Living the dream: My experience of Roma-Barcelona

At some point in the future, the fans that were in attendance for Roma’s 3-0 win over Barcelona will look back and think, with fascination, I was there.

And I will be one of those people.

I couldn’t have asked for a better game to attend for my second visit to the Stadio Olimpico. Initially, the draw for the quarter-finals didn’t appear to favour Roma at all, and I was just glad to have tickets, regardless of the result. But instead of witnessing a defeat, I got to see my team pull off one of the greatest upsets in Champions League history – perhaps even the greatest.

I made memories that will never fade, memories that are still taking time to sink in. It was an evening of overwhelming positive emotion that I was incredibly lucky to experience.

Knowing the game was sold out, I arrived at the Olimpico very early. Time seems to pass really slowly when you’re excitedly waiting for something, and it was no different as I queued outside the entrance, waiting to be let into the stadium. Eventually, the gates were opened, and the sensation of matchday was underway.

My seat was in the Tribuna Tevere, almost level with the goal nearest the Curva Nord. I had a good view, and was happy to be among fellow Romanisti.

One of the things I had been most looking forward to was hearing the club songs, something that I don’t get to experience when watching on TV. Thus, when I heard the likes of ‘Forza Roma Forza Lupi’ and ‘Campo Testaccio’, I was really happy. Happy also, because that meant kick off was near.

When ‘Roma Roma Roma’ came on the speakers, I held my scarf aloft and sang every word. The atmosphere throughout the whole night was incredible, and this was one of the best examples.

But it was over in a flash. It was time for the teams to enter the field of play.

Then, as we know, something magical happened. The next couple of hours would be breathtaking, nerve wracking, entertaining – sometimes all at once.
 
Seated where I was, I was in a prime position to see Edin Dzeko’s opening goal early on. It was a goal that gave belief to the Roma fans and players alike. The game was well and truly on.
 
Roma continued to dominate Barcelona for the remainder of the first half. Belief started to truly take a hold. We’re going to do this.
 
In the 57th minute of the game, time stopped. The referee seemed hesitant to award Roma a penalty as Dzeko was brought down, but in the end he gave it. What an opportunity. I almost couldn’t bear to watch, so great were my nerves at the time. But I managed it. I watched as Daniele De Rossi stepped up to make it 2-0. As I looked around – whilst jumping up and down – I could see the belief in the eyes of my fellow Romanisti.
 
My prediction before the game had been that Roma would dominate, but only win the game 2-0, thus losing on aggregate. That would be typical, I thought. So near yet so far. Thankfully, on 82 minutes, Kostas Manolas rendered my prediction incorrect.
 
I’m not quite sure what happened next. I remember Cengiz Under crossing the ball. I remember Manolas heading it into the net for 3-0. I remember rising to my feet and roaring at the top of my voice. That’s where it became a bit of a blur.
 
There was an overwhelming release of emotion from the Roma fans, as we realised what that goal meant. The stadium announcer, as usual, shouted the first name of the goalscorer, and I, like the 60,000 or so Romanisti in the stadium with me, yelled ‘MANOLAS!’ at a volume I didn’t know I was capable of. ‘MANOLAS!’ ‘MANOLAS!’ ‘MANOLAS!’
 
There’s no Roma player I prefer to see score; I love watching the Greek defender run off in celebration whenever he scores an unlikely goal. But on Tuesday it never crossed my mind to track his movement as he wheeled off in ecstasy. I was reduced to pure instinct as I revelled in the emotion with all those around me. It was an outpouring of joy.
 
If I thought I’d felt nervous before De Rossi’s penalty, it was nothing compared to the last minutes of the game. The tension was immense, knowing that a single Barcelona goal could have undone all the hard work. I willed the ball as far away from Alisson’s goal as possible.
 
And then, after what seemed an eternity, it happened. The final whistle blew. Roma were through to the semi finals of the Champions League. It was time to celebrate.
 
I embraced with a fan sat to my left, whom I had never met before. That’s the power of football. All around me, fans were on their feet, reduced to pure emotion as they tried to make sense of what they had just witnessed.
 
Somehow, I hadn’t lost my voice from shouting Manolas’ name, so I raised my scarf once more and joined the chorus of ‘Grazie Roma’. A song that perfectly captures the release of emotion after a thrilling win.
 
I soaked it all in, every last drop of the atmosphere. With the players off the pitch and fans leaving the stadium, I slowly made my way for the exits – trying to realise what had just happened.

The atmosphere in the streets of Rome was electric as I began the walk across the city back to my hotel. The vibrant sounds of car horns being blared out in celebration, fans shouting ‘FORZA ROMA’ and cheering couldn’t be escaped. The city was exuberant as it recognised the accomplishments of this team.
 
History was made in the Stadio Olimpico on 10th April. AS Roma recorded one of the greatest results in their existence, executing the perfect performance against one of the most successful clubs in the world. All along the way, they were helped along by their adoring fans, who created a mesmerising atmosphere.
 
Those fans were extremely lucky to have been in that stadium to witness history being made. Being one of them was a privilege beyond measure.
 
It was truly a remarkable journey, and it feels so good to have been a part of it.
 
All that’s left to say is: Grazie, Roma.

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