A guide to the Ultra groups in Serie A: Lazio
Key Ultra Groups: Irriducibili (Unbreakables/ Indomitables), Eagles Supporters, Ultras Lazio.
Other Ultra Groups: Banda Noantri (Our Gang), Viking Lazio, Commandos Monteverde Lazio (C.M.L ’74), Gruppi Associati Bianco Azzurri White and Blue Association Group), Folgore (Lightening), Boys, Marines, Gruppo Sconvolti (The Deranged Group), Gruppo Rock (Rock Group), Ultras 74, Brigate S.Giovanni (S Giovanni Brigade), I Golden Boys, Nucleo Armato Biancazzurro (Nuclear Armed White and Blue), I Vigilantes (The Vigliantes), I Leopard, Eagles’Korps, Gioventus Biancazzurra (White and Blue Youth), Eagles’Girls, Avanguardia (Vanguard) , In Basso a Destra (Down on the Right), Only White, and Caos Group.
“T’avemo arzato la coppa in faccia.” ‘We raised the Cup in front of your face’ was a banner flown over the city of Rome. Lazio fans had innovatively hired a light aircraft to deliver the message. Another proclaimed: “The real truth is that we hurt you: 26-05-13.”
This was one of the greatest days in Lazio’s 114-year-history, the day they beat Roma in the Coppa Italia final. For the duration of the summer the Laziali revelled in schadenfreude, tormenting their Roman counterparts at every given opportunity.
For the Derby in September 2013, the Lazio Ultras had planned a special choreography. Balloons would lift a giant Coppa Italia above the Curva Nord, just as a reminder – as if Roma needed one – that it was the Biancocelesti who had won the most important Derby della Capitale in history. The authorities banned the display, wary of the backlash it would likely cause. In a sardonic response the Laziali left the Curva Nord empty for the first five minutes of the game, but for a banner which read:
‘Ah, I forgot, it’s the ‘memorial’ derby. I’ll finish my beer first…’
‘Laziale or Romanista?’ There is perhaps no question more important in the eternal city. Founded in 1900, S.S. Lazio is the city’s oldest club. In 1927, when the National Fascist Party merged Rome’s biggest clubs, the Biancocelesti were the only ones to resist. Roma fans claim to support the club that truly represents Rome however Laziali are quick to remind them of who arrived first.
The realm of Lazio’s Ultras – the Curva Nord of the Stadio Olimpico – is world renowned. It has been at the vanguard for some of Italy’s most colourful choreographies. The groups have changed but their support for the Aquile (Eagles) has been steadfast, none more so than the Irriducibili.
Formed in 1987, the first members of the Irriducibili were originally known as Cani Sciolti (Wild Dogs). After dislodging a group called Viking, the character ‘Mr Enrich’ was adopted as their mascot – a little man who kicks furiously – and as one of their members claimed “signifies rebellion against the political and football system.”
In 1992 British flags adorned the Curva following the arrival of cult hero Paul Gascoigne. He was received warmly by the Irriducibili, whounveiled a banner depicting a pint of English beer with the message ‘It’s ready for you’. That year also saw the dissolution of Lazio’s first prominent Ultra group, The Eagles. They were formed in 1976, two years after the team’s first Scudetto success, which saw the numbers in the Curva proliferate.
The arrival of food tycoon Sergio Cragnotti marked the beginning of one of the clubs most successful eras in which they won their second Scudetto in 2000. This coincided with the clubs centenary year and the Curva Nord’s celebrations brought 25,000 people onto the streets.
Such was the popularity of the group that numbers oscillated between 6-7,000 people, sometimes even more. They became infamous nationwide and a feature which distinguished them was their merchandising business. The group franchised and sold their merchandise in and around Rome. This helped them provide their own away-day packages as well as fund their fanzine - La Voce Della Nord (The Voice of the North).
In a sense the group gained brand notoriety. However their merchandising business was criticised by some in the Curva. This led to a schism in 2006 and a group called Banda Noantri (Our Gang) now known as In Basso a Destra (Low on the Right) were formed.
In the book – Football, Fascism and Fandom – Alberto Testa and Gary Armstrong state:
“The Irriducibili were challenged with the insult of embourgoisement; that they had compromised and were now money driven.”
Both groups co-existed in relative harmony mainly because of their ideological standpoint (both held neo-fascist sentiments), yet four years later a crossroads was reached.
In 2010 the Irriducibili invited a politician, Renata Polverini, (from the moderate right) into the Curva during an election period. At a time where the club were struggling this angered other groups on the Curva. To add insult to injury the politician also sat on the portrait of Gabriele Sandri, a faux pas which was unforgivable.
In respect for what they had done since 1987, Fabrizio Toffolo – the leader of the Irriducibili –announced the dismantling of the group on the radio. Having sought aid from a source that used to sit on the Curva Nord, it would appear the Ultras are now united under the banner of Ultras Lazio. This group is mostly comprised of youngsters and former Irriducibili members. Other smaller groups including Avanguardia, In Basso a Destra, Only White, and Caos Group also reside on the Curva.
Unfortunately it’s impossible to discuss Lazio’s Ultras without mentioning their political extremism, something explored in depth in Football, Fascism and Fandom. At times heinous views have plagued the Curva Nord. Monkey grunts, racist banners and fascist memorabilia have all been used. One particularly unabashedly racist banner was unveiled against Roma reading “Auschwitz is your town; the ovens are your houses.” (The banner was a reference to Roma’s association with the Testaccio neighbourhood which has a Jewish population). Paolo Di Canio performed a fascist salute to the Curva Nord while playing for Lazio during a derby in 2005. Di Canio – a former Irriducibili member – saw the salute as a badge of identity with the Ultras.
The Laziali have also suffered two tragedies. The first was back in 1979, after a Lazio fan called Vincenzo Paparelli was hit in the eye and killed by a flare fired by a Roma supporter. It was Italy’s first football related fatality. In November 2007, a 25-year-old by the name of Gabriele Sandri was shot and killed by a police officer. The police claimed the shooting was accidental after an officer (Luigi Spaccatorella) intervened to stop a fight between Lazio and Juventus supporters at a motorway service stop. Sandri’s death triggered nationwide outrage and emphasised the deep contempt Ultras feel towards the authorities. In the capital, Laziali and Romanisti united causing havoc across the city. Sandri’s funeral attracted over 5,000 mourners.
The Laziali feel it is their duty to look after the clubs best interests. This has led to years of struggle with the Biancocelesti’s president, Claudio Lotito, a pantomime villain in the eyes of many. It appears strange that the Ultras would protest against a man who saved the club from liquidation. But during his tenure Lotito removed the policy of supplying the Irriducibili with 800 free tickets for matches. He also refused to fund the Curva Nord’s choreography and rejected a proposed takeover of the club by former Lazio legend Giorgio Chinaglia. Thus the ultras feel that the only way their Eagles can soar is to jettison Lotito.
This season 6,000 supporters held a protest before their home game against Sassuolo. In the stadium thousands of placards reading ‘Libera Lazio’ (Free Lazio) were on display. At the time of writing, the Ultras have announced they will boycott games for the rest of the season as they continue their Anti-Lotito campaign.
The Laziali and in particular the Irriducibili could be described as pioneers. Having transformed the style of support on the Curva their name has become, one of, if not the, biggest in the domain of the Italian Ultras. When sky blue fumes choke the air and the Curva Nord ripples under a gargantuan banner, to the back-drop of Vola Lazio Vola, the Stadio Olimpico truly becomes the heart-beat of this ancient city.
By Luca Hodges-Ramon - @LH_Ramon25