Rome’s biggest rivalry

There’s something so human about rivalries. We search for them everywhere we go, and we so often thrive from them. There’s something so thrilling about pushing to be better than someone else who is also pushing to be better than you. Of all the rivalries in life, there is none better than a sports rivalry.

Seen all over the world and in every sport imaginable, sports rivalries are ingrained in sporting traditions. Across Rome, and indeed Italy, there is no greater rivalry than that between Serie A football clubs Roma and Lazio.


The rivalry is one that has truly stood the test of time, beginning back in 1927.

At the time, there were 3 Roman teams as well as a fourth team named after the region Rome sits in. In an attempt to create a singular representation of the city, then Prime Minister Benito Mussolini merged the clubs. There was also hope that by taking these four teams and merging them Rome would have a single strong team to rival the then-dominant northern Italian football clubs.

What they didn’t expect was to create one of the sports biggest rivalries within their city.

Three clubs, Foot Ball Club di Roma, Società Sportiva Alba-Audace, and Fortitudo-Pro Roma Società di Ginnastica e Scherma all participated in the merge and became Associazione Sportiva Roma (Roma). The final club, Società Sportiva Lazio (Lazio) however, refused. And thus, a nearly 100-year rivalry was born.

Fan mentality

With the merging of three clubs, quickly went from having the largest supporter base in the city to the smallest. This sudden shift in their status fed the mentality they were outsiders, and the began to fight to reclaim what they believed was theirs- Rome.

Lazio also sat slightly outside of the city, and Roma fans quickly saw them as ‘burini’ or peasants due to their countryside association.

Lazio further felt like outsiders based on their colour and emblem choices. When founded, they adapted Greece’s sky blue as a nod to the Olympic games due to the clubs mixed-sport origin. Roma, however, chose to adopt the yellow and red of the Vatican into their uniform. This visually cemented them as “more Roman” than Lazio.

Political Division

However, it isn’t just a geographical divide that separates these two clubs. Historically there is a distinct political divide also. The two support bases generally have quite extreme and opposite political views which can fuel the violence often seen at their games.

Roma fans are associated with left-wing politics while Lazio fans are right-leaning. Lazio fans have a history of quite offensive and anti-Semitic behaviours. During the 1990’s Lazio fans unfurled a 160-foot banner that read “Auschwitz is your town, the ovens are your houses.” Black players of Roma have reported receiving racist and offensive comments from Lazio fans.


Particularly intense or fanatical fans are referred to as Ultras. The term originated in Italy in reference to the anti-social behaviour of Roma and Lazio fans.

Ultras can easily be identified in the stands. They will often set off flares in some kind of tifo choreography, they also congregate in large vocal groups and hold up banners and signs encouraging their teams. Ultras usually sit at the ends of the stadium, behind the goals. Typically, the Lazio ultras occupy the northern end and the Romas the southern when the teams play each other.

Derby della Capitale

Each football season the rivalry comes to a heated head in the Derby della Capitale. Held at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome it is the most important game of the season for each team. Historically they have not been strong competitors in the Serie A and this is thought to have helped fuel their rivalry.

Having little success in Serie A, the Derby della Capitale is the most important game for each of the teams. The clubs have played a total of 174 official matches against each other. Roma holds the most wins at 65, while Lazio has won 46. The remaining 63 games resulted in a draw.

Extreme derbies

There have been several extreme derby outcomes over the past 90 years at the Derby della Capitale.

Death in 1979

In 1979, father of two, Vincenzo Paparelli attended the derby with his wife. An hour before the game he sat in the traditional Lazio stands eating a sandwich while waiting for the game begin. He was not planning to attend the match; however, his brother had given him the ticket as he could no longer make it.

While they waited for the game, Lazio and Roma fans traded the usual insults, and Roma fans fired two nautical flares towards Lazio fans. Neither made it to the end of the pitch. A third flare however launched directly into the crowd and hit Paparelli directly in the eye. He immediately slumped over, and bystanders were unable to save him. Astonishingly, they did not cancel the game.

Cancellation in 2004

In 2004 a derby was abandoned just four minutes into the second half of the game. A riot broke out in the stands after rumours spiralled that police had killed a boy outside of the stadium. The game was called to a stop. The violence spilled out into the streets where both Lazio and Roma fans were violently attacking police. The fights continued outside of the stadium until 1 am the next day. Police believe that the riots may have been premeditated as a response to political tensions in Rome at the time.

Intense and Passionate

As you can see the rivalry between Lazio and Roma is intense. Fans are incredibly passionate about their teams and their sport. Though we’ve told you about some of the more extreme events that have occurred at the Derby della Capitale, it shouldn’t deter you from attending a football match while you are in Italy. Football is an incredibly important part of Italian culture and daily life, so get yourself to a game and experience it for yourself!

Related article: What happened at the Forum in Rome?

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