Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not Enough‘Derby della Capitale’ - Troubled times - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough ‘Derby della Capitale’ - Troubled times - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

‘Derby della Capitale’ – Troubled times


On the 21st March 2004, the Rome derby was abandoned just four minutes into the second half with the game level at 0-0 after riots erupted in the stands.


Riots in the stands does not even tell half the story – it all started outside the ground before the game had even kicked off. I was living in Italy, at the time, working as an English teacher. I regularly stood (the seats are only used before the game and at half-time, during the game everyone stands on them) in the Curva Nord, just behind the Irriducibili (Lazio’s Ultras). Having used my contacts, I managed to get four tickets for the fixture, one for my dad and then three friends, two of whom were visiting from England.

We got the tram to Piazza Mancini (no, not named after Roberto, as I have often been asked too many times). As we made our way across Ponte Duca d’Aosta, the bridge leading to the stadium, we heard some loud bangs and my dad turned to me and joked: “That’s a little early for the fireworks to be going off!”

“Nope, that’s the police firing tear gas!” I responded.

We should have known it was going to be a messy affair.

The pain

Just over a year earlier, I went to my first derby between the two sides which was when I found out the hard way what those bangs had been. I went to the game, again with a friend who was visiting from England, and I went into the Lazio shop to buy tickets for the following week’s game against Empoli, only to be told: “Solo derby!”

When we found out it was only €25, we jumped at the chance to go, a big change for my friend whose normal weekend football consisted of being sat in the Lower Rous stand at Vicarage Road watching Watford.

When we bought the tickets, we were told to get to the game early. So, we arrived at 19:00, for a 20:00 kick-off – it turned out not to be early enough!

As we walked around the stadium towards the Curva Nord, a large group of Roma fans ran past us. My friend pulled me to the side, as I stood frozen, wondering what had happened.

We turned the corner and we were met with a wall of Lazio fans who were fighting the police. The former were busy throwing bottles, whilst the latter kept firing tear gas canisters into the crowd. Somehow the groups shifted and we found ourselves in the middle of it all. Suddenly the tear gas kicked-in; neither of us had felt pain like it; the gas burned our eyes, the tears poured down our cheeks and we could not see more than yard in front of ourselves.

Along with a dad and his young son, we managed to scramble to the closest entrance, where the four of us kept banging on the door, shouting for it to be opened until one of the match attendants let us in – whilst it was worrying that they did not even check our tickets, we did not care, we were just relieved to be away from the trouble and able to wash our faces.

The rumour mill

Back to 2004, we went to walk to our respective entrances only to find the police were blocking it because of the earlier problems, so we made a detour to avoid any trouble. When we finally got to the right place, I said my goodbyes as they head off to their seats in the posh area, and I joined the hardcore fans and the Ultras.

Inside the stadium, I met up with my friends who I used to go to matches with. We couldn’t believe how much noise there was coming from outside, constant loud bangs as the police fired tear gas in an attempt to keep the peace and fans kept letting off fireworks.

When the game kicked off, the fans focused on the match while verbally abusing each other, but that all changed as time went on. Smoke could be seen coming from Roma’s Curva Sud (south stand) while a Carabinieri (police) vehicle had been set on fire, after rumours had started to fly around the stadium that they had killed a child – not that a child had been hurt or died in an accident but that the Carabinieri had intentionally run over a young child.

During half-time, the Roma Ultras ripped down their banners, a sign that someone is hurt or there is a problem. The Lazio Ultras then followed suit and the chants soon followed.

Both ends starting aiming abuse at the Carabinieri: “Asasini, Asasini, Asasini”, which just in-case you were unsure, that means ‘Assassins.’

The players returned for the second-half and immediately knew something was up, as the atmosphere had become even more hostile that usual for this fixture. Four minutes into the second-half, three Roma Ultras climbed over the security fence and came onto the pitch where they were met by Roma’s captain, Francesco Totti. At the same time, Lazio’s captain, Fabio Liverani, approached the Curva Nord with a loud speaker to talk to the Irriducibili.

The players tried to play down the fans’ fear and there were even announcements made across the tannoy, but the fans were having none of it – this led to Totti asking for the game to be postponed.

Referee, Roberto Rosetti, managed to get in touch with Adriano Galliani, the president of the Italian Football League who was sat in the crowd and he subsequently took the decision to postpone the game.

