“La elaboración de la cultura, y sobre todo la cultura como patrimonio, lógicamente ha correspondido a intelectuales ligados a las clases dominantes”.
Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Panfleto desde el planeta de los simios
The key to every evolution of thought is its elaboration, being the object of criticism. Without constant interpretation, one falls back into dogma, into the blind psalmody of a stale idea: this is what also happens in a field such as football and, more specifically, when it comes to the Lazio Sports Society.
Whenever I am asked which team I support, to my answer “Lazio”, immediately in the interlocutor, which is not from the other Capitoline team, like a Pavlovian reflex, the answer is “that fascist team?”. And this is the unique thought that is never debated uncritically because, as a dogma, it is peacefully accepted despite the fact that, when you want to scratch the surface, there are, in a story of 121 years, many characters and multiple stories, recent and not, which can give us a completely different cross-section and which return a decidedly different image and not linked to the commonly accepted stereotype.
Before telling some of the most significant stories that, I am sure, will evolve thinking by generating a necessary discussion and criticism, I think it is necessary to underline that we do not want to remove or omit the marked and often ostentatious political orientation of the Curva.
Instead, the intent of this counter-narrative is to provide a tool to overcome the stereotype because, without hiding, the evolution of organized support, especially in Italy in the last 30 years, has seen a significant ideological shift towards the extreme right, everywhere. This predominance is the fruit and mirror of what happens in the social fabric, especially the Roman one. In this regard, we cannot omit that even the opposite curve, the Romanist one, followed the national trend although, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, it was characterized by a marked left-wing matrix.
The phenomenon has been ignored and underestimated since football was considered to be something marginal and irrelevant, not worthy of a cultural battle. We know, on the other hand, that football evolves as a mass phenomenon, conquered after several years by the working class, snatched from the exclusive feet of the economic elite and thus led to its exaltation as a mass cultural phenomenon.
The problem, therefore, should be addressed not only at the local or club level but at the systemic level. And it was of little use to place, as often happens, the scarlet letter on someone or something, specifically Lazio, to hide under the carpet an entire movement which, in the contemporary period, has as its broadest expression the sovereign doctrine (what else it is not the autarchy of the early twenties of the last century carried out by the European fascist regimes), and in front of which sterile policies of mere containment are put in place, in football terms, by the weak national, European and world federations.
What I will try to do in this article is to dismantle, once and for all, the assumption that wants to identify the entire “Lazio world” as a fascist.
Founded in 1900, it is one of the first and largest sports clubs in Europe, the colors are borrowed from the Greek flag, given how the Olympic Games had recently been restored, and the name, despite the vulgate, does not identify what is the present region (they were established with the constitution of the second post-war period) but, rather what the Latins identified in the Latium, everything around Rome, including it. A breath, therefore, absolutely international.
In Italy, after a while, Fascism and Mussolini wanted to unify the many Roman teams under one football roof, including Lazio itself. The then Gen. Vaccaro, however, refused this merger, angering the Duce. From there, the current Capitoline dualism was created. But, it must be said, Mussolini did not support Lazio or AsRoma, since he is not particularly interested in football. So, with all due respect to Sollier, a communist militant and Italian player of the 70s, who used to define Lazio as “Mussolini’s team”, this is a totally incorrect historical fact.
The advent of the Second Great War brought the blackout and, subsequently, the Nazi occupation. At the time, the president of Lazio was Remo Zenobi who issued the following statement: “The SS Lazio, founded in Rome in 1900 and established as a non-profit organization in 1921, announces that the Board of Directors of the company, interpreter of the current moment, is considered to have fallen . Pending higher provisions, the management of the company has been entrusted to a committee of founding members. The Committee recalls the members to article 1 according to which the SS Lazio has the purpose of cultivating and spreading running, football and other kinds of healthy exercises, as means of physical and moral education of the youth. It remains extraneous to any political and religious manifestation.“. Therefore, a clear signal for anyone who wanted to make it an instrument of oppression, so much so that many Jews and wanted by the Nazi-fascists (many partisans) were hosted and assisted secretly in the basements of the Lazio Rowing Club.
