The full-time whistle ultimately spelled the end of Paolo Di Canio’s long, successful - and without a doubt - controversial career of playing football.
Cisco Roma 2 - 4 Benevento
His Roman Salute towards the Lazio fans at the end of his second spell at the club saw him drop down into the obscurity of third-tier Italian football with Cisco Roma.
With concerns the season before regarding physical issues due his age as he was about to turn 40 years old in the off-season in the summer ahead. For him, his eyes were firmly set on his future in coaching and management, with a dream to go back to Upton Park where he had so much success, and lead West Ham United to glory on the touchline.
Di Canio had applied to begin his coaching career by learning at Coverciano, the central training complex and headquarters of the Italian Football Federation.
The road to managing elite football clubs was made difficult due to Di Canio’s political affiliations towards the extreme right, highlighting his admiration of fascist leader Benito Mussolini and his attendance at the funeral of Paolo Signorelli who had involvement in the neo-fascist massacre in Bologna in 1980.
The Cisco Roma fans applauded the forward as he did a lap of honour around all four corners of the stadium before joining his teammates in the changing rooms at Stadio Flaminio following his side’s 4-2 defeat to Benevento.
Di Canio had scored 17 goals in 53 matches with his final club in Serie C2, a good return for a player that had clearly lost his legs some years before.
“It’s been an honour, Paolo” said his strike partner Daniel Bogdanović - who would later go on to make his own name in England like Di Canio, playing for the likes of Barnsley, Sheffield United, Blackpool and Notts County across various levels of the Football League.
However, it was common knowledge across the squad that it was the young 21-year-old midfielder Giovanni De Luca who admired the arrival of Di Canio the most, with the veteran almost taking the Milan-born youngster under his wing upon his arrival, teaching him certain moves and educating him on how to spot perfect passes for strikers’ runs.
De Luca was an average Serie C footballer with the possibility to push his talent to a Serie B club, but he never had the potential to play at the top level of the game and he knew that himself without needing to be told, despite Di Canio’s belief in him.
The pair embraced, a resemblance of the old guard of Italian football joined with the new generation, fresh off the back of success in the 2006 World Cup Final against France.
For De Luca, he had grown up in Monza, near Milan and had played for local clubs before moving to Rome in the same year that Paolo Di Canio had joined Cisco Roma. He loved playing football, he loved the fans and the tight-knit community feeling that came with playing at this level.
But Giovanni also knew that there was no real potential for earning a living at this level of football as Cisco Roma only paid him €700 per month to play, meaning that he had to take up other jobs on the side in the city of Rome just to pay his bills.
He would keep playing football, obviously, but he would also keep an eye on the coaching scene and particularly follow Di Canio’s path in coaching as a trailblazer for his own future full-time career beyond Cisco Roma.
Di Canio wasn’t aware of Giovanni’s ambitions but he knew that he had enough drive to achieve a lot both on and off the pitch.
For now, the two simply enjoyed the moment, with Di Canio taking the team out in the city to celebrate the end of an illustrious career in football that entertained so many.