Thousands of fans boycotted the latest instalment of the Rome derby between fierce rivals Lazio and Roma over the increased security measures introduced at the clubs’ shared ground, the Stadio Olimpico.
Having left thousands of seats at home games empty over recent weeks, fans of both Lazio and Roma united to ensure one of Europe’s most hotly contested derby days was played out in front of a sparse crowd on the weekend, with the Stadio Olimpico barely half full for Sunday’s clash.
Roma ran out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Edin Dzeko and Gervinho, but with just 35,000 fans present in a 72,000 capacity stadium, the biggest talking point comes from the stands.
“I hope this situation is resolved soon and I hope the derby can become a celebration again,” Roma midfielder Alessandro Florenzi said after the match.
Both sets of fans’ rare show of unity concerns the new security measures that were put in place by the Italian civil defence service this season, with plexi-glass now partitioning the Curve Nord and Sud areas in the stadium. This was due an ongoing fear of overcapacity during home matches, with stairs becoming seats, threatening the safety and security of fans present.
With the Stadio Olimpico the only ground subjected to these measures, fans are feeling frustrated, with the Roma’s infamous ‘Ultras’ particularly furious at the lack of response from their club. The feeling that civil defence director Franco Gabrielli is trying to make an example of Rome with these measures also has real traction.
Those boycotting the match on Sunday attended the final training sessions in their numbers, then after following the players from the respective team hotels to the stadium, watched the game unfold in elsewhere in the city.
“I hope they (the fans boycotting matches) think again, in my heart I hope that these guys and girls show that they’re better than that,” said Giovanni Malago, president of the Italian National Olympic Committee and lifelong Roma fan.
“Obviously I can’t go against the rulings of those who are responsible for public safety. I really, really hope the fans change their minds. It pains me to death to see the stadium with empty or half-empty ‘curve’, without the organized support, the strongest part of the fanbase.”
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