The following story is of Vincenzo Paparelli, a fan attending a Derby della Capitale on the 28th of October, 1979. I was inspired to write this while reading John Foot’s Winning at All Costs, from which I am pulling the story from:


Angelo Paparelli couldn’t make the Rome derby on 28 October 1979. He lent his season ticket to his brother, VIncenzo, a car mechanic born in 1936, who went along to the game with his wife, Wanda.

In order to get a good view for the Rome derby, you need to get there early. Vincenzo arrived more than an hour before kick-off, and grabbed a bite to eat on the way in. Shortly after they had sat down in the packed curva nord, Vincenzo’s wife heard a kind of phhhfff sound. She turned to her husband to see him slumped forward. Something was sticking out of his head and blood had splashed onto other spectators. Her immediate reaction was to pull the object out. It had penetrated his brain through his left eye, and smoke was still coming out of its tail. The item lodged in Vincenzo’s skull was a nautical rocket and it had flown something like 160 metres over the whole pitch to embed itself in the head of the young father of two. A doctor who tried to save Paparelli later spoke of a “war injury.” Vincenzo died on the way to hospital. The game continued, amidst violent scenes as the Lazio fans tried to invade the pitch. Rome declared a day of mourning and the whole Lazio team attended Paparelli’s funeral.

The rocket had been “smuggled” into the stadium and launched by an eighteen-year-old fan, Giovanni Fiorillo. In 1993 Fiorillo died of a drug overdose.


I’ll end the story there. The point isn’t to blame either team, either person, the police, or even at the FIGC. The fact of the matter is that day in 1979, a father of two young children lost his life at a football match; something that should never, ever have occurred.

Now if you’re starting to think of me as some pacifist, library-loving guy who just wants peace, well that is wrong. Roma needs the 12th man, Roma needs the Curva Sud. We also need a new stadium that houses the Curva Sud. But what we can’t have anymore is rockets and bombs inside a damn stadium. That was 37 years ago, and I’m not sure much has changed. But aside from the restrictions that the city has imposed in the Curva Sud, which has nothing to do with what I’m saying, what needs to be produced is an alternative to flares. Something like a smoke canister, some type of safe alternative that would keep explosive devices outside a stadium, albeit a Roman stadium, from hurting anyone again.