The new AS Roma away kit has fashionable football fans across the globe purring, and eager to pick up one of the latest great kits that Nike have manufactured. The AS Roma official club website described the kit as ‘predominantly white… lit up by a fiery lightning bolt graphic that surges across the front of the shirt.’
What is as striking as the bold colours and design themselves, is the actual concept of this design. Pete Hoppins, Nike Football’s Senior Design Director stated that, ‘When you combine Roma’s famous colours with the depth of the city’s mythology then you have a really potent mix… The lightning theme is a powerful concept for 2019-20 and I think both the home and away kits give fresh takes while staying true to the club’s identity.’
This idea of Roman mythology is further solidified by the image of the wolf- the mother of Romelus and Remus, the founders of Rome, consistently appearing on the club’s badge throughout its near 100-year history.
So what does this mythological symbolism mean for Rome and AS Roma?
The lightning bolt seen in the Roma away kit is inspired by the Roman God of the Sky, Jupiter. Jupiter was the most powerful God in Roman mythology, harking back to the power and confidence that Nike were undoubtedly aiming to stir with this kit. However, what may carry more importance amongst the Roma fans is the strong connection to the Roman empire, which enables the kit to reinforce the idea of a Roman identity, which is intrinsically tied to Ancient Rome, as Hoppins alluded to. No doubt these values are held very close to the heart of Roma fans. A poem written by one such fan reads, ‘Your ancestor (addressing a Lazio fan) harvested tomatoes/ Mine were emperors.’ Similarly the contemporary idol of Rome, Francesco Totti had a gladiator tattooed on his arm, following the club winning the Serie A title in 2001. Certainly Totti is perceived and represented as a sort of modern day gladiator- acting as the bridge between ancient Rome and the AS Roma team.
Roma’s most famous gladiator- Totti
This strong Ancient Roman identity is strenghtened by AS Roma’s fierce rival with SS. Lazio, who they share the Stadio Olimpico with. Whilst Roma fans themselves believe that they are the descendants of the glorious Roman empire, they cast the Lazio fans as the descendants of the peasants, hence the term ‘Burino’, which means to sell butter- displaying the link of Lazio with the countryside. Although it must be said that this view is not held across Rome, as former Lazio captain, Tomasso Rocchi is quoted saying: ‘They have the colours of a team from Rome, but Rome for us is Lazio.’
What Rocchi says is true, it takes more than just a kit or a badge to be truly Roman. Certainly, the club’s perfomance last season did not resemble the gladiator spirit that won the club the Serie A almost two decades ago, as they finished in 6th, and failed to qualify for the Champions League. Despite this, it might be added that they still finished 7 points ahead of Lazio. Roma fans will hope that their new kits will help to galvanise the youngest crop of Romans, such as Alessandro Florenzi to mirror the competitive and ferocious mindset of their ancient Roman ancestors.