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Flares, bottles and stabbings: Rome derby violence explained

The Rome derby was familiarly feisty on Wednesday night, with Lazio and Roma’s Coppa Italia clash at the Stadio Olimpico ending with three red cards on the pitch and one off it – the second in four days for Roma boss José Mourinho.

But that chaos wasn’t just restricted to the players and coaches. As you might have expected, some supporters were just as involved in the Rome derby violence, with videos on social media showing fans launching flares at each other inside the stadium.

What actually happened? And how did we get to this point? Read on to find out.

Rome derby violence
Fans began launching flares at each other before the game had even kicked off. Photo by Icon sport

What happened between fans in the Rome derby?

The trouble started before the game had even kicked off, with both sets of fans firing flares and fireworks at each other, back and forth over the divide between the sets of supporters. Lazio fans were also spotted making fascist salutes in the build-up to kick off.

The players continued to warm up on the pitch while all of this was going on, and during the game, Lazio’s Alessio Romagnoli, formerly of Roma, had to carry a flare off the pitch that had been thrown onto it.

The drama would not stop there, however, as in the 76th minute, the violence spilled out onto the pitch. Roma midfielder Edoardo Bove, who was walking off the pitch to be replaced by Stephan El Shaarawy, was struck in the back of the head by a beer bottle thrown by a Lazio supporter. Luckily, the 21-year-old appeared to sustain no significant injury.

Chaos would continue after the game, as police had to restrain some Lazio supporters who were attempting to taunt Roma fans following the Biancocelesti’s 1-0 win. In response, two groups of 200 Roma fans each tried to get to the Ponte Milvio area, where Lazio fans were exiting the stadium.

After the game, the violence was not contained to the stadium and the surrounding area. A 30-year-old man was admitted to intensive care after he was stabbed when a group of Lazio fans stormed a Roma bar later in the evening.

Rome derby violence
Alessio Romagnoli removes a flare from the pitch. Photo by Icon Sport

What did those involved have to say about it?

It had been a feisty game and a hostile atmosphere, and those involved were quick to comment on the situation.

Edoardo Bove was relatively relaxed, saying “I experienced it in a normal way, they threw a bottle of beer at my head and they hit me. I didn't think it was appropriate to cause controversy or scenes, the competent authorities will intervene because I don't think it's normal.

“However, I prefer to talk about things on the field,” he added.

José Mourinho believed the fires were stoked by the awarding of a controversial penalty for a foul by Dean Huijsen on Valentín Castellanos. He told national media that “the match was decided by an episode that I call a penalty of modern times, a penalty that 10 or 20 years ago wasn't there, VAR's penalty. The referee five metres away says it's not there but another referee says it's a penalty.”

Lazio manager Maurizio Sarri chose to focus on the Lazio fans’ jubilation rather than any of the trouble, commenting that “the derby is worth more than just three points. These games are played for the fans and we are happy to have given joy to the Lazio supporters.”

Edoardo Bove is struck with a bottle.
Edoardo Bove is struck by a bottle thrown from the Lazio section. Photo by Icon sport

Why were the scenes particularly dramatic on Wednesday?

This fixture is no stranger to fierce atmospheres, but it got especially out of hand this time around.

This can be partially put down to the fact it was a knockout game in the Coppa Italia. The sense of winner-takes-all probably contributed to the tension – especially given the fact that this was only the 21st time these two sides have met in the competition’s 102-year history.

It was also an extremely controversial game, with the only goal of the match coming from a debatable penalty. There were also four red cards shown.

First, Lazio’s Pedro was given two yellow cards in a minute including one for a scuffle with Gianluca Mancini.

Then, just four minutes later, Roma’s Sardar Azmoun was sent off for shoving Nicolò Rovella in the back of the head.

A minute after that, Mancini was dismissed for dissent after the game had ended. And finally, Mourinho was sent off, also for something he said to the referee.

All of this predictably affected the crowd, and helped to increase the intensity of an atmosphere that was already at boiling point.

Rome derby violence – the history between Roma and Lazio

The Derby della Capitale is known as a fixture which takes over the city whenever it takes place – so much so, in fact, that the Italian senate closed early on Wednesday ahead of the game.

It will come as no surprise that the fixture also has a long history of staunch rivalry and some violence, the most notable case coming in 1979 with the death of Vincenzo Paparelli.

Paparelli, a Lazio fan and father of two, was killed at the Stadio Olimpico when a flare thrown by Roma supporter Giovanni Fiorillo hit him in the eye. It is the only recorded murder to have happened inside an Italian football stadium.

A Lazio shirt with Vincenzo Paparelli 33 on the back
Tributes are paid to Vincenzo Paparelli. Photo by Icon Sport

Paparelli, who was 33 when he died, is still commemorated to this day by Lazio fans. But some Roma supporters have, incredibly distastefully, held banners and written graffiti mocking his death.

After Lazio’s Coppa Italia final win over Roma in 2013, graffiti outside the stadium was pictured reading “Better a cup in the face than a flare in the eye.”

One derby on 21 March 2004 had to be abandoned when, mistakenly believing that a young boy had been killed by a police car outside of the stadium, supporters started a riot inside the Stadio Olimpico.

Four minutes into the second half Roma captain Francesco Totti, concerned by the violence in the stands, asked the referee to call off the game. Adriano Galliani, president of the governing body which controlled Serie A at the time, then called referee Roberto Rosetti and ordered him to postpone the match.

Chaos ensued, with streets near the stadium set on fire and 170 police officers injured. 13 arrests were made.

The scenes on Wednesday night were a reminder that, if this violence continues, it will not be long before another person loses their life.

Jamie Barton

A freelance football writer and podcaster, Jamie has appeared on/in the BBC World Service, PA Media, Charlton Athletic FC and Empire of the Kop, among others. He's attended matches all around the world, from Tranmere to Tokyo, and once had his bus home from the 2022 Champions League final in Paris delayed by 28 hours.

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