Romeo Anconetani, the Bishop of Pisa

The bus now knows that asphalt tape by heart. It connects two cities that have always rivaled, fueled by a visceral parochialism. Then it climbs further up, on a hill overlooking the sea, where the gaze and thoughts can rest on a level that transcends the painful daily chores. The man who comes down the ladder wears a gray suit and, as soon as the sun pierces him, runs for cover, putting on a gigantic pair of glasses to better contemplate the Montenero sanctuary. Behind him the whole team of the Pisa sporting club. It is not the first time and, of course, it will not be the last either.

Because Romeo Anconetani he is a man with a granite character, but he does not have the arrogance of someone who thinks himself superior to divine laws. Faith drives actions. The recurring pilgrimages to which he forces everyone, from the players to the warehouse workers, are not an option to be overlooked with ease. Now the sign of the cross is made and a secular prayer is raised towards heaven: almost all requests have to do with the results of Pisa. It is no coincidence, then, that it has been renamed in the city “The bishop”. A profane liturgy of him, made even more picturesque on the other strong side of his beliefs: that superstitious. Sprinkling the edges of the field with coarse salt is an apotropaic custom that does not go well with canonical religiosity. A propitiatory rite which he just can’t give up, convinced as he is that human ingenuity only reaches a certain point. Before a Pisa-Cesena, in 1990, he spilled something like 26 kg of auspicious beans next to the green rectangle.

However, this streak of his character should not be misleading. Imperious yet benevolent, exuberant but placid when necessary, Anconetani did not rise to the command of Pisa by dint of luck, or by chanting rosaries. What he has collected is the result of acumen, mixed with the most total dedication. Because Romeo is not an entrepreneur. He has never been one of those who undo a briefcase on the table and buy the club that goes through his head thanks to the munificence of the family. He does the Journalist (hence the straightforward relationship, always on the edge of the verbal brawl, with the category). More: it is the ancestor of today’s prosecutors.

In the glossy circles of the Italian transfer market they call him “mister 5%”, the fee he asks in exchange for any mediation brought home between the club and the players. He scores so many that at a certain point his pockets explode with old lire. His conquests are defended with ferocious, but at times brash, resolute. Like when, in a famous hotel where negotiations take place, he runs after Ferlaino to slap him: the fault of the owner of Napoli would be that of having treated one of his clients, that Braglia, without having involved him. Too bad that the client was called Braida. Romeo pulls himself together, strokes his crumpled jacket and apologizes, as if nothing had happened. Then, at the end of the market, he sits in a corner, starches the tips of his thumb and forefinger and starts counting: yes, now he might as well buy himself a club.

Anconetani buys Pisa in 1978, resorting to a stratagem that denotes its genius. Disbarred a few years earlier with the infamous accusation of having tried to pilot some matches, he will return from the window appearing as “the club’s purchasing advisor”, through an adventurous agreement with the Chamber of Commerce of Pisa. Patron of yesteryear, he conducts surreal negotiations by being guided by intuition. Other than social networks and portals that tell you about the life and works of footballers. He has a nose and flirts with good luck: “Let’s take these two here – he commands his emissaries on the last day of the market – from the face it seems that they have the right wickedness”. These two here I am Diego Simeone And Josè Antonio Chamot. More shots under the tower: Dunga, Sclosa, the Dutch Kieft and Been, the Danes Larsen and Berggreen. His ability to track down potential champions and then sell them for gold is almost heartbreaking. An authoritarian father who knows how to make himself loved, for him the maxim of Walt Whitman applies: “I know, I contradict myself, I contain multitudes”. He has a symbiotic relationship with the city, fueled by the results: six Serie A championships and two Mitropa Cups, stuff that makes the Nerazzurri hearts trill. With the ultras he goes into the curve, becoming the “Presidentissimo” who knows how to identify with the people. “In Italy Agnelli commands – he declares one day – but here in Pisa I command”.

Romeo Anconetani under the leaning tower with Elliot and Dunga

Among the last exponents of romantic and popular football, Romeo left us in 1999. His memory – reflected in the name of the stadium – is however destined to remain a matter with no expiration date.

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