Seventy happy birthdays to Paulo Roberto Falcao, the “divine” of Magica who made… Andreotti uncomfortable

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By John

Honor goes to Francesco Totti, eternal symbol of AS Roma, but the title of eighth King of Rome does not belong to him. In fact, it was given, together with the nickname Divino, to Paulo Roberto Falcao, 70 years old tomorrowBrazilian midfielder who landed in the Italian capital, to the happiness of his very Catholic mother Azise in the summer of 1980, red-hot by the first football betting scandal.
The Giallorossi people were waiting for Zico, because it was no mystery that president Dino Viola was aiming for the Flamengo champion, Rio’s idol, and instead this player arrived who at that moment was not moving Roma’s hearts but who he had dragged to the title three times in his homeland national team, that of ‘Brasileraò, the Internacional of Porto Alegre with which he had also won five regional championships (in his case of Rio Grande do Sul) which in Brazil are almost equally important.
The local TV stations that were teeming in the Roman airwaves at the time were left speechless, full as they were of video cassettes with Zico’s exploits but without images of what, instead, had been the new purchase, who showed up in via del Circo Massimo together with the lawyer Cristoforo Colombo, and that day the figure of the prosecutor was born. But it was enough to see Falcao on the pitch for the first time with the Roma shirt and the ‘Magica’ fans immediately fell in love with him. That player with the No. 5 shirt, in fact, always handled the ball first, wasn’t afraid of tackles and actually looked for them by also performing the ‘carrinho’, he easily distanced himself because he ran continuously, he never attempted dramatic plays or dribbling, he rarely performed back-heels but when he did it was pure magic, like when, with a feat like that, he scored Pruzzo.
Also for this reason, and for having transformed ‘Rometta’ into a championship team, one won and another still regretted (the goal canceled out against Turone), the passion of the Roma people for Falcao has never waned, and you can see it every time he comes back invited for some event. Divino was even forgiven for the fact that he didn’t want to take the penalty in the European Cup final which he lost from the penalty spot, and at home, against Liverpool, the most painful memory for all Roman fans. “I had cramps, and then I’ve never been a penalty taker,” explained the Divine, who delivered a performance that wasn’t up to par against the Reds. There were also those who wrote that he was already thinking about a transfer to Inter, which then didn’t materialize due to the intervention of the excellent Roma player Giulio Andreotti.
In Brazil, another champion who was Falcao’s model, Dino Sani, had discovered him and launched him into the first team of Internacional, and immediately it was the Olympics, that of Munich 1972 with the Seleçao. Then the mutual antipathy with the coach at the time Claudio Coutinho, a tough former army captain, had cost him the call-up for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Four years later, however, he took part in the 1982 team in Spain, he wore the number 15 shirt because the number 5 belonged to Cerezo and the other starter at the beginning was Batista, but he soon took the place from the one who the year later he would go to play for Lazio. Thus Falcao risked becoming the ‘killer’ of Bearzot’s Italy’s dreams of glory, with that goal against Sarrià which triggered the turmoil leading up to Paolo Rossi’s third masterpiece.
The two-time ‘Boula de Orò from Porto Alegre was also called up for Mexico ’86 but was not fit due to recurring knee problems, and in the decisive match against France Elzo, his presumed heir also in Internacional, was preferred to him. At that time the agreement with Roma had already been terminated due to “contractual breach”, Pontello’s Fiorentina had not wanted to offer him a job because he didn’t trust him, in the end the Divino had gone to San Paolo. It matters little, because for the people of Rome on the Giallorossi side, Paulo Roberto Falcao remains one great love, one of those who, as one of the songs dedicated to the team says, «makes you feel important even if you count for nothing».