May 14, 2020 / 11:57 AM / 14 days ago

Soccer: Roma coach struggles to imagine football without hugs

ROME (Reuters) - If there is one thing that AS Roma coach Paulo Fonseca is really going to miss when Serie A eventually re-starts after the coronavirus pandemic, it is a good hug.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Group Stage - Group F - Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - November 7, 2018 Shakhtar Donetsk coach Paulo Fonseca and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola before the match Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith/

In an emotional letter published on the club website, the Portuguese described the importance of the hug in the dressing-room, reminisced on some of the favourite hugs of his career and named the best hugger in the game.

Like handshakes, hugging will be barred when football resumes as part of coronavirus prevention — measures that Fonseca said he fully supported even though they would be difficult to adapt to.

“It is difficult for me to imagine playing without the passion of the fans behind us – and especially playing without that hug,” he said.

“Yes, that hug – which we use to celebrate the best moment in football – the goal. The moment when the goalscorer disappears in a flood of arms.”

Fonseca remembered a match in his first season at Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk where they came from two goals down to win 3-2 in the final minutes. “All the players ran to me and hugged me to celebrate the final goal. I will never forget that,” he said.

Other favourites included the one which followed Braga’s penalty shootout win over Porto in the 2016 Portuguese Cup final and the goal that took his Pacos de Ferreira side into the Champions League playoffs in 2013.

“What will it be like without the hug at the start or end of games with the opposition manager?” he wondered.

“Here in Italy there are so many people I want to embrace, for so many different reasons. And how will I offer support to my players, in the tough moments, without the hug?”

“The hardest thing for me to imagine is the dressing room without the hug,” he added. “That simple gesture transmits something that words could never manage to do.”

Nobody, he added, did it better than Roma’s Argentine defender Federico Fazio. “He understands and embodies that moment like no other. What a hug. What passion! What energy! Incredible. Football, I am sure, will not be the same without that hug.”

Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis

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