A.S. Roma brings out Montrealers' Italian pride
The Montreal Impact expect Saputo Stadium to be sold out for tonight's friendly match
Even though Paolo Ficca lives more than 6,500 kilometres away from where A.S. Roma plays its home games, he is a dedicated fan and rarely misses watching them play on TV.
Ficca is one of the nearly 200 members of the Montreal chapter of the A.S. Roma fan club. When word came that his favourite team was coming to town, he said could barely contain himself.
"I was crying, I was going nuts. I can't miss this for anything else," Ficca said as he was waiting to outside of the Montreal Impact training facility on Tuesday.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Roma?src=hash">#Roma</a> fans out in force ahead of team's training session at <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/IMFC?src=hash">#IMFC</a> nutrilait centre <a href="https://t.co/9WTekG2Am5">pic.twitter.com/9WTekG2Am5</a>—@DGelevan
A.S. Roma practiced in front of its loyal Montreal fans at the Nutri Lait centre a day before their friendly game at Saputo Stadium.
For Ficca, Wednesday's game will be his first time seeing A.S. Roma play.
But others like Jessica De Rubertis couldn't wait for her team to book a date here.
"I started watching (Francesco) Totti when I was five or six years old and I just fell in love. Since then I follow them everywhere," she said.
De Rubertis says she's seen them play in Boston and Toronto.
"I just love the team, I love the city [of Rome], I love the vibe ... I'm really excited to have them in Montreal."
Wednesday's match is a friendly so it's not guaranteed that star players like Totti or Daniele De Rossi will play. Still, the Impact's vice-president says support for A.S. Roma is so strong that the stadium will be packed.
"The tickets went fast. There are still a few but I think we will be sold out tomorrow," Richard Legendre said.
Impact hope to lure free agents
The Montreal Impact are in the middle of their season and playing extra games like this could be seen as a way to strain the players unnecessarily.
But Legendre says these games have a number of benefits for the club.
Not only does it give younger players the chance to get on the same pitch as some of Europe's biggest soccer stars, it can also act as a recruiting tool for future free agents, he said.
"It helps us to develop relationships with clubs. We've seen it last year when Chelsea came to train here, so when Didier Drogba asked about Montreal he had a few good scouts who had been here," Legendre said.
Inviting big European clubs to Montreal also gives the Impact a chance to show off its new state-of-the-art training facility.
Legendre says when Spanish team Real Madrid came to train in July, many of their players left with a positive impression.
"It's really the best business card that we can have to show such a facility to the world."