< Ultra Mag
Previous Article Next Article
The Unspoken Intensity of the Rome Derby

The Unspoken Intensity of the Rome Derby

Article by: Brad Nash

Wed, Nov 02.22

The Unspoken Intensity of the Rome Derby

In the last couple of years, Juventus’s less-than-graceful fall from their near-untouchable perch at the top of Serie A has left the league as one of European football’s most interesting prospects. There’s the newly-revitalised Napoli taking a blowtorch to its competition both domestic and European alike. There’s a Derby della Madonnina, given a new lease on life by two Milan teams with title-winning aspirations. And in the nation’s capital, perhaps Italy’s most fiercely contested, historic derby is building to its own crescendo.

The fight for the Capitale

The fight for the Capitale Derby della Capitale is, much like the Superclasico and the Old Firm, one of those derby’s that leads little contextualising for anyone with a basic grasp of football. Played out across Rome’s historic streets, it’s a rivalry that spans just about every divide imaginable, whether it be class, political, or simply for the perceived right to be seen as the Italian capital’s banner club. Most, of course, know the basics. Roma are the working-man’s club, Lazio one historically tied to the military and fascist elite.

And while both clubs boast both left and right-wing support among their ranks, the historic divide between the two is deeply political in nature. Interestingly, despite Lazio being renowned as the club beloved by Mussolini, Roma itself was created to serve the Italian dictator’s political goals. Seeing the need for a unified, Rome-based team to challenge the dominance of the northern clubs, Mussolini’s fascist government ordered the merger of three smaller Rome clubs to form the Giallorossi that we know today. Lazio resisted the merger, and thus a rivalry - albeit between spiritual cousins, each boasting their own claim as being the team that truly represents Rome, was born.



Interestingly for two teams based in a nation’s capital, neither are particularly successful in the grand context of Italian football history. Roma and Lazio share just five Serie A titles between them - making the fight for local bragging rights even important—and more intense—over the decades. In fact, the wider context of Italian football matters little to either set of fans. Romans are Romans above all else, to them and ownership of the city is worth more than any trophy.

In the wrong company, simply uttering the names ‘Roma’ and ‘Lazio’ in the same sentence is enough to season it with an unspoken tension, and it’s a match renowned for carrying a hostility that often manifests in shocking violence, both on and off the field. In 1979, a Lazio fan became Italian football’s first violent fatality, having been hit in the eye by a flare fired from the Roma-occupied Curva Sud. In 2004, a full-scale riot broke out in the stands during a Serie A match between the two, spreading into the streets and leading to the match’s total abandonment. 13 arrests were made and 170 police officers injured, while entire streets surrounding the Stadio Olimpico were torched.

In recent years

Sadly, since the early 2000’s, few Rome derbys have played out under the auspices of having major implications in Italian football’s race for silverware. Since Lazio and Roma claimed respective titles 2000 and 2001, neither have taken home a scudetti, and save for a Coppa Italia final played between the two in 2013, the years since has largely seen one of the two Rome clubs in the ascendency at the expense of the other. 

Now, however, the tectonic plates of the league have shifted somewhat—even if both Roman teams still have work to do before a derby between the two has major title implications. With Napoli sitting proudly atop Serie A and a youthful Milan their most likely challenger for this year’s Scudetto, the first Derby del Cupolone of the season sees both sides on the ascendency for the first time in what feels like years.

After 12 years outside of the Champions League places, Lazio perhaps has the stronger claim as Rome’s dominant club in recent years, even if the two have been largely in lockstep throughout that time. The last six derbies have resulted in two draws and two wins for each side, and in each of the last three years, the two teams have finished within a place of each other at the end of the season. Roma, meanwhile, are weaving their own narrative, with Jose Mourinho and a team of talented youngsters intent on pulling the club out of its post-Totti hangover years. Both play dynamic brands of football, and with Atalanta the only team so far to emerge as a potential threat to the two, both will view the other as the major obstacle in the race for Serie A’s two other Champions League places. Not that it really matters. Whether the teams on the pitch are fighting for 4th or 14th, for the fans on Curva Nord and Curva Sund, this is a rivalry that represents so much more.

Share this:

Latest Reads

Latest Reads