Racism blights Roma Derby

Anthony Rudiger looks on as the second goal is scored

 ROME-- Lazio beat their neighbours Roma for the first time in eight meetings on Wednesday, although racist chanting and a boycott by their opponents’ fans marred their 2-0 win in the Coppa Italia semi-final first leg.

 Roma had won five of the last seven meetings, all in Serie A, while the other  two matches were drawn.

 Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ciro Immobile scored, one in each half, for Lazio, who last beat their neighbours in the Italian Cup final in May 2013, in a Stadio Olimpico that was sparsely filled.

The German Roma defender Anthony Rüdiger, of Ivorian descent, was repeatedly subjected to racist chanting from Lazio fans during the first half, prompting the stadium announcer to warn that the match would be interrupted if it continued. The chanting died down after that.

 The Roma end of the stadium remained deserted as the supporters continued their boycott in protest at partitions which have been installed on the Curva Sud. Authorities had lowered the partitions as a compromise measure but Roma fans want them removed altogether, saying the barriers limit their view of the pitch and divide groups of supporters who used to sit together. They also say they have been banned from waving flags and banners and get fined for sitting in the wrong seats.

 The Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan, the team’s driving force this season, had a relatively subdued match while Lazio looked lively. He had made a point before the match of promising a big performance from himself and the team.

 Lazio, officially the home side at the stadium shared by the two teams, went ahead when Felipe Anderson burst down the right and pulled the ball back for Milinkovic-Savic to fire powerfully into the roof of the net on the half-hour mark.

 The second goal came from a similar move as Keita Baldé Diao got away from his marker on the right and slipped the ball to Immobile to score from close range in the 77th minute.

 The Italian Insider has previously reported on the issues surrounding racism in football. February saw the first example in Italy of a fan being escorted from a ground for racism, albeit in regional match outside Padua. The professional level of the game is still blighted by the issue and it is sad to see that the only thing that stopped the chanting was the intervention of stadium officials.