Why do we hate? Is it a feeling learned, chosen, or ingrained within our subconscious? Must we hate by default? Should our allegiances dictate the way we act, think, feel? How do we rationalize our hate? Must we hate to be a true fan?
The beginning of Roma and Lazio’s rivalry began in 1927 when General and Lazio aficionado, Giorgio Vaccaro, influenced Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, excluded Lazio from a three team merger that would eventually become AS Roma. Yes, Roma was Il Duce’s dream team, a powerhouse to live up to Rome’s mythical name. Yet, and perhaps thankfully, Vaccaro dissuaded Mussolini from amalgamating Lazio. Thus, a cognizant divide between the two teams was made even before a game was played.
Founded in 1900 by a group of Italian army officers, Società Podistica Lazio became a structured team before AS Roma was even born. Unofficially, the first Rome derby occurred when Roma was only a gleam in Mussolini’s teenage eye (or a swimmer in his... never mind). In 1902, Lazio played Vitrus who was, at the time, considered Lazio’s rival. Lazio won, but who cares.
Political allegiances aside, Lazio’s fans were mostly middle-class citizens from Parioli in the northern district of Rome. In fact, geography played a key role in creating the rivalry between the two teams. When AS Roma was founded in 1927, they took up residence in the Testaccio neighborhood, settled in the center of working-class Rome. AS Roma became the people’s team, the working man’s team, while Lazio supporters were condemned for snobbery. Moreover, because of Vaccaro, Lazio refused to adopt the colors and the emblem of the city, choosing the eagle over the Capitoline Wolf, which has since been seen as a shunning of Rome’s foundation myth.
The first official derby was held on December 8th, 1929. Since AS Roma was in fact three teams in one, most of the 15,000 or so fans rightly cheered on the Giallorossi. It is said many Lazio fans feared attending the game amidst the working-class. Roma prevailed 1-0 and would go unbeaten in the next five fixtures. However, while the outcome of the matches was most important, historically, the Derby della Capitale would go on to become more infamous and controversial.
In the 1960s, Ultras began organizing for both teams. The first death due to fan violence in Italian Football occurred in the Rome Derby of 1979. Lazio fan, Vincenzo Paparelli, was shot in the face with a flare gun at the hands of an 18 year-old Roma supporter, Giorgio Fiorillo. In the Derby della Capitale of 1998, Lazio fans hung a 50 meter banner which read, “Auschwitz is your town, the ovens are your houses.” In 2004, a derby had to be abandoned after five minutes due to the speculation that a young boy had been murdered by police. Hostilities grew from both sides, yet the death proved to be a rumor, a boy had been put under a tarp to help alleviate an anxiety attack. Riots ensued and over 150 were injured.
Documented acts of violence and racism between both sets of supporters could fill an almanac. The truth is that the history between these two teams runs deep. Real deep. So deep that as fans we must ask ourselves why do we hate the other so strongly? Yes, most of us are simple fans, fans of the beautiful game and all its intrigue, never would we debase ourselves to meaningless violence. Yet, if you are reading this you have most likely said something against or, at least, harbored some sort of ill will for SS Lazio in your time. I hate Stefano Mauri, there I said it! I can’t stand seeing his face, it makes me want throw a heaping pile of dog doo doo at it. But really, where does this hate come from? Is it justified?
Must we hate Lazio because we love Roma?
All feelings aside, this year’s Derby della Capitale means a lot for both clubs. Lazio sit in fourth place, a mere point away from second place Roma. More devastatingly, it is possible that this will be one of Totti’s last derbies. This is a must win for Roma’s psyche, title run, and yet another chance to strengthen her stronghold as the people’s team.