The Derby della Capitale is the most tense fixture in Italian football. Lazio and Roma both fight for dominance in a capital city where football is everything.
Just as with most aspects of Roman identity, the capital’s two clubs are deeply tied to their city’s history. Lazio, established in 1901, are sky blue and white represented by an imperial eagle. AS Roma was established in 1927 when three clubs in the Capital city fused together in order to compete with the dominant northern teams. This attempt at restoring Roman pride is reflected in the club’s yellow and red kits (the colors of ancient Roman soldiers) and their crests, emblazoned with a wolf feeding Romulus and Remus.
Since their first meeting in 1929, derbies between the two clubs have always felt like finals. When either of the two teams win a trophy the entire city turns that club’s colours. This is why their meeting in the 2013 Coppa Italia Final was so much more than a derby. It was the chance to raise the trophy directly in the faces of heated rivals.
In 2013, the unthinkable happened. Rome and Lazio respectively defeated Inter and Juventus in order to qualify for the final. The clash between Rome’s beloved clubs started out in the strangest of ways. As stone-faced fans marched past an endless line of police they entered the Olimpico; readying their banners and choreographies. The team anthems were canceled at the beginning of the game, as match officials thought it a good idea to host a special performance of PSY’s Gangam Style. The Korean sensation was met with an avalanche of Boos and whistles. K-pop offered little relief to supporters who couldn’t wait any longer for this do or die fixture.
Lazio began the match pressing high against Totti’s men, but failing to capitalize. Miroslav Klose had their best chance before the break, when Lobont pulled out a superb save against the German striker. Half time was almost eerie in the Stadio Olimpico. An atypical silence took over the ground, as many felt too nervous to even sing. The second half mirrored the first. Lazio continued to press, and in the 71st minute, Bosnian midfielder Senad Lulic tapped in a Candreva cross. Francesco Totti hit the woodwork late on, but failed to pull out a result, and the historic captain was left to watch his rivals lift the cup.
The celebrations that ensued took on an almost religious fervor. Lazio supporters held a funeral for AS Roma in the centre of the city, as a priest read out a football specific sermon. Two years on, one can still find “Lulic 71’” stickered on street signs and in pub bathrooms throughout the city. Most Lazio supporters will tell you that they would rather lose in the semi finals of a Coppa Italia rather than risk losing their bragging rights in a defeat to Roma.
As the two sides prepare for the derby on the second to last day of the season this Monday, the stakes are once again higher than usual. Roma are one point ahead of Lazio on 67 points, and both teams are hoping to finish second in the league. This derby will have a taste of 2013’s fixture, but still won’t mean quite as much. Whatever the result, the Roma faithful are left with the collective memory of Lazio lifting the cup imbued in their brains.