As the fans left the game there were numerous vehicles alight as well as fighting between fans and the Carabinieri.

The reality

The truth of the situation was that some fans had seen a child’s body covered with a white sheet. Later on, the medics said the child was a young boy, who had been struggling to breathe with the tear gas in the air, so they were using the sheet as a filter.

Sadly, the rumours went from that child being seen under a sheet to the “Carabinieri had ran over a child“, it was a terrible situation – one that should never have happened. But, in a country where the fans did not and still do not trust the authorities, it allowed them to believe that it could have happened.

It is common knowledge that the two sets of fans hate each other, but both sets of Ultras have a common enemy, which is the Carabinieri. It’s implied that if the authorities would try to break up a fight between Lazio and Roma’s fans, the two groups would join forces to down their legal counterparts.

The following year, in the same fixture, one of my students showed me his chest the following week – he was literally black and blue. He said that he was fighting with Roma fans, and then like before, they fought the Carabinieri together, but the latter used their batons to “defend” themselves. Whilst I did not see that, I remember being on my usual ‘32’ bus on the way back to Piazza Risorgimento and as we sat in traffic, opposing fans threw objects over the cars and buses at each other, yet due to the police being so stretched, nobody came to try and stop it.

Gone too far

The saddest moment at any game played between the two clubs was during the 1979-80 season when Lazio fan, Vincenzo Paparelli was killed, after he was hit in the eye by a flare that had been thrown by a Roma fan.

Paparelli, was only 33-years-old when he died on October 28th. He stood eating a sandwich when an emergency rocket fired by a Roma Ultra killed him. His wife, Wanda, tried to remove the burning flare from her husband’s eye, but only ended up burning herself. By the time the doctor arrived, Paparelli was dead, and the doctor remarked that he had never seen such a severe wound, not even during the war.

Paparelli was a regular man, not an Ultra. He lived in a local Roman neighborhood and had borrowed his brother’s season ticket for the game, the same brother he owned a mechanical workshop with.

The person who ended the Lazio fan’s life was Giovanni Fiorillo; an 18-year-old unemployed painter. Straight after the incident occurred, he disappeared and became a fugitive where he was on the run for 14 months, before turning himself in.

In 1987, eight years after Paparelli’s death, Fiorillo was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 6 years and 10 months in prison, plus his 2 accomplices who had helped him escape both received sentences of 4 years and 6 months respectively. Whilst on the run, Fiorello regularly phoned Paparelli’s brother Angelo begging for forgiveness and saying that he had not meant to kill anyone.

More misery

Whilst neither Roman club were involved, Italian football changed on February 2nd, 2007 when Catania and Palermo’s football fans clashed violently at the Sicilian derby and police officer Filippo Raciti was killed.

Raciti’s death was due to liver damage, which was caused by blunt object trauma – initially it had been thought that it was because of a homemade firecracker. Following the tragic incident, all Italian football matches, including the national team, were suspended for a week. Then Prime Minister Prodi stated: “A remedy that makes clubs feel responsible (for fans) and radically changes the situation.”

The culprit was a 17-year-old, who like Raciti was from Catania, and he was charged with murder following investigations by the police.

New measures

Starting from the following season, clubs were forced to introduce strict anti-hooligan policies with more control over who was buying tickets and increased usage of closed circuit cameras.

The new anti-violence regulations state that you have to use ID when you buy your ticket, and then when you go to the stadium you have to show the same ID. The ticket will have your name printed on it, ensuring that it is your ticket.

When Lazio played Genoa earlier this season, a 44-year-old American tourist was in the Lazio end cheering on the opposing team. A 32-year-old took offence and attacked the American. The police reacted quickly to apprehend the attacker. He tried to escape by quickly removing his shirt but it did not work. Under the new regulations passed in 2007, that moment of madness led him to get a three-year ban for “violence during a sporting event.”

A safer place

The new rules and regulations are leading to a safer environment for football fans in Italy, whilst having to take ID to games can be frustrating (as I found a couple of seasons ago when I tried to go and see Lazio against Bologna, but as neither myself or my dad had any documents, we were not allowed to buy tickets).

The added cameras, increased security and banning processes that have been introduced have led to less violence inside the stadiums, especially during the volatile derbies up and down the country.

Scott Balaam

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