Roma and Lazio face off in Round 26 of Serie A action this weekend. With that in mind, Marco Jackson recounts the history of the Derby della Capitale, one of Italy’s most fiercely contested battles which Betway perfectly encapsulate in this pulsating video on the meaning of the fixture for the Giallorossi.
It is a rarely acknowledged truism of football that rivalries matter more to the team who has less to fight for outside of it.
When Juventus enjoyed their seemingly endless recent unbeaten run against Torino, it was the Granata’s fires that were lit – albeit unsuccessfully – by the occasion, while their rivals could focus on European Cups and Scudetti.
In Rome, it has always been slightly different. Neither Roma nor Lazio have enjoyed great periods of success, instead appearing on the podium briefly before losing their footing, often financially, and slipping back below the waves. The Giallorossi, particularly, have made finishing runners-up seem like an art form.
As a result, the Derby della Capitale has produced some fiercely contested clashes between two teams who have often been evenly matched. Throughout these encounters, both have had their fair share of success, but equally neither has been spared the dejected heartbreak of failure.
It began in 1927 when AS Roma came into existence with the merger of a number of other local clubs. This immediately put them at odds with their more blue-collar, and blue-shirted neighbours, who had resisted the call to merge. It took another two years before the first meeting of the clubs – the newcomers emerging with a 1-0 win at the Campo Rondinella (situated a little way over the River Tiber from the Stadio Olimpico).
Those beginnings inform the divide between the teams today. Lazio fans, as their name suggests, often hail from outside the Eternal City, while the Giallorossi, particularly in certain areas of Rome, are more prevalent therein.
The upshot of this is that when Roma and Lazio meet, the only certainty is violence between the two sets of fans.
No one has notched scored more goals in the contest than Francesco Totti. His first, a delicate finish from the edge of the area, clinched a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw in November 1998, and his last came on May 22, 2015 with the striker sporting the famous ‘Game Over’ celebration as he teased Lazio president Claudio Lotito who was complaining of the match’s kick off time.
Famously, Paolo Di Canio returned to Lazio in 2004 after spending more than a decade away from the club. As a boyhood Laziale, his delight in scoring against Roma was evident and his fascist-style salute in front of the Giallorossi fans has gone down in folklore.
Vincenzo Montella also enjoyed considerable success in the fixture, with his four-goal haul in 2002 remaining unique. Around that time, with Montella and Totti abetted by Marco Delvecchio, another derby specialist, Roma remained unbeaten in 10 straight derbies.
By that stage, goals had become the order of the day – no longer haunted by the threat of relegation that both had suffered over the years, the two side played with more freedom and produced the thrilling football that has built up the reputation the fixture holds today.
Lazio recorded a 4-1 victory in 1998 before Roma returned the favour the next year; soon after Montella’s feat came in a 5-1 drubbing, which Lazio have yet to emulate – their closest being a breathless 4-2 win in 2009 in which they led 2-1 after just nine minutes.
There have been poor matches since then, inevitably; notably a dire 0-0 draw in 2005 that saw both sets of fans booing and accusing both sides of failing to try.
Yet overall, when Roma and Lazio have met, neither has had anything to lose and both have something to gain.
In that context, they have enjoyed a rivalry that has fizzed and crackled through the ages, reaching a simmering point in the last ten years or so.
As both sides go into this weekend’s meeting with something to prove, there is no reason to think they will hold back, and no reason to think the Derby della Capitale will disappoint. It rarely has.