Roma v Napoli – Derby Del Sole
The south of Italy has always had a strained relationship with the rest of the country. None more so than with the capital, where the usual stereotypes of “Il Mezzogiorno” as being a part of the country filled with poverty, crime and illiteracy are thrown around.
The south are angered by what they see as this aristocratic arrogrance from those who look down upon them. It is not surprising therefore that this should carry itself on to the football field when teams from each side of the divide meet.
This is most evident in clashes between Roma and Napoli, commonly referred to as the Derby del Sole, meaning “Derby of the Sun” although the exact origins of the name are unclear. Geography also plays a part in the derby as the clubs are relatively close in proximity with Rome lying just over 100 miles north of Naples in Central Italy.
The sides first met each other on league duty in the 1929/30 season and, perhaps fittingly, the match in Rome ended in a 2-2 draw.
The rivalry did exist between the sides then due to the cultural differences the sets of supporters felt existed between each other but it would be many years before it hit fever pitch. That first meeting was a sign of the intense and close competition that was to follow between the two sides as Roma only slightly edge out their southern rivals by winning 43 of the games to Napoli’s 41 with 46 of the games ending in draws. It has always been a tough fixture to call.
There have been many exciting encounters down the years between the sides and one of the most famous of them all occurred during the 1989/90 season as the Partenpoei chased down their second Scudetto when Roma visited Naples intent on denting their hosts title hopes.
With Diego Maradona in attack, Napoli were an irresistible force going forward but it was the visitors who shocked the San Paolo support when future Napoli defender Sebastiano Nela fired in a free kick but, as is often the case in derbies, the home side rallied with two Diego Maradona penalties and a wonderful finish from Careca from the tightest of angles to give Napoli the win that inspired them to go on and win the Scudetto for the second and, as yet, final time in their history.
Roma did take the spoils in the landmark 125th Derby del Sole in 2009 when they travelled to Naples without the backing of their away support who were banned from the fixture for safety reasons although the ban would be lifted upon the sides for Napoli’s visit to the capital the following year.
A hostile reception awaited the Giallorossi players where they were met with a deafening chorus of insults about what they would do to them and the city next time they were in Rome.
However, their fire and energy was not carried over on to the pitch as Roma swept them aside comfortably as goals from Phillipe Mexes, Juan and Mirko Vucinic served to anger the home support and give the fans in Rome who had been unable to travel something to use as ammunition in the war of insults next time the sides met.
In fact that win for Roma was part of a 17 year winless streak that the Azzurri suffered in the Derby del Sole before they finally secured a 2-0 win a year ago.
For quite a few of the fixtures in recent years the away fans have been banned by the authorities from attending the fixture as they feel it could easily break out in violence.
Although depsite causing damage to certain parts of the respective cities, there has rarely been any great outbreak of fighting between the two sets of supporters which, when compared to other derbies in the peninsula, is always a good thing.
It does not change the fact however that this is still a hotly disputed and extremely passionate derby and one that shows no signs of letting up this season with both teams chasing Champions League football once more, this derby will be as enthralling as ever.