For those that bleed Giallorosso, there is simply no other match like it. It will leave you with feelings like no other. The days following a victory are filled with ecstasy, those after a defeat is akin to a deep depression. It’s heated, passionate & emotional. It’s unique in so many ways and for so many reasons. It is of course, the Derby della Capitale.
By: Lee Roberts
Monday evening sees us go head to head with our country “cousins” in the 156th ‘Stracittadina’, and the first ever to be played on the first working day of the week. With both sides involved in the thick of the race for a place in Europe next season, this is arguably the most important derby in terms of league positions for a good few years. It will be 10 days shy of exactly 3 years since Totti’s infamous ‘pollice verso’, when Lazio were battling to avoid relegation and a 12th season in Serie B whilst Roma were fighting tooth and nail with Inter for the Scudetto. A Mirko Vucinic double that day made both of those possibilities look increasingly likely. Sadly, neither eventuality became a reality.
Fireworks on the pitch are guaranteed. However, this game is all about the supporters and what it means to them. I am lucky enough to have been to two (victorious) derbies. The build up is tense. Take the 910 from Termini to Piazza Mancini on a normal match day and you may encounter a bubbly group of the younger generation of tifosi chanting the customary Curva Sud songs at the back of the bus, waving their flags out of the window. Not on derby day. You are instead greeted with an eerily nervous silence. Everybody wants to win a derby, but nobody wants to lose one. It is that fear of losing that makes for the incredible tension that is felt in the atmosphere during the build up. It starts weeks before the game, and by the time it is match day it has reached boiling point. I asked a friend of mine in Rome, Jacopo to describe what the derby means as a Roman.
“When you are younger, you are completely frightened by this event and the absolute first thing to do is avoid defeat. Only God knows how terrible it is to be teased by your Laziali schoolmates (fortunately, they’re always fewer than giallorossi). Then, if the final result is a draw, the one who is happy is always the one who has scored last. Otherwise I wouldn’t remember Castroman’s goal as a shot in the heart, and Cassano’s equaliser at 89′ as a breathe of freedom. To win a derby is one of the most powerful feelings a Romanista can experience, and the more unfair, lucky and unexpected the victory is, the more you enjoy it.”
Two teams, two sides of the city, two different ways to conceive the Roman spirit. It’s us against them. It’s our team, Roma, who has the name, the colour and the symbol of the Eternal City, and their team, who has the name of the region and colours of Ancient Greece. We are the team who has more derby victories, the team who has won the first derby in history, the team who has won more Scudetti. E Basta.”
Unfortunately, the Tessera del Tifoso and increased security measures, such as playing the derby during the day rather than at night have taken away a bit of the spark from from the atmosphere of the derby. Both Curva’s are still prone to producing fantastic pre-match choreographies however, and the ‘banner tennis’ – insults being hurled back and forth on feet long white vinyl – is still very much part of the derby make up. The whistles from the tifosi when the opposition team’s lineup is being announced over the stadium tannoy is quite literally deafening, and it is almost impossible to hear the club anthem ‘Roma, Roma, Roma’ over the the hate filled derision of those in the Curva Nord. The strenuous emotion of the derby is enough to reduce some to tears, of both joy & happiness and distraught and delusion. I have witnessed a 20 something year old ragazza balling her eyes out, singing along deliriously to ‘Grazie Roma’ after the 1-0 victory in December 2009 courtesy Marco Cassetti’s late winner. The feeling of a derby is so strong, it really does get under your skin and turn you into an emotional wreck for the day!
The tension felt among the supporters is very quick to translate itself on to the pitch. Recent history tells us that the team that keeps their heads, wins the day. Lazio’s recent run 3 consecutive derby wins has coincided with Roma being reduced to 10 men in every one of them, and all have been relatively early dismissals. In the first derby of the 2010/11 season, Simon Kjaer saw red for a needless tug as last defender 7 minutes after the interval. It was double punishment, as the foul also resulted in a spot kick. The return derby that season saw us have to endure nearly an entire game with 10 men, when Maarten Stekelenburg received his marching orders in only the 7th minute of the game, again resulting in a penalty. This season Daniele De Rossi was dismissed in the 47th minute for lashing out at Mauri with his elbow (I know, we’d all be tempted to do the same). Roma’s last victory in March 2011 saw Lazio have 2 men shown red. Over the last 10 capital clashes there have been an incredible 14 red cards, over 1 a game.
With that in mind, there is good reason to feel confident with a man like Aurelio Andreazzoli at the helm. The new Mister has transferred a new air of tranquility to the side and a previously obvious tension has been lifted since his arrival. His influence and that tranquil feeling could well prove key on derby day. He’s made it clear that he would like to take the job on full time. A victory against our most bitter rivals would do his credentials no harm at all.