LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Lazio

Roma’s eternal rivals in Italy’s fiercest derby

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

SS Lazio may not earn much sympathy in many quarters because of the shocking reputation of their right-wing following, but the club has managed to keep up with Italy’s best over the past three decades and counting.

Lazio were founded as a sports society in 1900 by Luigi Bigiarelli, adopting the light-blue-and-white colours of the Greek flag in honour of Hellenic achievement. Back then, heroism had to be found in local league games, although the club did develop a loyal fan base in Rome’s green-belt northern outskirts.

The club first hit the news with the sensational transfer of star centre-forward Silvio Piola for a record fee in 1934. For the next nine seasons, Piola’s goals kept Lazio in the limelight, a rare spell of bettering Roma.

Lazio Style 1900/Peterjon Cresswell

It wasn’t to last. Piola went to Juventus, and Lazio fans had to make do with the solitary cup win of 1958 – the first final since the war – during constant relegation battles.

All changed with the arrival of a figurehead centre-forward in the shape of Giorgio Chinaglia. His goals earned Lazio promotion into Serie A, then, under coach Tommaso Maestrelli, helped Lazio win the title in 1974. A team of relative unknowns were captained by Darlington-born Pino Wilson.

After triumph came stupidity – crowd trouble in the subsequent European campaign – and tragedy, when young midfield star Luciano Re Cecconi was shot dead in a jewellery store in a joke hold-up. The club spent much of the 1980s in the lower flight.

Chinaglia returned from America for a disastrous stay as Lazio president. The club even came within a whisker – a face-saving 3-2 win over Varese – of third-flight football.

Lazio fans/Kate Carlisle

Despite the arrival of Dino Zoff as coach, and players such as Paulo di Canio, Karl-Heinz Riedle and Thomas Doll on the pitch, Lazio were becalmed in mid-table until Sergio Cragnotti bought the club in 1992. With his brother Giovanni, the tomato-sauce millionaire and financier revolutionised Lazio. A host of stars arrived: Paul Gascoigne, Alen Bokšić and, most of all, Giuseppe Signori. ‘Beppe’ was the hero of the Curva Nord, his 20 goals a season pushing Lazio into a title-challenging role, and back into Europe.

As club president, Zoff hired adventurous tactician, Zdeněk Zeman, as coach. Lazio finished runners-up, then third, as the salary bill spiralled. Still after that elusive title, Zoff brought in Czech midfielder Pavel Nedvěd and young defender Alessandro Nesta. It took the cool head of coach Sven-Göran Eriksson to sell Signori, win the Italian Cup and make the UEFA Cup Final, both in May 1998.

Lazio Style 1900/Peterjon Cresswell

Keeping inspirational Roberto Mancini up front, Cragnotti then spent millions on Christian Vieri, Marcelo Salas and Sérgio Conceição, only to lose the title to Milan by one point. Compensation came with winning the last European Cup Winners’ Cup, 2-1 over Real Mallorca, in 1999.

Eriksson sold Vieri for midfielder Juan Sebastián Verón and found the right balance. Trailing until the last game of 1999-2000, Lazio took advantage of a surprising Juve slip-up to take the title at the death. Cragnotti had got his championship. Eriksson left to manage England, and Roma duly wrested the crown from Lazio.

Finances remained shaky. Cragnotti resigned halfway through the 2002-03 season, and Lazio only bounced back thanks to the coaching skills of Roberto Mancini under trying circumstances. Delio Rossi also held his nerve on the bench, until bowing out in 2009.

Lazio Style 1900/Peterjon Cresswell

The 2012-13 campaign was marked by further controversy – particularly a dreadful attack on Spurs fans in a pub in Rome before a game with Lazio – and silverware, the winning of the Italian Cup over city rivals Roma at the Olimpico.

Fiscal uncertainty, an exodus of star players and a match-fixing scandal then dominated the headlines, not to mention crowd trouble. On the pitch, Lazio gained a third place in 2014-15 but were unable to take advantage of a rare entry into the Champions League, losing to Bayer Leverkusen in the play-off stage.

Making yet another Italian Cup final in 2017, the fourth in nine years, Lazio qualified for Europe through the back door, goals from Ciro Immobile blazing a path to the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

Narrow wins over Inter and Milan led to another Coppa Italia final in 2019, and a 2-0 win over Atalanta. Immobile’s goals continued to keep Lazio in and around the European places – and helped Italy in their Euro 2020 win of 2021.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Like groundshare rivals Roma,  Lazio have been making noises about building a new stadium and moving out of the Olimpico – but, unlike Roma, these have been little more than noises. The most concrete example was the Stadio delle Aquile, some 6km up via Tiberina, leading north from Rome towards the Lazio heartland. Though on land owned by the Lotito family, in charge of Lazio since 2004, it’s land that couldn’t be built on, not least because it’s on the Tiber floodplain.

