A few weeks ago, I embarked on a journey to Europe for a smorgasbord of football. The two main goals of the trip: one that you will care about, and another that you won't: my first Rome Derby, and a final trip to White Hart Lane (the historic home of Tottenham Hotspur) before it is torn down at the end of this season (yes, I "follow" Tottenham in addition to Roma).
The trip was full of travel and five different matches. We started in London, witnessing a 5-0 Spurs win over Swansea at the Lane, and then headed to Rome for the derby. The midweek portion of the trip consisted of teams I honestly hate, but the matches were too hard to pass up: Barcelona vs Borussia Monchengladbach and Real Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund, both in the Champions League. Two legendary stadiums, and a chance to see two of the world’s best players in person. Finally, it all culminated with a return to Rome to watch Roma’s 1-0 win over AC Milan.
The Morning Before
I was initially nervous that the derby would not live up to the hype. It was a "home match" for Lazio and the Curva Nord had suspended their protest for this big fixture. Meanwhile, the Curva Sud decided to still protest and held a watch party outside the city at a sports facility. Regardless, we decided to make the best of what we could.
We started the morning before the derby with a visit to the Totti Mural to "pay our respects". Of course, like the two previous times I had tried to visit, it had been defaced by the Laziale. They must just be insanely jealous or something. A disappointment, but nether the less, still a must visit in Rome for any of you who make the pilgrimage. At the very least you’ll get to see some great anti-Laziale graffiti around. (FYI, it is located on an alley off of via della Madonna dei Monti, which runs parallel to via Cavour. Either stop by after visiting the Colosseo or head straight there by taking the Metro B to Colosseo or Cavour stations).
After some lunch in Prati, we began the walk up via Ottaviano towards the stadium, and the atmosphere grew as we got closer and closer to the Foro Italico. The streets were littered with newspapers and beer bottles way before reaching the Olimpico. We were soon "greeted" by hundreds of police and security officers. All fans had to present tessera cards, match tickets, and passports four different times at various security checkpoints. Pat-downs commenced, and all scarves were checked multiple times for violent messages.
Finally, we made it into the stadium to the chorus of various anti-Lazio chants. The Lazio fans outnumbered us, but within the confines of the Curva Sud, the atmosphere was electric, even with the absence of the ultras. Everyone seemed to know just how much this match meant. The first half was rather subdued, and left a bit to be desired, but that would all change after halftime.
The fight following Strootman’s goal
Strootman's goal was greeted with insane celebration. Beer flew in the air and hugging commenced. He ran towards the Sud and the lower rows flocked towards the barriers to greet him. Wallace, the Lazio defender who tried to be Ronaldo and got cute with his clearance, had instantly become the new Paolo Negro: a Laziale derby hero for Roma. Of course, this was quickly overshadowed by the post-goal mele; no derby would be complete without a fight and someone getting sent off, even if from the bench. If the atmosphere wasn't crazy enough after the goal, it was kicked up a notch after the fight. Shit got personal. (as seen in the video above/below)
“Oh bastardo bianco blu” after the fight, quickly followed by celebrations of Ninja’s goal.
Just a few minutes later, Radja Nainggolan made it 2-0 from distance (now a familiar sight from the guy who used to send long shots into the Sud rather than the goal). The Sud went absolutely insane. Even the lamest of fans and this Roman Police officer lost their minds (he was later punished for this). It was an amazing moment, the Lazio players and fans were so dejected that even the most pessimistic of Roma fans like myself knew it was over. The choruses of “Oh Bastardo Bianco Blu” rang throughout the stadium, and it became a celebration and waiting game until the final whistle.
Of course, since Lazio were the home team, the post game celebrations were quickly muted; the Lazio "DJ" started blasting music seconds after the final whistle blew to drown out any "Grazie Roma" or chants that the Sud had to offer. However, the party had just begun in the capital. Post-match scenes to the south of the stadium were filled with singing and yelling of fans. Cars drove by down the viale Angelico blasting their horns and "Grazie Roma" out of their windows.
*Quick note about all of the video clips included, it turned out that I was sitting two rows behind Ermes at the match! When I logged into facebook later that day, I saw one of her facebook live posts with my hair in the corner of the screen, attempting to find my seat just before kick-off. She later compiled all of the live videos into this youtube video. Unfortuantely, I did not realize this until after the match and did not have a chance to meet her, but cool nonetheless.