The first football club from Rome
On 9 January 1900, Lazio was formed in the city of Rome by former Italian army officer Luigi Biagiarelli and his eight friends. Since another sports club, Roma Gymnastica, had already borrowed the city’s name, the group decided to name their creation after the Lazio region of the city and had its name registered as Societa Podistica Lazio.
All of the club’s founders were sportsmen who took to canoeing and swimming in the summer and turned to running when the weather turned inclement. The club, therefore, was neglected for its first two years, and it was only in 1902 that the group discovered their love for football. So potent did their interest become that the company worked hard to popularize the game in Italy.
While working hard to increase the game’s appeal through the country, the group changed the club’s name to its current form, Societa Sportiva Lazio. Under its new name, Lazio went unbeaten for five years between 1902 and 1907 – with the final year being the one in which the club traveled to Pisa and defeated the likes of Pisa, Livorno, and Lucca to become regional champions.
The first 20 years in the life of Lazio were a story of missed opportunities. It reached the final of the national championship playoff three times during that period, but never claimed victory, losing in 1913, 1914 and 1923, with the last of those defeats coming against Genoa. It was only after World War II that the club won its first trophy, the 1958 Copa Italia.
Lazio would have to wait for 15 more years and overcome two relegations before it could lay its hand on the club’s first-ever Scudetto title, which it won at the end of the 1973/74 season. Including these two titles, the Aquilotti has won two Serie A trophies, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, one UEFA Super Cup, six Coppa Italia, and four Supercoppa Italiana to emerge as one of the most successful Italian clubs in history.
Few derbies in Europe, let alone Italy, attract as much animosity as the Derby della Capitale, involving AS Roma and SS Lazio. With the city not diluted by fans who support teams outside the confines of the Eternal City, there’s no middle ground you can find between both these teams if you’re a resident of Rome. You either support SS Lazio or AS Roma. The Sky Blue or Red. The Eagle or the Wolf.
Like most other football rivalries, the origins of the Roma-Lazio rivalry are also rooted in history. When the fascist party were founding AS Roma in 1927 in an attempt to allow the city to capture its former glory on the football pitch, four Roman teams were given the invitation to merge. Three of them – Alba, Foritudo and Roman – accepted the invitation. Only one in Lazio declined.
It wasn’t the refusal of Lazio to lose their distinct identity and become a part of the Rome-glorifying project that injected animosity into the rivalry. That role was played by the different sets of fans that supported both clubs. While Lazio’s supporters have traditionally belonged to wealthier Roman suburbs, those who wave the flag of AS Roma are mostly from the city center.
The difference between both sets of fans is also depicted by their political leanings. Those who support AS Roma have traditionally been the members of the center-left, whereas Laziali have always voted en-masse for the suburban right. Unsurprisingly, with so many differences, there have been clashes, with at least one of them, the October 1979 derby, resulting in bloodshed.
In recent years, the intensity of the rivalry has gone up a notch. With neither team enjoying much success on the national stage, their games against each other have become the most important for both AS Rona and Lazio. Consequently, those who go to watch the game in the stadium shared by both clubs spend as much time avoiding homemade bombs as they do watch the action on the pitch.
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Worst placement in the final table:
After being relegated three seasons ago, Lazio finished the 1986/87 season at 11th place in Serie B, the lowest they have ever fallen in their 100-year plus history.
Least goals in a season:
In the history of the Biancocelesti, no other season comes close to the 1984/85 season in this regard. With the Serie A consisting of 30 fixtures, Lazio managed to find the back of the net a mere 16 times in that campaign.
Most goals conceded:
In the 1933/34 season, Lazio managed to concede a whopping 66 goals in 34 Serie A games, their worst tally to date.
Worst goal difference:
After scoring only 30 and conceding 63 goals in the league, Lazio finished the 1960/61 season with an eye-popping goal difference of -33.
Least points scored:
Given the fact that they were relegated at the end of that season, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Lazio managed only 15 points in the whole of their 1984/85 campaign.
Interestingly for a club that has two Scudetto titles to its name, Lazio won only 2 games in the whole of their 1984/85 season.
Lazio tasted 21 defeats in the 34-match 1960/61 season, the most they have been defeated in a single campaign.
Worst home record:
Given the fact that they managed to win only 2 games that season, it should be unsurprising to note that it was the 1984/85 season in which AC Milan suffered their worst home record in Serie A.
Worst away record:
Since they managed only 2 victories throughout the 1984/85 campaign, Lazio’s worst home record also belongs to the same season.
Coming into the 1999/2000 season, Lazio hadn’t been the champions of Italy for 36 years. This wasn’t an anomaly given the fact that the 1974 Scudetto title was the only one in the side’s history. What raised the hopes of the Laziali at the start of the new millennium were the signings the club had made that summer. And then, as if ordained by the Almighty, Lazio defied their critics to win the double.
Despite winning their first-ever European trophy a year earlier – the 1998/1999 European Cup Winners’ Cup – Lazio were felt bitter after missing out on the Scudetto on the last day of the season to Milan. To further rub salt into their wounds, the club was forced to sell its star player, Christian Vieri, to rivals Inter. So heated was the atmosphere that one newspaper declared the transfer ‘’an offense”.
To soothe the nerves of its fans, the Aquilotti went on a spending summer that summer. With Diego Simeone having already arrived in a swap deal that saw Vieri going to Milan, the club added the likes of Juan Sebastian Vero and Nestor Sensini to a side that already contained the likes of Pavel Nedved, Alessandro Nesta, and Sergio Conceicao.
