Friday, December 8, 2023

The heart of Rome

Giacomo Losi grew up in a house where the name of Benito Mussolini provoked extreme hatred. His father was a porter and his mother worked as a spinner in Soncino, the town in the province of Cremona, where they established their residence. Both were staunch anti-fascist militants and never hesitated to take sides. Giacomo was only five years old when Fascist Italy entered the Second World War on the German side. During part of his childhood he had to deal with the anguish of war. All this mixed with the innocence of a child. Losi recalls that he and his friends called the Allied bombers trying to destroy the bridges near Soncino “Pippo.”

During the hot months, the children spent a good part of the day in the river and when they heard the alarm sounded from the town tower they ran to the shelters under the walls. A kind of macabre game. In a few seconds they went from the joy and carelessness that accompanied the innocent dips in the water to the anguish of being put in a cave surrounded by their own while waiting for “Pippo” to get away as soon as possible.

In 1943, still in the middle of the war, in the region where he lived, a movement of Endurance. His parents were there, people of deep convictions. Giacomo Losi, who was only eight years old, also offered to help them. Small tasks but that would have caused him a problem in case one of the Soncino fascists had discovered him. He was dedicated to stealing bread that they would later take to the partisans who were hiding in the mountains and he was also commissioned to move ammunition from one place to another on his bicycle.

Losi and his family lived with infinite happiness the liberation of Italy that gave them back, only partially, peace in their day to day life. They could now think about other things, make plans and have dreams. Nor was it easy in a country that had been seriously damaged and whose recovery was going to be very complicated.

To Giacomo that period of reconstruction from the late 1940s came to him during his teens. Like almost all Italian children, he loved sports and had great references to Fausto Coppi and the Gran Torino, point guard for the Italian national team, who tragically disappeared in the plane crash at the Basilica of Superga. That night, like many Italians, Losi wept uncontrollably when he heard the news on the radio.

Although for a time he considered trying his luck in the world of cycling, it was finally football that prevailed in that duel. He started out playing for Soncinese, from his town, as a striker. Later he went to Cremonese with which he was rising in category until he reached C. It was at that moment, in 1954, when he was informed that he had been transferred in exchange for 500,000 liras. He was then twenty years old. And he didn’t know where he was going. He showed up at the train station with a suitcase and it was at that moment that he knew that his destination was Rome. Inter, with whom he had played a friendly tournament as a test, had finally rejected him. The team from the capital had not long since experienced their first and only relegation to Serie B that they were able to solve thanks to a rapid promotion. There was too much instability in the club and the fans’ doubts about the team were permanent. There was also the circumstance that they had just moved to play their matches at the Olympic stadium and that generated some disaffection among the fans. It was a larger room, but colder, with which they took time to connect.

That is the environment that Giacomo Losi found when he set foot in the Roman dressing room. Gipo Viani, the coach at the time, made the decision to delay it. Already in Cremona he had occupied different positions and moved away from the rival area that was where he began his football life. Viani saw him as something small, fast and a good header. He thought that he would do a great job as a right back and he placed him there.

For almost fifteen years that lane bore his name. Losi became an indispensable piece on the field and an essential voice in the locker room. He had plenty of personality and character, among other things, to confront the board when they refused to fulfill their commitments to the players. Because they were not easy years for the club. Losi confessed on some occasion that «I lived in a Rome in permanent crisis. I did not know anything else during the fifteen years that I played with them ».

In just four years he had already become a captain. That is why he had the honor of lifting the first trophy that Roma had won in a long time. He succeeded in 1961 in the Fairs Cup. The team had a decent season, but in that continental tournament he felt much more liberated. Although from the board they received messages detracting from him and it was advised to save their strength for the domestic championships, the squad saw in him a way to vindicate themselves. And for that, considerable efforts were made.

Losi, for example, had to play a match the day after making his debut for the Italian national team. Things of the calendar of that time. He arrived at the Roman locker room and the coach asked him if he was fit to play Hibernian in the second leg of the semi-finals. “Don’t ask me absurd questions” Losi replied.. Roma reached the final against Birmingham and after a 2-2 draw in England they won the tournament after winning 2-0 at their stadium. It was the day fans forgot forever about the relatively recent stadium move. That afternoon the Olympian acquired the personality and atmosphere that he would never lose. Giacomo Losi went down in history for being the first Roma player to lift a European trophy.

A few months after that came one of those events that mark a race In January 1961, during a match against Sampdoria, Losi injured. I was lame lost, but since there were no possible substitutions, he stayed on the field doing what he could. The game was tied and he was not willing to leave them in that situation. In the last minutes, on a corner kick in favor, from among the cloud of players trying to reach the ball, Giocomo Losi’s head appeared to give him the victory. One of the two goals he scored in fourteen years for his team in the League. People went crazy with him. That day they baptized him “Ilcuore di Roma”, the nickname that he would already accompany him forever. It was not about football because in the team of the 60s there were players of undoubted quality on the team. It was something else. Losi faithfully responded to what the fans believed that he should be a Roma player. And so they surrendered to him.

The Roma of the 1960s won two Cup champion trophies that Losi was in charge of raising to the sky as captain of the squad. The second, in 1969, came with Helenio Herrera as coach, with whom he did not get along. That day, enjoying the happiness of his companions and the city, Losi decided that it was the perfect time to leave. He was 34 years old and for 14 years he had proudly defended the club. He had dealt with moments of trouble, with sports crises, with non-payments to the players… but he was also able to enjoy the happiness of victory, the pride of representing Italy in the 1962 World Cup and small, more personal pleasures such as meeting Say Stefano.

Giacomo Losi left Roma as the footballer who defended his jersey the most times in history. It took them a while to break their record. Almost forty years later Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi did it. A few months ago he also ceased to be the only Roma player in all of history who had lifted a European trophy. At 86 years old, “Il cuore di Roma” smiled happily in his house.


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