The latest idea is to revamp the Stadio Flaminio. Built for the 1960 Olympics close to the Olimpico, it replaced the former Stadio Nazionale del PNF, the acronym for the Fascist Party which had instigated its construction in 1927. Or rather, reconstruction, as there had been a Stadio Nazionale standing here between 1911 and World War I. 

Laid out purely for football, the PNF staged three games of the 1934 World Cup, including the final, when 55,000 spectators endured a heatwave to witness Italy reverse the scoreline to beat Czechoslovakia 2-1. The game is best known for the freak cross-cum-shot by winger Raimundo Orsi that somehow sailed over the head of Czech keeper František Plánička to level the scores late in the game.

Stadio Olimpico/Peterjon Cresswell

Lazio had already moved in by that stage, and would play here until 1953, sharing the ground with Roma from 1940. The unveiling of the Stadio Olimpico in 1953, Hungary coming to play Italy in the curtain-raiser just as the Magyars had done when the PNF was opened in 1928, saw both clubs vacate the old ground, now tainted for its political connotations. 

In 1957, master architect Pier Luigi Nervi, who had created Fiorentina’s stadium in Florence 25 years before, was called upon to build a new ground to co-host the football tournament at the 1960 Olympics. Bringing in his son, Antonio, Nervi made wonderful use of his beloved reinforced concrete to shape an elegant bowl of smooth curves and low elevation. 

It was at the Flaminio that Gérson, of 1970 World Cup fame, scored a hat-trick for Brazil against Formosa, here that Giovanni Trapattoni and Gianni Rivera starred for Italy against Great Britain, Aldershot’s Paddy Hasty tying the game at 2-2, and here that Flórián Albert of Hungary hit a brace against France. None of these players won Olympic gold, however, claimed by Yugoslavia.

The Flaminio briefly welcomed Lazio and Roma while the Olimpico was being rebuilt for Italia ’90 – David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen played here around the same time – then the stadium slowly fell into disrepair. Revamped in 2008, the Flaminio was the home of Italy’s rugby team for a decade but it hasn’t been in regular use since 2011. 

When Lazio publicly expressed interest in its revival, the club stipulated a capacity of at least 40,000 – the attendance when Yugoslavia beat Denmark back in 1960 – and the need for a roof despite the stadium’s heritage status. Parking space is another issue, although the Flaminio is closer to town that the Olimpico, and better served by public transport. Surveys and studies of the venue will go on for some time before Lazio commit to anything more than a few announcements.

For a few seasons to come, then, Lazio fans will occupy the Curva Nord of the Olimpico, visiting supporters allocated the Sud Ovest corner of the Distinti. Average gates are a shade under Roma’s, between 35,000-40,000, easily accommodated at the Olimpico, a tight fit if the Flaminio is to be renovated.

For details of transport and nearest bars, see Stadio Olimpico.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Tickets go on sale a few days before the match and availability is rarely an issue.

The two main Lazio Style 1900 outlets around Rome – at via Guglielmo Calderini 66C near the stadium and at via di Propaganda 8A near the Spanish Steps – sell tickets and keep the same opening hours, daily 10am-8pm. 

Nationwide agency VivaTicket also distributes and has dozens of outlets around Rome. Central ones include Orbis Servizi (Mon-Fri 10am-4pm) at piazza della Repubblica 53, Tabaccheria Azzini (Mon-Fri 8am-7.30pm, Sat 8am-2.30pm) at via Palestro 60 near Termini and Napnet Wash (daily 9am-9pm) at via Napoli 26.

Match-day sales at the Olimpico start about 4hrs before kick-off. For the Tribuna Tevere, Distinti Sud Est and the Curva Sud, use the ticket outlets on piazza Lauro de Bosis on the stadium side of the bridge. For the Tribuna Tevere, Distinti Nord Est and Curva Nord, it’s the ones on piazza Piero Dodi on the other side of the stadium from the river.

The Lazio faithful gather in the Curva Nord, where tickets are around €20. Along the sidelines in the Tribune Tevere and Monte Mario, they rise to €40-€60. For under-14s, prices are €10-€15 cheaper.

For lowly opposition, online tickets for either end or Distinti in each corner can drop to €10, even for adults.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

Of the handful of outlets in and around Rome, the one at via Guglielmo Calderini 66C is closest to the stadium, a short walk from piazza Mancini by the tram 2 terminus on the other side of the bridge. In the city centre, it’s at via di Propaganda 8A near the Spanish Steps. Both have the same opening hours, daily 10am-8pm. 

Considering the club’s stature, each Lazio Style 1900 is very modest indeed, stocking a few replica shirts and Lazio-branded knick-knacks. The current second kit is white with sky- and dark-blue upper section, third choice is black with sky-blue trim. There are also retro shirts from 1904, the Piola era, 1958 and, naturally, 1974-75.