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 Chapter VIII: Derby in Jakarta.
For the derby, I return to the capital, Jakarta. There, I meet up with many good friends from Facebook that I never had the pleasure of meeting until that day. One of them is Risda, one of the top boys of Laziale Jakarta division, and someone who has helped me on numerous occasions with banner designs. He is a very talented and dedicated graphic designer, and together, we came up with the following banner that we unveil to the world that derby day.
‘THE DISTANCE DOES NOT CLEAR YOUR SMELL! AS Riomma Merda Worldwide!’
Risda picks me up from my hotel and gives me a ride to the bar where the Lazio supporters gather to watch the derby. It’s rumoured that about a hundred of them will attend, and that many knew Nigel, ‘The Laziale from Singapore’, will be there too.
We arrive two hours before the match, and there’s already a huge group of supporters at the venue. The boys are all decked out in Lazio colours, and carried flags and scarves with them. They are in great spirits and ready for battle.
Felix, the founder of the Lazio Indonesia group, and several other key members are also present. The Lazio Indonesia group was founded in 1999 with a handul of members only; now, the group boasts more than 3000 members across the country.
But how did all this take place in Indonesia, you may ask? How in the world did Lazio gain so much popularity outside Italy, in South-East Asia, of all places? Well, most of the present Lazio supporters in Indonesia started following the Biancoceleste during the heyday of the early millennium, when Sven Goran Eriksson’s side lifted the Scudetto and played in the Champions League every week. This loyal breed of fans remained with the side despite the various setbacks the club would face, including near-bankruptcy. Of course, there are also many fans from the pre-Scudetto era, as well as new fans that hop on the bandwagon along the way.
Back in the bar, Risda tells me that they have reserved a special seat for me right in front, as I’m their guest on the night, but I politely decline. I hate being in the spotlight. Besides, I really only want to sing and shout with the rest of the boys like at Curva Nord, and not just sit down on a sofa, as if I’m some big shot. It just isn’t my style.
The supporters come up to me to say hello, and even present me with gifts such as custom-made Lazio T-shirts, a Lazio bag, a Lazio mouse pad and – believe it or not – a beautiful ‘Roma Merda’ scarf, which resides on my television set in Singapore to this day.
Cheers and laughter ring out in the pub when I unveil the banner to the crowd, so much so that they hang it on the wall right away.
“Nigel! You are famous here because of what you did in Rome!” Risda says. “What the f*** did I do in Rome? Shag Lotito?” I ask.
“No! It was the picture you took with Paolo Di Canio!”
“You were holding on to a Lazio Indonesia scarf!”
“Many of us are extremely grateful for what you did!”
Risda shouts excitedly. It seems that the picture of Di Canio, plus the videos of the Laziali welcoming Fernando Muslera and Alvaro Gonzalez at Jakarta airport – something in which Lazioland.com played a major part – helped propel Lazio Indonesia to global prominence. Many in Rome has since come to acknowledge these loyal fans.
After my short speech, where Adrian introduces me to the crowd, female dancers dressed in Lazio colours ascend to the stage. Apparently, they are hired to spice up the atmosphere, and admittedly, it’s quite a feast for the eyes as they strut around.
Right after the dance, the Lazio anthem, ‘Vola Lazio Vola’ plays in the bar, and the place springs to life. Everyone raises their scarves spontaneously and sing together at the top of their voices. It is quite a spectacular experience.
The match starts, and it’s the worst possible start to a derby match anyone can imagine. Within five minutes, Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo breaks the offside trap and slots the ball past Lazio’s keeper, Federico Marchetti. Andre Dias, the Brazilian defender of Lazio, is slow in springing the offside trap, allowing Osvaldo to seize the opportunity and hand his team-mates the breakthrough.
Everyone in the bar goes dead quiet and wonders how that had happened.
Risda tries to lift the morale of the boys by initiating a chant.
“ROMA! ROMA! VAFFANCULO!”
