In memory of Alberto Ginulfi, the Roma keeper who saved a Pele penalty

Alberto Ginulfi, one of the longest-serving goalkeepers in Roma history, has passed away at the age of 81.

Born in Rome on 30th November 1941 (during the season the club would win the Scudetto for the first time), Ginulfi made the step up from Tevere Roma to AS Roma in 1962.

What followed was a 13-year spell, which included the first two Coppa Italia triumphs in Roma’s history (he didn’t contribute any appearances towards the first, but played in more than half of the games for the second). In his 220 appearances for the club, he conceded 213 goals, or in other words, less than one per game.

Patient for his chance, since Fabio Cudicini was number one from when Ginulfi arrived until 1966, and Pier Luigi Pizzaballa played more in the season after Cudicini’s exit, Ginulfi’s gametime began to increase in the mid-1960s, to the point where he was Roma’s main goalkeeper by the end of the decade. In the 1969-70 and 1970-71 seasons, he was everpresent in Serie A (the same would be true for 1972-73).

Perhaps the thing he is most famous for, though, happened in a non-competitive match. When Roma took on Santos in a friendly in March 1972, Ginulfi saved a penalty by Pele, a rare and fairly incomparable accomplishment (only two goalkeepers had done it before) against one of the very best goalscorers of all time and a reigning World Cup winner at the time. Pele gave him his shirt at the end of the match, which became a closely guarded heirloom.

In 1975, after a season in which Nils Liedholm used him only in the cup and not the league (Paolo Conti had become first choice after joining in 1973), Ginulfi left for Verona, where he got a busy season under his belt before moving to Fiorentina, where he barely played, and then he finished his career with Cremonese in Serie B. Sadly, he never got the chance to play for Italy.

Beyond retirement, he spent time as a goalkeeping coach in the 1980s, working with clubs like Udinese and Napoli. At Udinese, he originally assisted his former Roma teammate Giancarlo De Sisti, whose cousin he happened to be married to.

To highlight Ginulfi’s longevity, De Sisti had two spells with Roma, separated by nine years. Ginulfi remained at the club long enough to be De Sisti’s teammate on either side of his near-decade spell away.

Furthermore, in terms of goalkeepers, only Franco Tancredi, Guido Masetti and Giovanni Cervone have made more appearances for Roma than Ginulfi.

May he rest in peace.

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