Before Roma was the club we know today, several clubs were forced into merger to create a super-Roman organization. The talent pool had been diluted by the many clubs in Rome. Therefore, Italo Foschi, Secretary of the Roman Fascist Federation of Mussolini’ political party Partito Nazionale Fascista (PNF) combined the many sporting clubs, which incorporated football, cycling, and other athletics.[1] These preliminary clubs were Football Club Roma, Roman, Fortitudo-Pro Roma S.G.S, Audace Roma, and Società Sportiva Alba.

08ZancanaroAlbaRoma25-26 S.S. Alba

The clubs enjoyed a respectable amount of success: In 1922, Fortitudo-Pro Roma were runners-up in the Southern Championship. They were also Scudetto contenders in 1922 but lost against Pro Vercelli. Their ownerships came from diverse economical backgrounds, which helps give credibility to the club’s support from not just one socioeconomic class, but in all classes throughout Rome.[2] Ricatti explains,

Roman Club was owned by a lawyer and supported by various members with a solid financial position. Alba was created and personally owned by the proprietor of a pizza and wine shop outside Rome. Fortitudo, which was created in Borgo Pio, a rione (old Roman district) close to the Vatican, was for many years managed by priests under the shadow of the Vatican aristocracy.[3]

A year before becoming part of A.S. Roma, S.S. Alba became the Southern champions of 1924-25. The Fascist regime wanted to consolidate the power within the city, forcing Alba into merger with Audace Roma. They then became known as S.S. Alba-Audace Roma. Alba-Audace won the Southern Championship the following year, just as Alba did the previous season, although they missed out on winning the Scudetto, the championship for Italy, on both occasions. The former retained its green and white team colors, though these colors would ultimately be dismissed in the new club, as the primary team colors of A.S. Roma became those of the city’s: red and gold. The Capitoline she-wolf also became Simbolooriginaleasromathe symbol of Roma; a uniting emblem for all of Rome’s populous. There was a clear plan for Roma to become a powerhouse of football: the first coach hired was Englishman, William Garbutt. An expensive acquisition, Garbutt won the Scudetto with Genoa, in the 1923-24 season, noting the economic strength behind Roma. These teams eventually combined to become Associazione Sportiva Roma on 8 June, 1927, playing their first match just several months later.

 

 

Only a few players could be selected from each team to create Roma, which left the unpicked looking for another club. Some clubs provided more players than others, as well as other sporting resources. Alba’s primary influence on the newly-formed club was through Roma’s residence. “Motovelodromo Appio” or “Moto-Velodrome of Appio,” was Roma’s first stadium.

mva1This venue was a convenient choice for the new club, as Alba had used it for their 20-year existence. Before merging with Audace Roma, Società Sportiva Alba owner Umberto Farneti built the velodrome-modelled stadium there, as he owned the land in its neighborhood of Flaminio. The Appio was bigger than Madonna del Riposo stadium, and could hold the supporters, which would unite together from the former-clubs. Roma only spent the 1927-28 and 1928/29 season there.

mva4A.S. Roma, 1927mva3

“Campo Testaccio,” or “Field of the Testaccio neighborhood,” opened on 3 November, 1929, and acted as a multi-use stadium where Roma held their home-matches for 11-years. The structure was designed by Silvio Sensi, the grandfather of Franco Sensi (who would later become owner of Roma during their third championship-winning season). It was modeled off of the English stadiums (especially Everton’s), and there were four stands of wood painted with the team colors of yellow gold and Pompeian red. The wood construction made a thunderous acoustic presentation, easily audible from a distance. The grass field’s dimensions could be adjusted according to the team’s needs, and a house outside the stadium walls, which were painted in team colors and housed the coach.[4]

CampoTestaccio1

Testaccio now sits as a ruin, waiting to be converted into a parking garage

Its size, accessibility, and financial convenience helped the growth of Roma in its appeal to the working class, which the Testaccio neighborhood was composed primarily of. In fact, if you did not have the money to buy a ticket, you could watch the matches from the Monte dei Cocci. Yet, the Testaccio held only 20,000 spectators, and Roma was planned to become a symbol of Italian victory and conquest; a venue greater, of true magnificence was needed if Roma were to become worthy of Romanità.

Amongst its symbolism upon Italy’s populous, the other crucial function of architecture was to gain status vis-à-vis to other European nations.[5] Along with the great urban structures of the Fascist era, sport would not be marginalized. Two major stadiums would be constructed as sociopolitical devices in Rome through the Fascist regime.

