He was “Core de Roma” or the Heart of Rome when Francesco Totti was still in elementary school, but Bruno Conti continues to be an idol in the minds of the giallorossi faithful, even now while approaching 60 years of age on March 13th.
Certain loves are unforgettable, and it’s impossible to forget him, even when the iconic number 7 was one of the players to miss his penalty during the shootout on the evening of the European Cup Final, in Rome, against Liverpool in 1984.
This loss still hurts, but Bruno Conti can still hold his head high after winning the 1983 Scudetto and the 1982 World Cup, during which he had sparkling performances that would make the rest of the team side players. Azzurri legend Paolo Rossi recalls that “all you had to do was tap the ball into the back of the net…” because Conti did the rest.
The greatest victory for MaraZico however, is that he is able to say “They love me here. Even Lazio supporters like me.” It is a deserved acknowledgement for the man who was once a baseball playing boy wanted by U.S.-based teams, but his father said no to those offers.
Not only is he an exemplary player, but he is also an exemplary person, as he is always available for advice and has a sympathetic and sincere ear. Success, fame, and money have not changed him. He is still a boy at heart, which keeps him young.
Before joining his beloved team, he was rejected by Helenio Herrera, master of the Grande Inter, but who had an unsuccessful stint at Roma. Herrera deemed him to small to play football, standing at only 1.65m (or 5’4”), but who was already making magic with his masterful left foot.
He had the privilege to be named the best player of the 1982 World Cup, by none other than O Rei Pele. After the final whistle on that magical night in Barcelona, Spain, he raised his hands towards the sky above the Bernabeu, but immediately went on to find club teammate Paulo Roberto Falcao.
Falcao recalls, “Bruno came to me to exchange shirts, and he seemed more upset than I was. I will never forget the honorable gesture he did for me and Brazil the next year. Before scudetto-winning match between Roma and Torino, Conti made one of his sons enter the field with a Brazilian jersey. He was the Roma player I mostly identified with on and off the field. He had the technical skills of a South American player, and sometimes it was hard to convince him not to dribble more than he had to! He had the skill to hide the ball from the defenders.”
His understanding with his teammates can be exemplified by his almost telepathic connection between him and Roberto Pruzzo. Il Bomber mentions that “most of the times it was enough for us to simply look at each other.” This was already a commonality since their early playing days at Genoa.
Bruno Conti was loved since the days where he shared a first-team role in the youth team with Agostino Di Bartolomei (future captain and hero in his own right) and Francesco Rocca. This youth team sometimes brought out more people than the first team! To him, these people were like brothers, but one stands out more than the rest to Bruno. He says, “Nils Liedholm was my life”, and just like Bruno, he is another one who will remain in the heart of the Romanista faithful.
In his post-playing days, many Romanisti will recall that he saved the team in 2004-2005. I will elaborate further for those who weren’t Romanisti at this time, at the risk of triggering past traumas and heart conditions. During this horrific season, Prandelli stepped down in early September due to his wife’s deteriorating health, after which came a sequence of Voller, Sella (for one match), and Del Neri. Think about that. Four managers in one season.
Then came Brunetto Conti to steady the ship as caretaker/interim manager. This season could have seen Roma relegated. It was a very real possibility. More real than Pallotta would ever want to endure as president, but Sensi knew Conti could do it. The Serie A table was astonishing that season, to be fair. The final difference between last place and 8th (Roma’s final position) was only 10 points, and the difference between the 18th final relegation spot and Roma was only a mere 3 points. In fact, Roma’s second to last match of the season against Atalanta saved our skin. It was literally a relegation dog-fight. Our own Bruno Conti came back to save his beloved once more, and for that and all the vintage memories.
Grazie Bruno! Auguri!