The 1984 final against Liverpool is still an open wound for all Roma supporters. However, football gives and football takes away.
Roma vs Liverpool is not just a football match, and maybe will never be. When I look at the Champions League semi-final draw scheduled for May 2, I think about all those who say that football is just a degrading sport. I believe that this particular match is the best answer to such insinuations, especially after the disgraceful tragedy of Sean Cox, a tragedy caused by some criminals that nothing have to do with this wonderful passion.
Indeed, football is made of stories and there are matches that bring with them a unique emotional baggage. Roma-Liverpool always had this kind of special chemestry, being the best example of games that cannot last just 90 minutes. Sometimes they can have a much longer duration, in this case 34 years.
The 1984 final
Roma against Liverpool does not kick off next Tuesday but, as mentioned above, it all started more than three decades ago, during a hot late-May night, when Rome was clinging to a dream.
There once was Niels Liedholm’s Roma, the little Cinderella amongst the great at her first experience in the European Cup, that, after a triumphant ride, reached the final to mark her place in history. Like in a fairy tale whose happy ending had already been written, it so happened that the match was played at home, within the comforting walls of the Stadio Olimpico of Rome.
It was May 30, 1984 and the destiny seemed to be there. The most important European trophy had never looked that close, and that dream had never looked so real.
The damned penalties
However, between Roma and their dream there was Joe Fagan’s Liverpool, not just any team. Those were the Reds in their golden years, the English side that collected win after win in the international field. A great opponent, as much as the illusion of Rome that, for one night, waited with bated breath. Who could not be at the stadium, went to the Circo Massimo, ready for the joy of a lifetime, ready to finally celebrate Roma making it to the top of Europe.
The match slipped away in a draw. Roberto Pruzzo responded with a header to Liverpool’s first goal by Phil Neal, keeping the dreams of Roma alive. Few minutes before extra time, it was already clear that the final would be decided on penalties. Precisely those eleven meters that, as never before, seemed to be too long.
And just in those eleven meters, the dreams went to die. In front of the Curva Sud, where Roma fans were, the mistakes of Bruno Conti and Ciccio Graziani crowned Liverpool as Champions of Europe, englulfing Rome in a nightmare of no return.
An open wound, a tragic date
The final against Liverpool is still an open wound for all Roma supporters. That May 30 night is a date that is bound to be stained forever on the memories of a club that has never managed to win so much and that saw the appointment of a lifetime, the opportunity that only knocks once, fade away.
A fatal blow that will always haunt the hearts of the supporters: ten years after that match, Agostino Di Bartolomei, the captain of that Roma, decided to take his own life on May 30, the very day of Roma-Liverpool. A date that will never be a random grab.
Nonetheless, football gives and football takes away. Although for the romanisti there have always been few footballing glories, that draw put Liverpool on Roma’s path once more, as a sign of rematch. A rematch that was eagerly awaited for 34 long years.
Now as then, the road is difficult. That 5-2 scoreline for the Reds looks like a sentence too hard to overturn. However, it is not impossible. Because the two goals that Roma found at Anfield few minutes before the first leg’s final whistle, give hope. Indeed, these two goals reopen a bigger match that started 34 years ago, when the romanisti already knew that it wasn’t the end.
Because footbal is made of stories and there are stories that do not resign to a different ending. Because Roma against Liverpool will never be a match like the others. And if that dream is still alive, ready to come true, Rome will try to write its different ending. That ending that the whole city is awaiting since 1984, like no time has passed.