisposition for playing rather well but letting in very soft goals, sometimes verging on parody. To many he was the only reason Roma hadn't already secured the title weeks in advance. Even at the threshold of Roma's biggest triumph in modern times, Antonioli was seen as a weakness, and as being too bad for Roma. A few years later he moved away from the club, by then deemed too old as well.

That's all you need to know about Roma-Cesena. The goalkeeper, known as Batman, found too bad and too old nearly a decade ago shut Roma out completely, and played great. He turns 41 soon.

It was one of those nights. Which doesn't mean it'll necessarily be one of those seasons. Inter didn't draw a newcomer in their first game last season? Lazio didn't top the table after two weeks? Juve didn't win their first four games of the season? They did, and the respective seasons of all those three clubs played out very different from what could be seen in August and September.

Another man running around with a mask is much overdue to shed his and reveal his true self. He didn't stand out in a negative way for Roma, but that was perhaps more due to so many players being sub-par than he himself actually playing well. But his case is all the more frustrating because it's continuation of a problem that's been around for more or less two years—DDR is not the real DDR right now. He's wearing the mask of a do-it-all, and it doesn't suit him. His own ambitions fail him, because no matter how much he wants it, Daniele can't and should under no condition be hitting 50 meter passes. That's not his game, he needs to be himself again; The dynamo that ran around defending like that was what he was born to do, the hell raiser that every so often came forward and burned the nets off the goal with a 30 meter shot struck with nuclear power. I miss that guy.