Nigel Gan is a dedicated Lazio fan from Singapore who is the author of ‘10,000 KM FOR YOU – The Travel Diary of a Football Fan: The Rome Derby’. Written entirely in English, the novel focuses on Nigel’s adventurous journey to the Derby della Capitale between Lazio and Roma while also briefly touching upon both history of the club and how the rivalry between the Biancocelesti and Giallorossi kick-started back in 1927. In collaboration with Nigel, The Laziali will be releasing the book chapter-by-chapter (on the website) to promote his work to Lazio supporters worldwide; below is the prologue.
“Blue is the colour and football is the game! S.S. Lazio, You’ll never walk alone!”
These lyrics make up the famous terrace song of the Curva Nord in the Rome Olympic Stadium, better known as the Stadio Olimpico.
Curva Nord, which stands for the ‘North Curve’ or ‘North Stand’, is traditionally a stronghold for the Lazio faithful. It is the heart of the stadium, and it is in the Curva Nord that audiences around the world witness the incredible vocal support, and gorgeous choreography displays by the Lazio supporters.
As an ultimate tribute to her supporters, the Twelfth Man of the Team, the club has retired the number twelve from the squad list. Similar to Liverpool’s Kop in Anfield, the devout fans of the Curva Nord are the driving force behind their heroes, prominently respected throughout the world for their sheer passion for the team they affectionately call the Biancocelesti (White and Sky Blue).
Braving the cold wind and freezing temperatures, I stand at the Monte Mario grandstand, awe-struck by the beautiful sight of the Curva. It’s my first visit to Rome and my first Lazio game. My body shakes uncontrollably as the needle-like wind pierces the outer layers of fabric straight to my skin. For a Singaporean unaccustomed to Central European winter, it’s the closest to a nightmare for me.
At least I’m not alone. Everyone around me is up on their feet; fastening their scarves, and singing their hearts out to the Lazio anthem as if it’s the only thing that matters in their lives. The raw emotion of the moment ripples through me as if it’s possible to feel every ounce of passion stirring in them as they sing. The sensations are akin to my first kiss, once upon a time.
Adrenaline level rising, and in bid to keep warm, my impassioned voice lifts in unison with the others around, kindred as we are in elevating our idols and the team we love. As the moment culminates, reality dawns that here is finally the fruition of a dream, threading my way into this majestic temple of football, the Stadio Olimpico. A dream I had ever since I was a thirteen-year-old. The year was 1993.
It was the school holidays, and spending hours on my homework wasn’t my idea of fun. Quality television programmes were sparse, but just as I was about to switch off the television, I came across a channel where a football match was being shown.
Nothing captures a boy’s attention better than a game of football, and this one got me particularly interested – not because it featured the usual English teams such as Manchester United or Liverpool, but rather, it was a game of Italian football. Although I had supported the Italian national team during the 1990 World Cup, I had yet to meet my favourite club.
Then, everything changed.
S.S. Lazio were playing Inter Milan. I did not know either of the teams, but it was ‘watch or get back to my homework’, so I watched.
One player in particular caught my eye. He was wearing the sky blue colours of Lazio, had beautiful blonde hair, and looked every bit the charming young man. This number eleven was a constant threat to the opposition team in blue and black stripes, whom I learnt as Inter. Whenever he received the ball, the cheers from the crowd grew louder, and the match commentator’s tone grew more animated. It was clear that the fans loved him, and they knew he would create something magical.
True enough, from a brilliant counter-attacking move by Lazio, this player received a pass from a teammate, and with a terrific burst of speed, accelerated away from his marker.
Inter were caught out in defence as they had committed too many players forward.
It was two-versus-two. The Inter defenders ahead of him were backtracking anxiously as if expecting him to pounce. They had their eyes fixed on the ball, and slowly it looked as if though they were ready to hack him down. But the footwork of the number eleven was nimble – his legs a wickedly fast blur – and the ball looked as though it was glued to his feet as he effortlessly wriggled his way past the defenders.
He had a teammate to his right but decided against passing the ball out to him. He used his pace to outrun his opponents and just when the crowd thought he was going to release the ball, he surprised everyone by taking on another defender before burying his shot into the net with his lethal left foot.
The stadium erupted. The match commentator went absolutely wild as he screamed, “YESSSSSS!”
It was a truly sensational goal. With his arm raised, he ran towards the home fans in celebration. His teammates rushed towards him and they celebrated together under the stands, where the supporters of Lazio had huge flags and flares. It was a wonderful spectacle.
I sat on the couch, speechless as I absorbed the game on television, my mouth so wide open I could have swallowed a watermelon.
It was love at first sight. I was blown away and mesmerized by this wonderful player – his name was Giuseppe Signori. More importantly, it was this goal and this man that kickstarted my lifelong passion for the Biancoceleste. For the thirteen-year-old watching from his home in Singapore, it was clear that he had finally found his team.
Seventeen years on, as I stand at the Stadio Olimpico seeing my favourite team in action, I realize that I have not only fulfilled a childhood dream but how truly blessed I am to be a ‘Laziale’.