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Totti Selling Joke Book About Himself

August 19, 2003

ROME (AP)_ Soccer player Francesco Totti’s collection of jokes at his expense is selling briskly in bookstores and at newsstands in Italy, with the proceeds going to help children and for other charitable causes.

``Tutte le barzellette su Totti (raccolte da me)″ _ ``All the Jokes About Totti Collected by Me″ _ has sold more than 600,000 copies and has been reprinted four times, the Italian news agency ANSA said.

Half of the proceeds will go to help street children in Kinshasa, Congo, while the rest will help build a center for Rome’s elderly residents, Donata Lodi, a spokeswoman for UNICEF, the United Nations’ agency for children, said Monday in Rome.

``Totti has been a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF for a year,″ said Lodi.

For most of his career, Totti, captain of AS Roma and a key player on the national team, has been a target of scathing jibes from the media and fans for his frequent gaffes in front of the cameras.

On one occasion, a TV interviewer praised the player by quoting the Latin expression ``carpe diem″ _ seize the moment_ only to receive the baffling response: ``Sorry, I don’t speak English.″

``At first (the jokes) disturbed me. But then I just chose to laugh about them,″ ANSA quoted Totti as saying.

Totti ``has allowed us to make contact with the young public, which is usually very difficult to reach,″ the UNICEF spokeswoman said, referring to his appearances at schools and a public-service radio spot he recorded for Iraqi children during the war.

Sales have already yielded a net profit of more than $557,000, but UNICEF predicts the book will eventually bring in more than $1.13 million, Lodi said.