The” Stadio Nazionale del Parte Nazionale Fascista,” or “Stadium of the Nationalist Fascist Party,” is commonly referred to as the “Stadio PNF.” It was enacted for general sporting use, including rugby, soccer, horse racing, and boxing. Built in 1911, the stadium went through a major renovation before becoming a symbol of Fascist sport. Its most notable usage was hosting three of 17 matches of the 1934 World Cup, including the final between Italy and Czechoslovakia on 10 June, 1934. Arguably the world’s most prominent sporting event, the world watched as Italy hoisted the World Cup above their heads in their 1934 victory; a statement to Italians, the Third Reich, England, and all other colonial powers that Italy had risen from the Mutilated Victory, and was now a world force. In this instance, football was politics, and politics were football.

campotestaccio2Lazio were first to move to the stadium, with the first inner-city derby resulting in a tie. Roma eventually moved to the Stadio PNF from the Campo Testaccio in 1940. This move proved a lucky change of scenery for Roma, as they marched on to win their first Scudetto in the 1941/42 season. This was the first time a team from the center-south of Italy had won the Scudetto. Unfortunately for Roma’s potential continuity of success, all Italian soccer was then halted due to World War II; the Stadio PNF became occupied by Allied troops.

campotestaccio3

Seasonal play returned to Italy, but Roma and Lazio moved to a larger, Olympic sized stadium just a couple years after the war’s conclusion. On top of the old ground of the Stadio PNF, the Stadio Flaminio was built. The Flaminio has had a minimal influence in top-league football and went without a home team for many years, until Rome and Lazio used it as a substitute-stadium in the 1989-90 season.

The Stadio Olimpico is Roma’s current stadium. Officially opened in 1939, the Olimpico was first named Stadio dei Cipressi, or “Stadium of the Cyprus Trees,” for the abundant amount of cyprus trees which surrounded (and still-do today) the area and its hillside. Part of Foro Mussolini, or “Mussolini’s Forum,” it was part of a mega sports-complex for activating and impressing the Fascist regime’s subjects, as well as distracting them from the realities of war. The via Piazzale dell’Impero leading to the Olimpico still remains today; an ornate, white marble walkway decorated with ancient-Rome styled mosaics of sporting scenes and huge tablets of stone engraved with mottoes celebrating Italian history.

The construction of the Stadio Olimpico was therefore the Fascist movement embodied in a political-sporting scene for the masses. The current stadiums of 1920s Rome were tight, smaller, and simpler in their construction; based off the rationalist architectural movement. The Olimpico would be the antithesis of this design; massive, able to accommodate over 80,000 people, designed for the loudest of acoustics, all-purpose for accommodating events from major speeches and political rallies to sporting matches, and central to the geography of the capital.

stadio-olimpico-01Stadio dei Cipressi, before renovations turning it into the Stadio Olimpico

Within Foro Mussolini, Stadio dei Marmi, or “Stadium of the marbles” accompanied the Olimpico. This smaller stadium for training is encircled by 59 marble statues of athletes, each about four meters tall, replicating the designs of antiquity, and representing the different provinces of Italy. The statues, which were made from Carrara marble (the same marble quarry of Michaelangelo), were donated from the province of Viterbo, and sit next to the Academy of Physical Education.[6] The Hercules statues were made of white marble, which when in direct sunlight, exude a radiant, almost blinding glow. The celestial appearance combined with the poses and form of the statues and common theme of white throughout the Fascist regime was, as Simon adds, “a consistent feature of the myth of the new vitality of Fascist life, which architecture was intended to symbolize.”[7]

In the 1953-54 season, both Roma and Lazio made the switch out of the Stadio PNF, to the Olimpico.

Olimpicoatnight

Sources

[1] Testa, Alberto and Gary Armstrong, Football Fascism and Fandom: The Ultras of Italian Football (London: A & C Black Publishers Ltd, 2010), 31.

[2] Giuseppe Colalucci, A.S. Roma: da Testaccio all’Olimpico. Firenze: Grafica, 1977, in Francesco Ricatti, “La Roma: Soccer and Identity in Rome,” Annali d’Italianistica 28. 2010: 217-236.

[3] Ricatti, “La Roma: Soccer and Identity in Rome,” 219.

[4] Cei, Alberto, “Campo Testaccio in Rome: A Bad Italian History.” AlbertoCei.com, May 21, 2013. www.albertocei.com/en/2013/05/rivogliocampotestaccio/

[5] Mia Fuller, “Building Power: Italy’s Colonial Architecture and Urbanism, 1923-1940,” Cultural Anthropology 3 (November 1988): 455-487.

[6] Marchesini, Daniele, “Come in un Specchio: Il Corpo di Carnera e di Mussolini,” La Ricerca Folklorica 60 (October 2009): 25-28.

[7] Martin, “Football and Fascism,” 96.