“Rome is part of my family. It sits at the table with us every day. It is the discussion we are most passionate about,” Sensi is quoted as saying in the preface of the book Rome – A Legend.
The quote above embodies Franco Sensi, a man whose character and devotion to his family, city and club are all too rare in today’s sports. As the time from his unfortunate demise increases, the more people will begin to realize what a large loss this will be to the Calcio world.
Sensi The Man, Sensi The Roman
Sensi was born July 29, 1926 in Rome.
Obtaining a degree in mathematical sciences, he was also an entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word. He conducted successful business in the oil, publishing, political and real estate areas .
Also a family man - he was committed to both his wife, Maria Nanni, and his daughter, Rosella. In fact, even a coveted Scudetto victory could not tarnish Sensi’s righteous values. When asked if the Scudetto was the greatest joy of his life, he replied: “After Family yes, but we cannot make comparisons with the birth of our children or else...”
However, Sensi’s dedication to his family was the same type of dedication he had to the city and club, as he considered them one and the same and that will surely be evidenced by the amount of tributes that pour in for one of the most loved presidents in all of football.
You may think that we are praising Franco Sensi simply because he has passed and it is the nice thing to do, but be assured that is not the case and Sensi has the accolades to prove it. On July 2, 1995 Sensi was appointed a Cavaliere Del Lavoro, an industrial honour for being a consummate businessman in Italy. On May 26, 2008 he was presented with an Ethics in Sport award, given to him for his upstanding and revolutionary values as the president of AS Roma.
Sensi’s connection with the club begins early, as he frequented the stadium as a child. However, you may be surprised to learn that his presidential reign was not his first role as part of Roma’s club management. In 1960 he became vice-president of the club, only to resign from the position after Franco Evangelisti became president, as he did not agree with his policies regarding football.
In May 1993, president Giuseppe Ciarrapico was on his way to prison and Roma were on the verge of bankruptcy. It was the worst moment of Roma’s history. Sensi stepped in to help the club back on its feet with the help of Pietro Mezzaroma and then became sole owner and president in November of that year, thus beginning the Sensi-era, which is the most successful in the club’s entire history.
The 20th president of AS Roma, Sensi wanted to build the club back to a respectable force in Italian football. But the likes of Carlo Mazzone, Carlos Bianchi and Zdenek Zeman at the helm could not bring Roma any success, so in 1999 he brought in a proven winner: Fabio Capello.
After arch-rivals Lazio won the Scudetto in 2000, Sensi broke the bank in one of the greatest team overhauls Roma had ever seen. He spent over 120 billion lire to bring in top-class players like Gabriel Batistuta, Walter Samuel, Emerson and Jonathan Zebina. The result was a long-awaited third Scudetto for the Giallorossi and their fans.
Clearly emotional at seeing the goal achieved, one should realize that Sensi was likely overcome not because it was his dream that Roma win the Scudetto, but because it was Rome’s dream that they do so.
In all the commotion, Sensi showed his patriotism by saying he intended to make good on his promise to go to the Pope with a Roma jersey and also showed his sportsmanship in congratulating Parma (who Roma beat 3-1 to seal the Scudetto victory), for being “true antagonists”.
Unfortunately, Franco Sensi’s health took a turn for the worse during the new millennium and his daughter Rosella Sensi was installed as an honorary president to handle the day-to-day operations in 2004, while Franco remained in the role of chairman.
Since that day, Roma have won two Coppa Italia trophies (2007, 2008) and two Italian Super Cup trophies (2001, 2007) under Sensi’s reign along with coach Luciano Spalletti.
No One Like Him
It will be difficult to replace the longest-serving Roma president - not just the role itself, but his character, spirit, integrity and intelligence as well.
Franco Sensi died on August 17, 2008 after a long battle with illness in Rome, where he lived his entire life. It is fitting he end it there, the place he was most passionate about - and as Rome and the calcio community lose a modern day hero, here is hoping he will serve as an example to others in his position around the world.