Roman Holiday

After an especially hard day in Rome, my doctor gave an injection and advised: “Best thing I know is to do exactly what you wish for a while”.

I know what I will do – go to the Rome derby!

Most European derby matches have historically been marked by huge crowds, tension packed incident and organized choreographies.  

In Rome things are no different.

But on a number of occasions things have went just that little bit further including fixtures being abandoned and the appearance of a ‘selfie’ taking goal scorer – a legendary one at that in Francesco Totti.

In Rome the modern and the old, both past and present, go side by side.   The sun never seems to be far away but neither in winter does the cold.

A city of contrasts you could say such is the rivalry between the two big clubs.

Stepping inside the city is like walking into an open air museum full of fresh air, blue skies and ancient monuments.

The city, just like the Stadio Olympico on derby day, is highly photogenic with the Vatican, Trevi Fountain, St Peter’s Square, the Spanish Steps and the imposing Colosseum just some of the many places of interest.

And, if ancient football monuments is what you seek, then there is the site of the Campo Sportivo ‘Testaccio’ – the one time home of AS Roma in the 1920’s until the break out of war.  

Now an overgrown grassy derelict patch of ground, Campo Testaccio was initially used as the stadium for AS Roma matches. Replaced by the Stadio Nazionale PNF in 1940 the capacity of the stadium was 20,000 spectators.

The site continues today to be a lasting and true imprint to the history of the city.

Recently the shine has been taken off what is traditionally one of football’s most colorful and atmospheric derby fixtures. The organized choreographies in the Olympic Stadium have been absent with both Lazio and AS Roma ultras boycotting parts of the stadium.  

The boycotts are in protest at the new stadium security measures introduced by the prefect of Rome.

Barriers have been placed down the center of the sections that house the capital clubs’ most passionate supporters. These were imposed in response to concerns around overcrowding, excessive policing and pyrotechnic use by fans . In response to the boycott the prefect of Rome has promised to remove the barriers if fans can demonstrate through ‘good behavior’ and that security and safety can be guaranteed.

Both ultras groups of the Giallorossi and the Biancocelesti appear to be intent on not giving ground and a propaganda war has ensued. A huge arm wrestling competition has ensued.  The balance of power now sits swings between the governing offices and the 1000’s who make up the ultra groups.

For some the new measures at the Olympico are part of wider political aims to clamp down on spectator behavior inside Italian football stadiums.  

Moreover, local government in Rome seems eager to attract major sporting events to the Olympic Stadium and the measures are simply an attempt to appease potential sponsors, the powerful UEFA lobby and attract sporting events like Rugby to the stadium.

Memories of faces of old, flags that have been flown a hundred times.

The sun shone both inside and out. Lazio fans reminded Roma fans of the goal of Lulic while Roma fans simply wanted to remind Lazio of how much they despised them.

A Roman holiday you could say – all that was missing was the film stars.

You can see some images from a Rome Derby match in 2013 here.

Images of the site of the Testaccio the one time home of AS Roma are here.