The Shot Heard Around Italy, or, On This Day in History: 2000

Your name is Gabriel Batistuta. You're standing with your foot on the ball, ready for kick-off one night in November. You're looking at the other half of the pitch and see a part of you. You're separated since a couple of months from the city which had been your home for the past nine years, a city that adored you. It loved you, and you want to think that it still does. Together, you lived it all. Except for one thing, one damned thing. You shared the lows of demotion to serie B, you shared the joyous exuberance of marching right through that year in hell and reclaiming serie A status. You scored more goals in that purple shirt than anyone before you ever had (even if only by a hair). It was perfect, except for that one damned thing missing; lo scudetto. So you saw the allure of the capital, and accepted its call. You were presented in front of a packed Curva Sud in the beginning of June, when a competitive football wouldn't be kicked for another four full months. You felt honored at your reception, you had a good feeling. You knew this was it. At 31, you wouldn't have many more chances to conquer that one thing missing. Certainly none better. As you went under Curva Sud and were embraced for the first time by a Roman crowd delirious with possibilities, perhaps you couldn't completely forsake an uncomfortable thought; what would it be like playing against that Fiorentina for the first time? Don't want to think about it, yet it's hard not to. Back in the moment, and you kick off the game. Eighty minutes passes, nothing happens. You're growing tired. Tired of not being able to overcome this early hurdle on the path towards self-realization, tired of the mental anguish of playing against a part of your identity. Against something that helped raise you, molded you into what you are. However, your instinct for the hunt can no more be shut off than the sun can be shut off. You start moving in wider circles to find your prey; the normal hunting grounds are too densely populated by herds fighting for their survival, allowing no entrance. You're twenty meters away from the goal when you see the ball drop down in front of you. You don't think, you just shoot.

You wonder what they will think the next time they see the statue of you outside Fiorentina's stadium. You hope they understand. 


Your name is Nobody. You're a fan. You're you, you're me, you're that man in his fifties you always end up next to at the stadium, who you're pretty sure is running a campaign for the canonization of Bruno Conti (it should have happened yesterday, if you ask him; you never do). For the past ten years, you have had your passion for this team tried and beset, over and over, in so many different ways it would be tragicomical listing them all. You remember just a few years ago, when the club signed "the new Ronaldo", Fabio Junior. You have tried, unsuccessfully, to forget it. You suffered—oh how you suffered—through a horrible past year, when Lazio won. Lazio! You doubted you'd ever be able to forget finishing sixth the same year as that other team won the league. Isn't this the text book definition of irreversible damage? Isn't this submitting souls to torture? You also remember how quickly it turned around; not three weeks after that unmentionable low point, you saw Batistuta be led under Curva Sud. You remember how quickly wallowing in despair was transformed into a steadfast determination to erase those memories from history. Almost exactly two months into the season—that earliest of all rallies to restore sanity—Roma faces one of its first tests to its credibility as challengers. That it happens to be Fiorentina, you're blissfully inattentive of. You recognize them as the club from which Batistuta moved from, but it is an emotion quickly drowned out by the appetite for three more points. Just another game, just another test to Roma's credentials. Eighty minutes passes, nothing happens. An inescapable fear starts to take hold that this might be installment number seven hundred and fifty three in the trials and tribulations for all romanisti. You hold your breath as the ball approaches Batistuta twenty meters from the goal. He shoots. 

Exhale. You throw off the yoke of the scudetto on Lazio's chest, you can breathe again. 

Batistuta v. la sua ex squadra