Some, however, did not escape the Nazi fury: Michele Sabatello, a partner of Canottieri Lazio, of Jewish religion, was arrested on May 3, 1944, 28 days before the liberation of Rome and deported to Auschwitz. Arnaldo Tagliacozzo, Defender, Biancoceleste goalkeeper. Arrested in Rome in February 1944, he was deported to Auschwitz. Her daughter Ada was captured on October 16, 1943 and immediately killed upon her arrival in Auschwitz. A school in Rome located in the Laurentino area bears the girl’s name.
Ivo Bitetti was a Lazio water polo player – son of Olindo, one of the founders – who recognized Benito Mussolini, blocked by the partisans on a German truck on April 27, 1945. He was a Lazio swimmer Fulvio Jacchia, commander of the “Garibaldi” brigades of the Northern area of Rome.
Galli Olindo, Lazio player in the 1925/26 season, halfback. Convinced anti-fascist, during the Second World War he actively militated in partisan formations. After the war he was also elected Mayor of Tivoli in the ranks of the Italian Communist Party.
On the other side of the Adriatic, on October 19, 1944 the partisan forces were engaged in the siege of Belgrade in an attempt to free it, Tommaso Maestrelli, the one who will be “The Master” coach and advocate of the 1974 championship – the first in the Biancoceleste home – presented himself to the Italian Garibaldi Battalion, which was also deployed alongside Tito’s partisans, to be enlisted. The young midfielder thus became a partisan contributing to the liberation of the capital and the subsequent battles on the Srem front (Croatia) and, finally, the battle for the liberation of Zagreb until the definitive capitulation of Germany. After this experience, he returned to Italy, took off the role of a freedom fighter, being able to return to the field, without, however, abandoning the political commitment gained in the Balkans.
During that turbulent and epic experience at the same time in 1974, Alberto Menichelli was in the stands. It’s May 12th. Olympic Stadium. Lazio-Foggia is played, the match that will consecrate the team led by the Maestro to history. The President of the Republic Leone, the Minister Malfatti and the Secretary of the P.C.I. Enrico Berlinguer. Although many gave him as a sympathizer of Cagliari or even Juventus, according to very accredited sources, his appearances at the Olympic stadium emerge at a Lazio-Cagliari, 1979, and at a Lazio Sampdoria 1-1, 8 February 1976. The latter, in particular, it appears indicative and significant: we are speaking, in fact, of a moment of great difficulty for Lazio which is in the relegation zone with Maestrelli seriously ill, therefore one of those matches for fans and not for occasional patrons.
So the secretary of the then largest Communist Party in the West was Lazio? It is not known but, for sure, the entire escort (not the police but the party), of which Menichelli was head and personal driver, was biancoceleste.
Maurizio “Lotta Continua” Montesi, from Rome and Lazio, was the first to speak publicly in the 70s about the drift that the world of football was taking in Italy: relations between society and the underworld, patronage, political proselytism, he accused in more than one interview (Lotta Continua 1978, Panorama 1979) the companies to support the ultras groups with free admissions to the stadium, coaches for travel and financing of various kinds. He attacked the entire political class who, according to him, had no interest in stopping the escalation of violence that surrounded the world of football and even less in wiping out organized groups of fans, because he would have been afraid of antagonizing that huge electoral tank and also the football moguls who were turning that popular sport into a money-making machine.
As we said at the beginning of this journey, the fans have always reflected what the social fabric of the city produces on a social and, therefore, political level.
In 1951 the Circoli Biancocelesti were born in Rome. Later came the Lazio Clubs and at the end of the sixties, from the clubs, the youngest gathered in ultras groups, some of which were markedly left-wing such as Tupamaros, Il Gruppo Rock, C.A.S.T. (Commandos Aquile San Basilio-Talenti) the first group ever in the Curva Nord and, above all, the Eagles, an apolitical group and the first truly important ultras group, one of the most numerous and admired groups in Italy: their banner remains among the most long history: 54 meters. From 1987 there will be the rise of the Irriducibili until the advent of the Ultras Lazio.
But beyond these historical data, I think it is very important to bear witness to some realities, for many unknown, which arose more or less recently and which refer directly to the world of Lazio.
