Let’s not waste words here: we all know what Francesco Totti means to Italian football and the Eternal City of Rome. We could spend days listing his achievements one by one, naming his milestone goals and caps and lauding his admirable skills. That’s not going to happen; instead, Top Eleven’s aim is to describe the absolutely unique traits which make Roma’s captain one of the most likeable people on the planet.
Totti has scored a stunning 300 goals for his beloved club during his career, which has yet to meet its end. In an interview conducted by La Gazzetta della Sport two years ago, he admitted he had dreamt of that momentous record, but he also talked about a deeper bond with his home town. At one time he was set to leave Roma and joining Spanish giants Real Madrid, but his heart came first. “The contract proposals and issues in my private life led me to stay here. And I have never regretted it.” In his childhood, he was close to signing for Milan, but his mother refused an impressive offer from the club to keep her son in Rome. Lazio came knocking, too, but a coach from Roma persuaded the Totti family his club was the best option.
The Golden Boy, The Gladiator, The Prince of Rome – it’s easy to run out of superlatives when thinking up nicknames for Totti. But not all of his abilities are superhuman, according to those who know him best.
“He seems like a silly person,” an Italian businessman who once had dinner at the same restaurant as Totti asserts. His accent is often subject to a number of jokes, and his intelligence is not considered to be extraordinary. A journalist once told him “Carpe diem” and Francesco could only utter: “I don’t speak English”.
Such is the number of mistakes he has made when giving interviews that people started making up funny stories about them and turning them into classic jokes. One of them goes: “The three hardest years for Totti? Year one in elementary school.” Upon hearing these, the Italian footballer decided he could help turn them into a real collection. A book called “All the Totti Jokes” came out in June 2003, and by August that year it had managed to sell a staggering 430,000 copies. According to BBC, “Totti’s only stipulations in approving the book were that the jokes reflected badly on him rather than his family, and that all the money raised by the book went to a project helping the elderly in Rome and to a Unicef project helping homeless children in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
How about that for not taking yourself too seriously? In addition, Francesco has never tried to hide his other faults. “I am not a hard-working man, I was always forced into training. I think Mario Balotelli is similar to me in that regard, but I am much shyer than him. He can be a great footballer, but the mental aspect of his development is the most important thing.”
Totti is also aware that many of his greatest steps in life had been made prematurely.
“The first time I kissed a girl I was 10. I was 12 when I made love for the first time. It was in Tropea, with a Roman girl who was 17 years old.”
“I remember my first Serie A goal better than my first kiss. At 10 years old, you can’t really understand what’s happening. I wanted to celebrate the goal by impersonating Hulk Hogan, but then I forgot about it.”
Over the years we’ve seen a number of imaginative celebrations, but the one Totti treasures most dearly is a tribute to his pregnant wife – he stuffed a ball under his shirt, while his teammates were pushing it out, imitating midwives in the process.
His trademark sucking of his thumb is a way of professing love to his daughter, and he once put on a shirt that said “Sorry for the delay”, in an attempt to appease Roma’s fans and celebrate after a long goalless period.
In the Derby della Capitale on January 2011, 2015 – the derby between Lazio and Roma – his brace helped his team to a draw after falling behind 2:0. Upon netting the equalizer, Totti famously grabbed a phone and took a selfie with the crowd in the background.
The only mishap in his otherwise happy and successful career is his omission from Italy’s starting squad against Holland during the semifinals of EURO 2000.
“I heard it was because some sponsors were pressuring the coach to play some other people. I had a great EURO prior to that game, I saw no reason to be left out.”
But the Italian legend doesn’t really mind, and he did score a penalty to secure his squad’s victory afterwards. Totti’s playing days are slowly coming to an end, and the Prince of Rome is using every minute on the pitch to enjoy himself and give his all for Roma. In the future, he wants to become a coach, so we don’t have to worry about him disappearing from the football map just yet. Come to think of it, such a thing would be impossible, considering that he has graced the world with his talent and humble personality, setting an example for many footballers to come.
Oh, and here are some other Totti jokes, in case you’re interested.
A tragic story in the newspaper: Totti’s library has burnt down. It contained two books. Totti is inconsolable. ‘No! I hadn’t finished coloring the second one in yet!’
Totti tries to finish a jigsaw puzzle. It takes him almost four months, then he turns the box over and reads: ‘From 2 to 3 years’. He says: ‘Ah, so now I’m a genius!’
Totti goes on holiday. On his return Cafu asks him: ‘Where have you been?’ Totti: ‘I went water skiing’. Cafu: ‘Did you have a good time?’ Totti: ‘Not at all… I didn’t manage to find a lake that went downhill’
Totti’s girlfriend sees that Francesco is getting wet on the terrace and calls out to him: ‘France, come inside, it’s raining.’ Totti: ‘But it’s raining out here as well’
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