The following is an Italian article, the source of which is now lost to me, but I believe originally came from an Italian newspaper back in the 90’s. All credit for this translation goes to Dente di Lupo, a past member of ASRoma-Addict.com. Roma Addict is also where it first originally appeared, posted there by myself.
The History of AS Roma– Part 1
On June 1893 the English brought football to Italy, in Genoa to be exact, where some young British citizens introduced themselves to consul Mr. Payton with the request to form a sporting club: “We are subjects to your British Majesty, we live in Genoa due to work and it seems to us only right, as we did in our country, to devote some sports here, above all the game of football.” It was born this way, initiated above all by G. D. Fawcus, the Genoa Cricket and Athletic Club, who, from 1896 changed it’s name to Genoa Cricket and Football Club.
However, there were still a few more decades to go before football become ‘calcio’, and despite the birth of different clubs in the rest of Italy, the first national championship was only played in 1939-30. Before this date, the clubs that came to form were playing in different regional groups played to elimination and the lope lope was awarded after the national final.
Among the Genoa foundation and the first championship in 1929-30, the ball also appeared in Rome. In the capital, in truth, there were born numerous clubs that consisted of groups of friends that were attracted to the ‘new fashion’ that had quickly spread in the country. The first club born was the Football Club Roma (1901) to which followed in 1902 the Roman and Lazio, which had originally been born as a society of track and gymnastics in 1900, Alba (1907), Fortitudo (1908) and then Audace, Esperia, Juventus Roma.
In the beginning of the ’20s the Roman societies enrolled in the major championship (still divided in regional groups) they were Lazio, Romana, Fortitudo, Alba, Juventus, Roman, Audace and Pro Roma. In 1922 Fortitudo reached the national finals, which was played in two meetings, but they were beat by Pro Vercelli (3-0 and 5-2 were the results). In 1925 it was Alba’s turn to reach the finals, to be beaten by Bologna (4-0 and 2-0). The following year Alba again in the finals, where again beaten this time by Juventus of Torino (7-1 and 5-0).
At this point it was very clear that the Roman calcio was too divided and weak to be able to compete at the maximum level with the societies from the north, there were too many teams and too many rivalries, it was then necessary to make a radical reorganization in the best interest of everybody: This way Pro Roma and Romana melted together to then meet with Fortitudo, Juventus Roma broke up and Audace was absorbed by Alba. At this point, we’re at 1927, the capital was represented by four football teams: Alba-Audace, presided by Igliori, Fortitudo, presided by the marquis Sacchetti, Roman, presided by Vittorio Scialoja, Lazio, presided by Fortunato Ballerini. Alba wore a green shirt with a horizontal white strip, white shorts and black socks with a white and green on the lapel. Their fans originated from the popular districts of S. Giovanni and from Appio, generally in the southeast zone, which was undergoing fast expansion, in Rome. Fortitudo was a team for the Catholics by definition and in fact wore the colors (clearly red and blue) of the bourgeois neighborhoods of Borgo Pio and Prati, those that were close neighbors of the Vatican. Traditionally they would wear a red shirt with a blue horizontal band near the bottom, white shorts and red socks with a blue lapel. Roman was the team of the high districts, Flaminio and Parioli, and it brought the giallorosso (yellowred) of the imperial tradition of the eternal city.
Lazio finally, among all these realities, was the most organized society, also because they did not just occupy themselves with calcio, but they were a Sports Center (Polisportiva) with which their activities ranged from cycling to gymnastics. There colors were taken from those of Greece which were selected by it’s founders who wanted to retain the spirit of the Olympics that was reborn a little thanks to De Coubertin and it’s name had to represent a team that went past the confinements of the city to represent the whole region. In fact, their fans were mostly composed of immigrates of the rural zones of the city and elements of the new middle class composed by government officials and employees.
It was really the complexity of the society of Lazio and it’s feelings towards partly extraneous and different officials of the city to bring the managers of Lazio to refuse the invitation of the fusion decided by the other three societies in the capital. The 6th of June 1927, the representative of Lazio, consul Vaccaio, introduces some unacceptable financial conditions to the representatives of Fortitudo and Alba, which in doing so brought about the failure of the union.