This is their experience: “The page was created in 2011 with the aim of actively deconstructing the stereotype of the” Lazio-fascist “. When we started working on it, the stereotype was strongly rooted in the collective imagination, in Italy and especially abroad. The aim was to eliminate it in 30 years (the time it took the diehards to build it), starting from the web to aggregate the largest number of Lazio fans who called themselves anti-fascists (transversely to political ideals) and create physical realities, give all tools to combat this stereotype not individually but collectively for better results. Today our acronym LAF is known internationally, we have had meetings with Italian and foreign supporters, we have illustrated what is the real situation beyond any exploitation and generalization, we are making it clear how this stereotype is a propaganda and proselytizing tool for parties Roman neo-fascists and feeding it is just their game ”
Alberto Urbinati, president of Liberi Nantes and a great Lazio fan.
In the year 2007 in Rome, a group of friends, 9 and all from Lazio, sensitive to social issues related to immigration and passionate about football, decided to create a football team made up of refugee boys and asylum seekers. The initiative is welcomed with enthusiasm by the reception centers in Rome and the province to which it is proposed, and gives life to the Liberi Nantes team.
For 12 years the Liberi Nantes played the championship out of the league, without getting points, but this did not prevent them from distinguishing themselves on the pitch and not only for their football skills: 5 times out of 10 the team was awarded for the best score in fair play.
In 2019 because, after a long advocacy campaign, Liberi Nantes, in collaboration with UNHCR, ASGI and UISP, is able to get the National Amateur League to approve a simplification proposal that has led to a historic result for the promotion of integration through football game, allowing the team – for the year 2019/2020 – to access the first league in the standings.
When asked “how heavy is this stereotype, especially for you who are President of Liberi Nantes?”, He replied: “As a great fan, I have been going to the stadium since I was six, this stereotype weighs a lot and I consider it infamous. What I don’t understand is why society doesn’t do everything to break away from this stereotype since in my opinion there are so many things that could be done but are not done with due care. This strikes me, among other things, as President of Liberi Nantes, I also participate in international congresses in which there is the presence of UEFA, dedicated to the fight against discrimination, and I know how much UEFA cares about these aspects here. It does not make discounts. I also wonder why the company does not feel the need to unmark itself as a communication strategy. As a fan it weighs on me and I know that Lazio have great damage from this association but perhaps there is no real desire to break free from this connubbio which is a field on which we should work a lot. As President of the Free Nantes, a 13-year project that has carved out a space for itself at national and international level, of awareness. I fight discrimination as president. As a fan, I stick to my worldview, which is opposed to this stereotype. I never hide my Laziality or my being totally away from the stereotype. I believe it cannot do more. I live my laziality with great passion, with great enthusiasm and I stay away from those who also deviate from the values of those who founded Lazio, since they take it to infamous grounds. I keep my distance. Always with great enthusiasm and as I have done since I was a child ”
Lazio e Libertà Association
“On 9 January 1900 a group of athletes led by the non-commissioned officer of the Bersaglieri Luigi Bigiarelli founded the Lazio Podistica Society in Rome, which later became the Lazio Sports Society. 120 years later, to celebrate that event, the “Lazio and freedom” association was born, open to all those who care about the ethical values of sporting loyalty and respect for the opponent that animated those mythical founders, who chose not to case the Olympic colors of Greece. The purpose of the association is to renew those original values, through cultural, publicistic and social activities, under the banner of cultural and sports integration and the denial of all forms of racial, religious and political discrimination, in addition to the all too obvious rejection of violence. . “Lazio and freedom” has the intention of proposing itself as a point of reference, not only in Rome, for all those who believe that sporting support must always manifest itself within the perimeter of democratic and civil values solemnly sanctioned by our Constitution.
To do this we plan to establish a relationship of fruitful collaboration with the leaders of the S.S. Lazio, fostering through our initiatives a sense of belonging to the team starting from the knowledge and dissemination of its history; and developing relationships with sports organizations, cultural associations and schools. In creating the “Lazio and freedom” association, we hope that all Lazio fans and sympathizers who share the ethical, civil and social values provided for by the Constitutive Statute, and which we summarize above, will choose to join.
During the pandemic period, unable to organize meetings and activities in presence, we have started live streaming in which before or after the Lazio matches we comment on the team’s performances and present books, films, music, etc. ”
What I have told is, as mentioned, a counter narrative to the one that dominates, especially for those who do not know or do not want to know Lazio and its history.
With this we cannot cancel Di Canio’s famous greeting after a derby or walks in Glasgow but, simply, it is intended to provide a tool for understanding the phenomenon which, I hope, will be able to shed new light on a history of over a hundred years that cannot be reduced to some conducts.