Throwback Thursday: The Shameful Derby di Roma Suspended by Fans

This is a different calcio story than our regular ones. We will be talking about a Lazio – Roma derby that was suspended not because of the rain or the snow, but because the fans decided that it had to be suspended.

On March 21, 2004, while the Derby della Capitale was underway, the supporter groups of both Roma and Lazio reacted to the news that a boy had been killed by a police car before the match and demanded for the game to be halted.

The only thing is, the news was fake. Nothing had happened during the pre-match, except for the “usual” reproachable scuffles between the Biancocelesti and the Giallorossi fans, as well as between the fans and the police forces.

It’s one of the dark sides of the Derby della Capitale between Roma and Lazio that too often is marred by scenes of urban guerrillas. The Derby also once claimed the life of a Lazio fan, though this is not what we will be remembering today.

When referee Roberto Rosetti kicked off a derby that promised to be an overly entertaining one on the pitch – with Roma sitting second in the table and battling against Milan for the Scudetto, and Lazio sitting fourth –the atmosphere was already tense enough.

As a consequence of the clashes outside of the Stadio Olimpico before the game, there were four supporters being treated for stab wounds in Roman hospitals, two for Roma and two for Lazio. After 45 minutes, the score was still set at 0-0 despite both sides hitting the post once.

But early into the second half, something weird started to happen on the stands of the Olimpico. First, supporters from both sides started to fold up their banners. Then, from the stands, somebody started to scream: “Murderers! Murderers!” Rosetti found himself forced to stop the game and call both captains to him. They were all puzzled. What was going on? Nobody seemed to know.

But suddenly, among the general astonishment, three Roma supporters descended from the stands into the pitch and demanded to talk to Francesco Totti. How did the three gentlemen – who would be eventually identified as some ultra chiefs of Roma – managed to simply walk into the pitch as it was the most natural thing in the world is something that we’ll never know – but that says a lot about the influence these kinds of people can have on football clubs (and no, this is not only a situation with Roma or Lazio).

Once they were granted hearing, the three delivered their message as players and staff watched in befuddlement. The game must be suspended. But why? A child was killed by the cops. He was hit by a police car before the match.

The news was blood-chilling but didn’t make quite sense since the very beginning. The game was already into its second half, how come the rumor of the death was starting to circulate only now?

But the thugs didn’t want to hear it. The game must be suspended, they urged, as their buddies on the stands were chomping at the bit to have a fight with the police and make them pay for what they had done – and for once, Lazio and Roma supporters seemed to be agreeing on something.

Players were startled, referee Rosetti didn’t seem to know what to do and both teams’ staff could be seen going back and forth trying to understand what was going on. A police officer was seen talking to Rosetti, then the stadium speaker finally delivered an official message from the Police Headquarter of Rome.

“With regards to the rumor that a child allegedly died after being hit by a police car, the Police Headquarter informs that this news is absolutely groundless.”

But that was not enough. The rumor continued to circulate. Rosetti made an attempt to restart the game but the players seemed too shocked to continue. Antonio Cassano of Roma was one of the most vocals: “We’d make ourselves look like idiots if we play.” Totti was also convinced, and so were the Lazio players. Fabrizio Liverani of the Biancocelesti threw the ball out and refused to restart to play.

On the stands, fans from both sides were adamant. Despite what the speaker was saying, a child was killed by the police and the game was to be cancelled. Their threatening chants and smoke bombs didn’t make the situation look any good.

Finally, after spending quite some time frantically talking on the phone, likely waiting for instructions, Roberto Rosetti took a decision. The match was cancelled. It would eventually be revealed that the decision to suspend the game was taken by the then president of the Serie A League Adriano Galliani. He was the one talking to Rosetti on the phone.

It was over. The Derby Lazio – Roma was cancelled.

The players gloomily left the pitch except for a few – like Francesco Totti for Roma and Sinisa Mihajlovic for Lazio – who tried to talk to their supporters and calm them down. Because even if the game was cancelled, there was still a problem: According to the ultras’ narration, the police was responsible for murdering a boy and there was a concrete risk they would be trying to do justice by themselves.

As the speaker continued to crackle, reiterating that the death of the boy was fake news, tension eventually seemed to cool down and people started to swarm out of the Stadio Olimpico. But it was a false alarm, as right outside of the stadium the urban guerrilla restarted.

There were two more hours of clashes between the police and the Roma and Lazio supporters, featuring charges, stone throwing and other mutual courtesies before the thugs would be eventually dispersed and a few of them arrested. Luckily enough, nobody got seriously hurt but the war bulletin reported of 14 people injured – 6 fans and 8 police officers.

The Derby was recovered one month later and ended 1-1 with goals from Bernardo Corradi and Francesco Totti. But that is the last thing that matters. It never became clear who made the rumor about the boy’s death circulate and why.

The only thing a police investigation was able to conclude is that the news did not spark from a predetermined agreement between the Roma and Lazio fans (well, thank you very much!)

And so, all that was left from the Derby di Roma of March 21, 2004, was an appalling memento of how much power, how much influence some portions of supporters’ group – the most violent ones – can have in the world of calcio – going as far as forcing the local authorities to suspend a match.



March 21, 2004 – Serie A 2003-24 Round  26
LAZIO-ROMA match suspended on 48 minutes

LAZIO (4-4-2): Peruzzi; Oddo, Stam, Mihajlovic, Zauri; Fiore, Giannichedda, Liverani, Cesar; Corradi, S. Inzaghi (Sereni, Albertini, Fernando Couto, Dabo, Muzzi, Lopez, Favalli) Coach: Mancini
ROMA (4-4-2): Pelizzoli; Panucci, Samuel, Chivu, Candela; A. Mancini, Emerson, Dacourt, Lima; Totti, Cassano (Zotti, Dellas, Tommasi, D’Agostino, Delvecchio, Carew, Montella) Coach: Capello

REFEREE: Mr. Rosetti from Torino
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Cesar (L); Match cancelled on 48 minutes due to public order reasons