The day after, June 7th 1927, at the house of the Commissioner of the Italian Sport Foschi, the representatives of Alba, Fortitudo and Roman, accepted the fusion for the good of roman sport, leaving out the project of Lazio. It had to be a winning operation because Alba had the public, Fortitudo the players, Roman the money. It was born this way and on that date the Associazione Sportiva Roma, even if some newspapers gave the announcement a few weeks later.
The president was Italo Foschi, provisional coaches were Pietro Piselli (ex coach of Alba) and Jozsef King (ex coach of Fortitudo), the best players were selected from the three teams which created the first roster of AS Roma. Among these, in particular, Attilio Ferraris IV must be remembered, then World Cup champion of Italy in 1934, called “il biondino di Borgo Pio” (‘the blondie from Borgo Pio’), who immediately became famous for his passion of smoking, alcohol and women off the field, but even for his great class and grit with the ball at his feet. A Roman phenomenon in the dawn of calcio in the capital. AS Roma went on the field for the first time on June 17 1927 at Velodromo Appio, Alba stadium, where they played up till 1929 as they waited for the completion of the Testaccio Field. They played a friendly match with the Hungarians from UTE (today Ujpest), this was the historical formation: Rapetti, Mattei, Corbyons, Ferraris IV, Degni, Caimmi, Heger, Boros, Rovida, Cappa, Ziroli. Roma won 2-1, with goals by Cappa and Heger who entered this way in the giallorossa history. The shirts worn were those that remained still unused in the stores of Roman, the traditional red shirt “sangue di bue” (‘blood of an ox) and with the yellow collar “becco d’oca” (‘beak of a goose’), white shorts and red socks with a yellow lapel.
September 25 1927 the championship started, and Roma were then enrolled in Serie A, still called by that epoch Divisione Nazionale, composed of two groups for a total of 22 teams, with the top 8 teams having access to the final phase of play-offs. The team was assembled above all on the strength of Fortitudo and Alba, the only novelties were striker Mario Bussich and English coach William Garbutt, ex striker of Arsenal and the leader of Genoa campione d’Italia in 1925,1923, and 1924.
For the very first debut in the championship against Livorno of Velodromo Appio, Roma adopts a completely different uniform, a white shirt with red shorts with a yellow lapel. The team was comprised mainly of Alba and Fortitudo players, with the only novelty being attacker Mario Bussich and English coach William Garbutt, who played striker for Arsenal and guided Genoa to champions in Italy in 1925, 1923 and 1924. The game also saw the first victory in the history of AS Roma, with goals by Ziroli and Fasanelli. This was the formation for that memorable day: Rapetti, Mattei I, Corbyons, Ferraris IV, Degni, Rovida, Ziroli, Fasanelli, Bussich, Cappa, Chini. The fans of Roma, since that day showed their true and whole love and the attachment that they always had for their team: to see Roma in action, they had to walk four kilometers by foot, from the street car terminal of Porta S. Giovanni at Velodromo Appio, at the time it was set just on the outside of the city. Only during the season the town administration created a service for the streetcar that connected the stadium to the center of the city.
The 1st of January 1928, in occasion of Italy – Switzerland (won by I azzurri by 3-2) Attilo Ferrasis IV was summoned: he was the first player in the history of Roma to wear the national team jersey. March 4 1928, Rom closed with a 3-0 victory over Internazionale in their experience in the Divisione Nazionale. This was the final standings for Group B: Bologna 27, Juventus e Casale 24, Internazionale 23, Modena 22, Novara 21, Pro Patria 20, Roma 19, Livorno 17, Dominante 14, Hellas Verona 8.
March 29 1928, Italo Foschi leaves the presidency to Renato Sacerdoti, the collections of the society amounted to 629.000 lire and the exercise closed with a deficit of 20.000 lire, something that would not bring much worry.
April 8 1928, Roma plays their first Coppa Coni ‘Coni Cup’ (this was the old Coppa Italia ‘Italian Cup’ which was played between the championship and the other) against Napoli winning 4-1, three goals by Fasanelli and one by Cappa.
Then begins Roma’s history on the transfer market with a formidable purchase: Bought from Inter was the roman Fulvio Bernardini, star footballer with which Presidente Sacerdoti assures him an incredible contract of 100.000 lire a year.