With the squad back at its best, Lazio started the new season with a bang. As winners of the Cup Winners’ Cup, Lazio faced a fixture against Manchester United for the UEFA Super Cup. That tie was decided by a 35th-minute strike from Marcelo Salas who latched on to a cross from Giuseppe Pancaro and scored what proved to be the winner.
The Biancocelesti took the same sublime form into the Sere A season, winning ten of its opening fourteen games. Still, as the season reached close to completion, Juventus had a 5 point lead over Lazio with only three games to play. Then, the unthinkable happened, The Old Lady, known for grinding results, managed just 4 points in its next three games, with Lazio winning all three to finish the season as champions.
Fifteen years prior to that day, the club had suffered one of the worst defeats of its entire history.
The alarm bells had been ringing before the 1984/85 campaign, one in which the Aquilotti were finally relegated to Serie B. Under the tutelage of Paolo Carosi, Lazio had finished just two places off relegation places in the previous campaign. Sensing the danger, the club chairman had sacked Carosi and replaced him with Juan Carlos Lorenzo in an effort to delay the inevitable.
Still, as their start to the new season showed, Lazio hadn’t learned its lessons. The Biancocelesti failed to win any of their opening six games in the league, losing four in the process. A win against minnows Cremonese gave hope before Atalanta put the Rome-based side to the sword. And then, the club suffered the longest losing streak in its history.
Starting from their 1-0 defeat to Hellas Verona, the Aquilotti tasted defeat in seven successive games. So poor was Lazio’s form that between the end of November and the end of the campaign – a run which consisted of 19 games, the club failed to muster a single victory. Little wonder, then, that when the Serie A ended on 19 May 1985, Lazio were level on points with Cremonese and relegated to Serie B.
Before 1980, Lazio’s fans had seen much suffering while supporting the Biancocelesti. They had seen the Aquilotti relegated three times to the Serie B. They had seen city-mates and fierce rivals AS Roma running away with more trophies. All that suffering dwarfed in front of the shame which they felt after the club was implicated in the 1980’ Totonero match-fixing scandal and forcibly relegated to Serie B.
Since the end of World War II, football fans in Italy have two ways to bet on the beautiful game. The first avenue, which is legal and supported by the Italian government, consists of a state-run pool where fans deposit money, predict the results of a set of matches, and win/lose money. Termed ‘Totocalcio’ in Italian, this arrangement receives the sanction of the law.
The second avenue, ‘Totonero’, is illegal. Fans who want to bet their money through it don’t deposit their money in the state-run pool. Also, unlike Totocalcio which doesn’t allow fans to bet on individual games, Totonero gives that permission. That seemingly minor difference gives those bookmakers who receive the money enough incentive to fix games.
That’s exactly what happened with Lazio and a host of other teams. Some of the bookmakers who collected wagers under the Totonero betting scheme reached out to Lazio players. They were promised huge sums of money provided in return for fixing games. Like their counterparts in Milan, Palermo, and Bologna, Lazio players also took the money and deliberately threw away their matches.
So sophisticated was the whole criminal enterprise that local police didn’t get a whiff of it. It was only after two Roman shopkeepers, Alvaro Trinca and Massimo Cruciani, complained to the police that the matter was able to make the headlines. Once the subsequent investigation found several Lazio players guilty, the club was handed a collective punishment by being relegated to the Serie B.
Here are some of the fun facts you might not know about SS Lazio:
“We won’t merge”: During the founding of AS Roma in 1927, four Rome-based clubs were given the invitation to lose their identity and merge together to create a new, stronger club. Only Lazio declined, giving rise to the still-strong Derby della Capitale.
“Flying a banner”: After Lazio had defeated AS Roma in the Coppa Italia final of 2012/13 season, their ultras hired an airplane to fly a banner over the city with the caption: “We raised the Cup in front of your face”.
“More wired than a satellite dish”: Giving an account of the ringer which Lazio put through its players in training, former striker Paul Gascoigne once remarked: “going to test centers, head wired up, heart wired up. It was incredible. I think I was more wired up than a satellite dish.”
“Free tickets for ultras”: Before the election of Claudio Lotito as club president, Lazio had a policy which ensured that the Irriducibili ultras received 800 free tickets for every home game.
“Gazza’s infamous burp”: After being omitted from the Lazio squad that faced Juventus earlier that day, Paul Gascoigne was allowed to give his take to the press. His response? A loud burp which angered the club so much that they handed the striker a £9000 fine.
“More famous than the Duke of Wellington”: After Lazio confirmed the signing of Paul Gascoigne in 1992, one Italian high court judge remarked that the striker enjoyed more fame among the Italians than the Duke of Wellington did after the Battle of Waterloo.
“Don’t touch Gascoigne”: Since the three-year spell of Paul Gascoigne at the Sao Paolo stadium was marred with injuries, the club’s ultras came up with a ‘plan’ to save their favorite striker. On each home matchday, they held aloft a banner with the caption “Trouble to anyone who touches Gazza”.
Details are provided on the age of players, games played, minutes played, goals conceded, games conceded with no goals, yellow cards, red cards, yellow cards.
Capology, Guardian, These Football Times, The Independent
Official website of SS Lazio
Wikipedia profile of SS Lazio
SS Lazio Twitter profile