The Kicking + Screening Football Film Festival, the world’s top international football film festival, returned for a 2nd year to London’s Everyman Cinemas this week, kicking off on Friday, September2 28, and running through to Thursday October 4.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the publication of Nick Hornby’s game-changing book, this year’s festival opened with a 35mm print screening of Fever Pitch at The Green in Islington, introduced by Arsenal & England legend Tony Adams.
We went along to watch 11 METRI – the study of the tragic end to the life of former Roma midfielder Agostino Di Bartolomei, the first Roman to captain his side.
The docu-film proved to be an intelligent and moving insight into the life of one of Italian football’s greats. Told by those who played alongside him and lived with him, the documentary charts the notoriously serious deadball specialists’ rise to lead the club to a league championship and the European Cup final in 1984.
‘Ago’ was the teams natural leader on and off the pitch and spoke with intelligence and serenity, yet often appeared introvert and melancholy. The sense of unease in his character resulting in Di Bertolomei carrying a pistol inside a man-bag that never left his side.
His style on the pitch endeared him to the fans and Roma’s league success propelled him to hero status. However, Roma’s defeat on penalties to Liverpool in that final, despite Di Bartolomei’s successful spot-kick, hit the living legend hard, having embodied the spirit of Roma’s passionate fans.
The fall out from that defeat saw Bertolomei move to Milan having fallen out of favour with the incoming Roma manager, a certain Sven Goran Eriksson.
A short spell at the Rossoneri and a more successful period with third division Salternito was followed by a period as a teacher.
But it was Di Bartolomei’s attempts to re-enter football, denied the ability to build a sports training facility for deprived kids and snubbed, in his eyes, for a position as Roma manager, he became disillusioned with the football world.
Di Bartolomei committed suicide by shooting himself through the heart on the tenth anniversary of the Liverpool match on May 30 1994.
His case highlights a common problem in the game as ex-footballers in their thirties attempt to find a second career after retiring from playing and no longer basking in the adulation of the fans.
As the excellent Times and ESPN journalist Gabriele Marcotti points out in his introduction at the Baker Street screening, the media can never fully understand the reasons for taking his own life. However, the story, told by his wife Marisa and sons Gianmarco and Luca, is touching and Luca’s description of his father’s “foolish” act marks an astonishing point in the stark end to the film.
The film was emotional to watch and made even more so with the recent loss of Gary Speed still fresh in the mind. Finding answers to justify why successful men would choose to end their lives still perplex rationale.
The documentary may have lacked a little structure and could taken further advantage of footage from the dramatic 1984 final however, this remains a fine insight into one of Italy’s most intriguing footballing figures.