In the summer of 1927 three Italian Football Championship (now Serie A) clubs from the nation’s capital merged as one. Italo Foschi was the man initiating the merger on behalf of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who wanted to give the country’s capital a club strong enough to compete with the dominant Northern Italian sides. And so Associazione Sportiva Roma was born and is still today one of the country’s biggest clubs as it approaches its 57th consecutive year in the top flight – having only dropped down a tier for one season in its entire existence.
Roma’s early seasons were played out at the Motovelodromo Appio stadium, where they consolidated their top flight status through a few mediocre campaigns before moving to a state of the art all-wooden ground, the Campo Testaccio, a perfect location for their first assault on Italian football’s top prize. The 1930/31 season saw the Giallorossi finish runners-up in Serie A, boasting the likes of World Cup winner Attilio Ferraris as their Captain and Rodolfo Volk, who claimed the Capocannonieri crown for that season and went on to score over a hundred goals for his beloved i Lupi.
However, that highly productive season in the early thirties proved to be a false dawn as many of la Magica’s star players departed and the club spent the next five years offering just relatively average league finishes rather than further assaults on the league title. The capital club did find their feet once more with the 1935/36 season throwing up another second place finish, this time coming up just a point short in their chase for Scudetto glory. This provd to be another setback for the Giallorossi as they again failed to build on this success, instead following it up with another period of mid-table finishes which failed to captivate the capital’s imagination.
That frustration would soon be laid to rest as legendary football journeyman and Hungarian goal machine Alfréd Schaffer took the reins in 1939 and promptly secured the club’s first Scudetto in the 1941/42 season. It was a surprise title win with much praise and adulation falling at the feet of local boy Amedeo Amadei who netted an impressive 18 league goals at the tender age of 20-years-old. He also holds the record of being the youngest ever player in Serie A history after making his debut in 1937 at just 15-years old, with the Roman born striker going on to hit 101 goals for his native club.
The Second World War would disrupt Roma’s immediate progress and after a decade of lowly finishes and at times much turmoil, i Lupi dropped into Serie B for the first and only time in 1952. The Giallorossi bounced straight back into the top flight of Italian football and proceeded to march their way back to where they belong, amongst the big boys in the Italian game. Another runners-up finish came in 1955 with Englishman Jesse Carver in charge, but the legendary Coach quit after just one season leaving Roma’s quest for consistent success and trophies again in tatters.
I Lupi accumed nine managers throughout the sixties and although it was a turbulent decade for the club – they went on to win three major trophies in that time. The first of which being their first European title in 1961 when they beat Birmingham City in the final of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, with Brazilian forward Dino da Costa the inspiration.They followed that with two Coppa Italia triumphs in 1964 and 1969 respectively. The sixties ended with the retirement of Giacomo Losi. The Giallorossi defender was an outstanding servant for the club, ammassing an incredible 386 outings in his 14 years in the capital.
However, after a decade of inconsistency and partial success, came a decade of just plain consistent mediocrity. In 1975, the Giallorossi finished an admirable third in Serie A, but the seventies were littered with top half finishes and little more. I Lupi did wind back the clock in the eighties with plenty of success throughout a highly productive 10 years. It all started with a third Coppa Italia triumph in 1980, followed by the club’s highest league finish in over 20 years, thanks to a runners-up spot in the 1980/81 campaign and more Coppa Italia success. Their second Scudetto would soon follow in the 1982/83 season after a 41 year drought prompting wild celebrations in the capital. The very next season provided another second place finish and the club’s fifth Coppa Italia – they also lost out on penalties to Liverpool in the infamous 1984 European Cup final in Rome. It was the Giallorossi’s dream to lift their first European Cup in their very own Stadio Olimpico but Bruce Grobbelaar’s spaghetti legs dashed those dreams. However, la Magica continued their fine era with yet another Coppa Italia but fell just one short again in their race for the Scudetto, with a runners-up spot in 1985/86.
The highs of the early to mid-eighties would not carry on for much longer. A seventh Coppa Italia was as good as got for the Romans along with defeat in the UEFA Cup final to fellow Italians Inter. A fourth placed finish in 1997/98 was a sign of emergence from the Rome giants and set them up nicely for the dawn of a new millennium. The end of the 20th century saw the appointment of former Milan Coach and tireless Scudetto winner, Fabio Capello. The expert Tactician masterminded the Giallorossi’s third Scudetto triumph in 2001, securing victory on the last day to pip rivals Juventus to the title. It was arguably one of the best Roma side’s that has ever been, with the likes of Gabriel Batistuta, Vincenzo Montella and Cafu amongst others, but the main hero and now club darling is that of Francesco Totti. He was the captain of that Scudetto-winning side and has gone on to break Losi’s appearance record, with Totti now on over 400 outings as well as smashing the goal scoring record having recorded almost 200 strikes for his beloved club.
Roma almost defended the Scudetto for the first time in their history, but missed out by just one point as the Old Lady exacted revenge for the previous campaign. La Magica have had further heartbreak throughout the last six or seven years, with numerous runners-up medals in the Coppa Italia while recording several second place finishes, most recently behind Inter in the last three seasons. Luciano Spalletti’s rein in the capital has been littered with the almost statistic, but two Coppa Italia’s and countless runner-up medals in the league only points to success, with a little help from the Calciopoli scandal. The big boys of Juventus and Milan are now back at the top and Roma’s Champions League spot looks in jeapordy at present, having nailed down qualification into Europe’s elite competiton regularly during Spalletti’s tenure.
With arch-rivals Lazio’s phenomonal success at the end of the nineties and start of the 21st century, Roma have proceeded to overhaul their nemesis in recent years and have their name in lights as the capital’s most prestigious and dominant force. Spalletti has been charged with keeping it that way and even with Totti on the decline and seemingly on his way out in the coming years, the bald-headed Tactician has been building solidly for the future. He has offered a consistent and prominous rein, and despite this season’s slight setback Spalletti looks set to lead the Romans back into Scudetto battle and dethrone the current occupiers in the near future.