July 29 1928, Roma wins the Coppa Coni winning in the final played at Florence against Modena 2-1, goals by Corbyons and Bussich. There were parties in the streets of Rome. September 30 1928, begins the second championship in the history of AS Roma, this was the basic formation: Ballante, Barzan, De Micheli, Ferraris IV, Bernardini, D’Aquino, Degni, Benatti, Fasanelli, Folk, Chini. The debut sees a new victory for Roma against Legnano for 4-1 with goals by Bernardini, Volk, Chini, and Fasanelli. Debut for Fulvio Bernardini, for him, between 1928 and 1939, 285 presences with the shirt of Roma and 49 goals. Bernardini, whose memory has been entitled recently at Trigoria, was one of the pioneers of Italian calcio: at 14 years old he became keeper for Lazio and he immediately was protagonist of a red hot derby with Fortitudo in which the players rossablu didn’t hold back against him by pushing with elbows, kicks and knees.
Then he passed to Inter where he invented a role all by himself between defender and attacker. With Roma he played for ten years, becoming one of the idols of Testaccio. For his university studies, for the elegance of touching the ball, for his gentleness towards the fans, he was given a nickname – “Il Dottore” (‘the doctor) even if the romanisti fans preferred to call him”Fuffo”. Debut even for Rudolph Volk, arriving from Fiumana: for him between 1928 to 1933, 157 presences, a leading goal scorer title in the Italian championship and 103 goals. Very blond hair, tall, thick, he had characteristics very similar to a modern center forward. Strength, speed, release, courage. Original was his style of play: he constantly scored with his back to the net and, when receiving the ball, would quickly dash away firing a rapid shot that would surprise the keeper. He becomes a figure in the romanista fan section giving him the nickname “Sciabbolone”, he remains famous for a sentence spoken in broken Italian: “Io no penso, io tiro.” (“I don’t think, I shoot.”)
On March 10 1929, AS Roma play their first official game in a foreign country, a friendly at Paris against the Club Francais which I giallrossi win for 5-0, with a hat trick by Volk and goals by Chini and Landolfi.
On March 17 1929, at Alexandria, first pitch invasion with Roma as the protagonist. With a score line of 0-2 in favor of the Romans, the furious crowd invades the field, the referee gets beaten up and forced the romanisti players to run away from the city in their uniforms. On the field things did not get better, Bernardini received an elbow to his jaw, scarring his face for the rest of his life. Roma closed their second season in Divisione Nazionale winning at Milan for 0-1 against Milan, thanks to a goal by Corbyons on a penalty.
Season 1929-30 brought a lot of novelties: the championship with one group; the substitution of coach Garbutt with Bacani first and then with the more highly rated Herbert Burgess; and finally the inauguration of the Testaccio Field. This mythical field, built in the homonym district through the loans obligatory of 25 lire by everyone (one milione and a half of lire was the total cost of the project) it was projected after the model of the English stadiums: four galleries made of weed painted yellow and red that welcomed twenty thousand spectators, a soft wide lawn 70 meters long. This allows the artifice to widen or tighten the field in relationship to the characteristics of the opposing team, without incurring disciplinary sanctions seeing that the minimum allowed was 60 meters. On the fifth day of the championship against Brescia, Roma went down into the ‘den’ of Testaccio, the victory was signaled by the goals of Volk and Bernardini, that thus began the legend of the “invincible Testaccio” (‘invincible Testaccio’) : from November 5 1929 to June 30 1940 (2-1 to Livorno) Roma disputed at Testaccio 161 matches in the championship, with 103 victories, 32 draws and 26 losses.
