Interview: Sky Sports journalist and Roma fan Tommaso Fiore speaks about transfers, Florenzi, Smalling and more

With the winter transfer window closed and fans looking ahead to the rest of the season, Sky Sports News journalist Tommaso Fiore has spoken to Giallorossi Yorkshire about his views on all things Roma.

Fiore is a Roma fan and University of Kent graduate, who is now working for Sky Sports News.

Before delving into the topics that interest us the most, we spoke about his background supporting the club, and how he got into sports journalism.

“I was born in Rome, my family is from Rome,” Fiore explains. “I was born in west Rome but my family’s actually from the north. It’s the more, sort of living, family friendly area.

“I was brought up in the Flaminio area. I never actually lived in Rome as I can remember, because I was born there and then after a year, my family moved to Dublin, so that’s where I grew up.

“I spent six years within the Anglo-Saxon background, sort of speaking English at school and Italian at home. And then I went back to Italy when I was seven, lived in this northern Italian town near Milan called Varese – and that’s where I grew up and started to really appreciate my football.

“My first football memory was from when we won the Scudetto in 2001. I was on my uncle’s shoulders and all the town was tapestred in red and yellow. That was my first football memory and that was what really made me fall in love with Roma first and football second.

“Then I came over here to study journalism at Kent, that was in 2015. I spent three years there; had work experience at Sky Sports News, kept the contacts and now I’ve started freelancing, doing the online coverage as an assistant news editor. So, dealing with everything that’s got to do with the Sky Sports website, the Sky Sports app; writing articles, cutting videos. Basically, just looking after our online coverage of stories.

“Not only football; obviously there’s way more football stories coming through than all the rest of the sports, because it’s certainly a football-mad country. I deal with pretty much everything.

“The main point being, I was raised within firstly this massive Roma-oriented family, and also the other side of the river, so going to the Olimpico for me was just a five-minute walk. Step outside home and go and support your team. As far as the mantra goes, support your local club, I think I’ve fulfilled that.”

No doubt several visitors to this site will be envious of Fiore for the ease at which he could go to watch games. He is impressed to see his club opening their doors to fans across the entire world, though.

“I have to say lately we’ve made such a big effort to go international, as you have probably seen from not just social media but even the changing room now, even the players speak English in the changing room. It’s really gone from being sort of Italian, Roma-based, to opening its doors to the world, really. And I think we’re one of the first Italian clubs to do that.”

Fiore has a long list of achievements he is proud of in his career so far – stemming both from his time as a student to his current occupation with Sky Sports.

“My final year project at university, I did a piece. We had the choice of doing a 30-minute radio documentary, a 15-minute television documentary, a dissertation, or an online project,” he explains. “And I chose to do a television documentary, which was obviously really a challenging thing to do, because you have to arrange all your interviews, and you have to shoot them all by yourself, make it look as professional as possible. Running up and down the country with two camera kits, you need to think pretty much about everything that you can, picture-wise.

“And for a topic, I chose the English academy system, and it was sort of a review of the academy system and its flaws. As a case study, I looked more specifically at the academy rejects, and their situation after they got rejected by their clubs and how they went about finding a new career and something they were interested in. Because for a lot of people, it can be really harsh to be rejected through a text, first thing.

“I spoke to three case studies and all of them said, ‘My final few months at the club were unreal’, as in, ‘I was sort of rubbished via text saying, “You’re not part of our plans any more”, and I’ve dedicated my life to football 24/7 till that point, so I didn’t really know where to go after that.’

“So I looked at that situation both from a player’s point of view and from a club’s point of view, so I spoke to a few clubs. In the Football League I went up to Middlesbrough; I went up to Newcastle to speak to a mental health expert that did research on the subject, and said that, I think it was, 50 per cent of academy rejects after a year go on to develop some sort of mental illness. So I was trying to take into account the mental impact of being rejected by a club.

“I was taking firstly into account the Football League clubs. I wasn’t going all the way far down the football ladder; my case studies played at Colchester United, Millwall, Wycombe Wanderers, Reading. So I spoke to a few players and a few clubs, and pulled together a 15-minute documentary – and obviously the conclusion was, there’s way more steps that need to be taken to sort of underline the fact that being rejected by a football club, in most cases, doesn’t bring you a backup plan.

“Apart from that, throughout the past year-and-a-half I’ve been at Sky, I’ve produced a lot of good stuff that I’m quite proud of. For example, obviously my being Italian has given me the chance to speak to Sky in Italy reporters – all the ones based in Milan. There’s obviously one reporter per club, so I spoke to the Juventus one, AC Milan, Inter Milan, and I’ve spoken to the Roma one as well. So any time I wanted to write a feature on a club or something, that would give me a way in to get some expert analysis.

“For example, I’ve written a feature on how Juventus are planning to be the number one club in Europe, and that was through sort of a slideshow of their most important moments; for example, when they opened their new stadium in 2011 – so that was sort of the date when it all really started for them, their success in the past nine years in Italy.

“I’ve also spoken to the Roma head of social media, Paul Rogers. He’s the one behind all of the brilliant announcement videos that they’ve been doing lately throughout this window and the past one.

“I’ve spoken to him after the first missing child was found, and that was sort of like a light-hearted feature on their work and how very little from a massive club can help a community in so many ways. Just the impact of football clubs in general on wider society.”

Fiore’s job has also opened his eyes to some sports which don’t have quite the same reputation in England – showing the variety he gets to experience.

“I work for Sky Sports News, I don’t work for Sky Sports as in the football coverage, that’s done by a different team. I do collaborate with that sometimes, so for example on Sunday, I’ll be live-blogging the Milan derby. But my job is writing news stories, and when they give me the chance, to write features and in-depth analysis of – when it happens, obviously, and when there’s interest – Italian football, because I’m sort of now looked at as the in-house Italian football expert.

“There’s definitely a variety of things. It’s not just on football, obviously, there’s loads of sports I deal with. For example, when I came here, I had absolutely no idea what cricket was. I was just watching cricket, and I was like, ‘What the hell is this? It looks like cheap baseball to me.’ But after pretty much five years I’ve lived here, I’ve learned to appreciate that, and just a load of other sports that here you have but in Italy not so much.

“Even darts, I went to see darts live twice, and all my friends are like, ‘Why are you going to watch darts?’, and I’m just like, ‘That’s just the culture here, that’s just what people do’. And I’ve just learned to appreciate that so much more since I’ve been here.”

Having covered Tommaso’s background, we then moved on to talk about all things Roma. First, we discussed the club’s activity in the winter transfer market, in what is a notoriously difficult time to do business. You can hear the conversation below.

One of the most significant pieces of business done by Roma in January was loaning Alessandro Florenzi out to Valencia. Tommaso’s views on the subject can be listened to here.

Roma made three signings in January, but were linked with several more players. Asked if there was one rumour he wishes had come true, Fiore thinks back to talk of a potential return for a former fans’ favourite.

One of the more pressing issues in the transfer market for Gianluca Petrachi over the next few months will be securing the future of Chris Smalling. We discussed the chances of the England defender staying permanently, with Tommaso revealing an anecdote about his mother meeting Smalling’s.

Finally, we previewed the rest of the season from a Roma standpoint. What can the side achieve under Paulo Fonseca? Is the Europa League within Roma’s grasp? Will top four be achieved? Listen below to hear our views.

You can follow Tommaso on Twitter, @tommfior, to keep up-to-date with all his work for Sky Sports and more.

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