Even that fails to lift our spirits. We are too shell-shocked to accept the fact that we have gone a goal down in just under five minutes.
My head sinks to the table, and with a thousand needles pinned to my heart, I lament, “Not again. Not again…”
Roma threatens as Simone Perrota drills wide from outside the box, much to the relief of everyone around me.
Lazio’s first real sight on goal comes from a quick counter-attacking move involving Cristian Brocchi, Djibril Cisse, Hernanes, and Miroslav Klose. Brocchi picks out Cisse, who makes a penetrating run down the left, before the Frenchman cuts in to find Hernanes. He appears to lose his footing but soon regains his balance to pass the ball to Klose, who scuffs his shot wide.
Everyone in the bar lets out a loud groan, “OHHHHHHH!”
“ALE ALE ALE ALE…..KLOSEEE! KLOSEEE!” The supporters start to sing.
Roma are close to scoring again, when Jose Angel’s dangerous cross is cleared by Giuseppe Biava, after Osvaldo barely fails to control the ball. In reply Hernanes attempts a few long-range efforts that go close – but not in the net.
The pulsating first-half ends with Roma taking a one-goal lead to the dressing room.
The entertainment resumes onstage with the dancers, but I’m not keen. The images of Osvaldo’s goal are still replaying in my head, and I’m very angry. Not even a striptease display can cool me off at that point.
Senad Lulic replaces Stefan Radu during the break, and Lazio begins the second-half a changed side. The team is committing many players forward and the pressure pays off. Following a brilliant Hernanes through-ball and a great run by Brocchi, he is pulled down by Simon Kajer in the penalty area, prompting the referee to send off the Dane and award a penalty to the home side.
The boys cheer but I choose to stay calm. I do not like the idea of celebrating before I’m certain that a goal is scored. However, as much as I wish to remain calm, I cannot. My heart pounds a thousand beats a second, and I just cannot bring myself to watch Hernanes take the spot-kick – I cover my eyes with my scarf.
Moments later, the shouts of ‘GOOOOOOOOOAL’ split the air.
The bar erupts and I’m locked in embrace with Risda, Nua, and many good friends who crowd around me. It’s a huge emotional relief. After the goal, the mood changes and everyone starts singing again. “FORZA LAZIO ALE! FORZA LAZIO ALE!” We chant passionately.
We are confident we can win this derby, especially since Roma are reduced to ten men.
Just when I thought we are going through a brief moment of bad luck, Klose’s looping header hits the bar and Cisse’s sweet volley comes off the far post! I bang my fist so hard on the table that the bottles of beer fall off.
“F***!!! We are cursed!” I shout.
“Chill, Nigel, take it easy!” The boys calm me down.
It’s deep into stoppages and Lazio looks set to earn a point. Then, from nowhere a delightful chip from Matuzalem finds Klose, who in turn keeps his cool to slips the ball past two on-rushing Roma defenders and their keeper, Maarten Stekelenburg.
It’s a goal!! It’s a great goal!! Klose scores with practically the last kick of the game! The bar explodes into over-the-top celebration and goes wild with euphoria! There are people jumping on me as we hug and scream in jubilation.
I let out all the anger and all the derby frustration that has been pent up deep in me over the past two years. We are free from our shackles!
As the referee blows the final whistle, I sit on the sofa crying [again] while the boys celebrate the glorious victory. I’m so glad we’ve won that I weep like a baby; I simply can’t control myself. This victory means the world to me. The post-victory celebration lasts until the wee hours of the morning, as we made out way to the national fountain of Jakarta, Bundaran Hi. Hendra led the way as we throw ourselves into the water to celebrate. It’s a truly memorable derby spent with an incredible bunch of people and more importantly, Laziali.
As I end my beautiful trip, I read out a pledge to tour the whole of Indonesia in the future, in the hope of meeting more Lazio supporters.
Something I hope my wife will permit.