December 8 1929: the first derby of the championship, since the two preceding seasons Lazio and Roma were drawn on two different groups. They played at Lazio’s home field, at the Stadio della Rondinella: the authorities, worried by the climate of tension that the city breathed, they predisposed imposing safety measures, probably exaggerated: hundreds of police officers, carabinieri, soldiers of the Fascist Militia were mobilized. There were the formations; Lazio: Sclavi, Saraceni, Bottaccini, Pardini, Furlani, Caimmi, Ziroli, Spivach, Pastore, Malatesta, Sbrana; AS Roma: Ballante, Barzan, De Micheli, Ferraris IV (capitan), Degni, Carpi, Benatti, Delle Vedove, Volk, Costantini, Chini. The fifteen thousand spectators were in large part romanisti as was written in the sporting daily paper “Il Littoriale” (today Corriere dello Sport): “It can be said objectively that Lazio played on the field… of the adversary, as the stands, filled up giallorossi fans, left very little room to I laziali”. Fifteen minutes until the end Volk scored with a bomb just outside the area and the giallorossa party started. To Roma was the first derby in their history. May 4 1930: the return leg of the derby was played at Testaccio, and again I giallorossi win, this time 3-1 with a double by Volk and a goal by Chini. City superiority could not have been shown better.
On July 6 1930 Roma closed the first championship with only one group with a overwhelming victory “made in Testaccio” over Padova 8-0, with a hat trick by Volk and Fasanelli and goals by Chini and Benatti. This Roma ‘testaccina’ lined up 9 Romans on the field (Ballante, Mattei, De Micheli, Degni, Ferraris IV, Bossi, Bernardini ed Eusebio) and two ‘foreigners’, Benatti born in Modena and Volk, of German origin but born at Fiume which at that time was Italian (today, its name is Rjeka, it belongs to Croatia). The final standings saw Roma conquer an honorable sixth place. That summer arrived at Roma another great protagonist of Roma’s Testaccio, the keeper Guido Masetti who would play with Roma in the championship 339 games, saving 12 penalty shots out of 32. Masetti, World Cup champion with Italy in 1934 and in 1938 was without question the greatest keeper in the history of Roma. One of the chants that was heard at Testaccio in those years was: “Volk scores and Massetti doesn’t let anybody score”.
The championship in 1930-31 sees Roma finish second place for the first time, confirming themselves as a team that was at the highest vertex for a team that was only four years old. Other than Masetti from Hellas Verona, there arrived Bodini from Cremonese, Piero Ferrar from Derthona, Argentinian Lombardo and above all the national team player Costantino, idol from Bari, who between 1930 to 1935 played for Roma 157 matches scoring 41 goals. The typical formation was therefore: Masetti, De Micheli, Bodini, Bernardini, Ferraris IV, Chini, Fasanelli, Costantino, Lombardo, D’Aquino, Volk. The opening match was not brilliant (1-1 away at Modena, with a goal by Volk), but on the thirteenth day of the championship, Roma confirmed themselves a great team with potential by going away to the house of the strong Torino winning 4-1 with a goals by Costantino, Bernardini and a double by Volk.
On January 18 1931 came the first loss at Testaccio (1-2) done by Milan. After that game however they followed with four consecutive victories that brought Roma only -3 points away from the league leaders Juventus. On March 8 however Napoli beats us at home for 3-0. It’s interesting to bring up one of the memories of Bernardini on that match. “So then they all brought their hats: so that to recognize if a spectator was Roman they removed their hat and from the individualized label they could tell if the hat was bought in Naples or in Rome. If they dealt with a roman, they would hit them! On all the cars the tires were deflated and they would even throw some cars to the sea. We won’t talk about the tomatoes that were thrown at us as we made the return trip through some towns near Naples. It was a very ‘hot’ environment. Our nerves were intense. After the game, while we were going to bus station from the hotel that opened from the back, we realized that there was a car with four people that followed us who screamed insults at us. Just before we reached Megellina we had to stop the bus and from the back stairs I fell down, Ferraris IV and some body else and we got a nice bump on our heads.” One week later, March 15 1931, they would welcome at Testaccio the league leaders. The formidable Juventus, and the stadium was very populated which would bring a record of sales (257.000 lire!) and some fear of safety for the spectators. Roma humiliated I bianconeri winning 5-0 despite the red card of Ferraris IV. The impression was celebrated in an important film at that time, directed by the great director Angelo Musco and titled it ‘5-0’. On the wings of enthusiasm, Roma would string together one victory after another, 4-0 against Pro Patria, 2-1 with Bologna, 3-0 with Casale, even 7-1 against Livorno and 5-0 against Pro Vercelli. But it would be Lazio, protagonist of a contrary championship, a mediocre one, to stop the flight of Roma.