Tuesday January 9 2018
On this day: Lazio founded

On this day 118 years ago, Lazio were founded in the Piazza della Libertà by a group of nine Roman men.

The leader of the group was athlete and former soldier Luigi Bigiarelli, who formed the club with eight of his friends.

Keen to be seen as representing more than just the city of Rome, the nine chose the name Lazio, after the region which houses the city, and chose sky blue kits in tribute to ancient Greece.

The eagle on their badge, giving the nickname ‘Aquile’ is in reference to the Greek god Zeus.

The club’s full name is Societa Sportiva Lazio, and initially the Biancocelesti represented a multi-sport club, before becoming best known for football.

The football team’s official match was in 1902 against Virtus, and they won the 1907 Roman championship organised by the FIGC.

Despite that, the Aquile weren’t invited to join the league until 1912 when the Federation began organising tournaments in central and southern Italy.

Lazio reached the national final which was the precursor to Serie A on three occasions, but lost to Pro Vercelli in 1913, Casale in 1914 and Genoa in 1923.

In 1927, Italo Foschi led efforts by the fascist government to establish a Roman team which could challenge the domination of the northern clubs.

Given that Benito Mussolini’s ideology was based on centralised power, it was unacceptable to have Juventus, Milan, Inter, Genoa and Pro Vercelli dominating the league.

It was ordered that all Roman teams should merge, but Lazio refused and thanks to the backing of general Giorgio Vaccaro they were allowed to remain an independent club as Roman FC, SS Alba-Audace and Fortitudo-Pro Roma SGS for A.S Roma - giving birth to the Derby della Capitale.

As a result, the Biancocelesti continue to style themselves as Rome's "real" club, with the Giallorossi the artificial imposters.

Lazio competed in the first ever unified Serie A, but in their first three seasons they could only manage finishes of 15th, eighth and 13th.

The arrival of Silvio Pioli - still Serie A’s all-time top goalscorer - improved their fortunes though and in the pre-war period the Biancocelesti became regular fixtures near the top of the table.

Following the war though things proved more difficult, with Torino dominating Serie A and Lazio returning to mid-table obscurity.

A first piece of silverware finally arrived in 1958, with Maurilio Prini scoring the only goal as the Aquile beat Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia final.

In 1961 though they were relegated to Serie B, where they would spend two seasons, and though they won promotion in 1963 they were relegated after a financial crisis in 1967 and again in 1971.

A second-place finish in Serie B in the 1971-72 season proved to be the catalyst for the most successful period in the club’s history, however and Coach Tommaso Maestrelli’s side finished second upon their return to the top flight.

Inspired by the goals of Giorgio Chinaglia they went one better in 1973-74, finishing two points ahead of Juventus to win a first Scudetto.

Lazio were not admitted to the European Cup after violence in a match against Ipswich Town in the UEFA Cup, and they struggled to build upon their Scudetto success.

Chinaglia left the club in 1976, and on December 3 that same year Maestrelli died suddenly of a heart attack - the striker flew back from New York to see him, but by that time the Coach was already in a coma.

The following year brought further heartache for the club and fans, as midfielder Luciano Re Cecconi was killed in bizarre and tragic fashion.

Just six weeks after Maestrelli’s death, Re Cecconi and teammate Pietro Ghedin decided to play a practical joke on a mutual friend, Bruno Tabochini.

The pair, along with a friend, Giorgio Fraticcioli, ran into Tabochini’s jewellery shop pretending to be armed robbers.

With their faces covered, the jeweller didn’t recognise his friends and fired his a 7.65 caliber Walther pistol, hitting Re Cecconi in the chest. The midfielder died in hospital at 20.04 PM.

Lazio were relegated in 1980 as part of the Totonero scandal, and spent three seasons in the second division.

Having returned to Serie A for the 1983-84 season, the Biancocelesti survived relegation on the final day, but they finished bottom in the subsequent season.

In 1986 another betting scandal saw Lazio deducted nine points in Serie B, and it took play-off wins over Taranto and Campobasso to avoid a drop into Serie C.

In 1988 they once again returned to Serie A, and in 1992 the club was bought by Sergio Cragnotti, the head of the food conglomerate Cirio.

The new President poured money into the club, and they consistently finished in the top four, winning the last ever Cup Winners’ Cup in 1999.

After losing the Scudetto to Milan by just a point in 1999, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side did the domestic double in the following season.

Having gone into the final weekend a point behind Juventus, the Aquile secured a comfortable 3-0 win over Reggina at the Olimpico.

The Bianconeri were in Perugia, but the game was delayed after a rain storm, meaning a nervous wait for the Biancocelesti faithful.

Juve lost 1-0 though, and Lazio took the title by a point, sparking wild celebrations in Rome.

Following that success, they came the first ever Italian club to be floated on the stock exchange, but things soon took a dark turn.

Cirio was in financial trouble, with 51 per cent of the club owned by the food giant.

The business collapsed into bankruptcy, defaulting on €1.1bn worth of bonds, and Cragnotti was sentenced to prison for his role in the scandal in 2015.

Lazio were forced to sell their stars, most gallingly club hero Alessandro Nesta to Milan, and were only saved from bankruptcy after an intervention by Claudio Lotito.

Having initially been relegated to Serie B as part of the Calciopoli scandal, the Biancocelesti were instead given a three-point deduction for the 2006-07 season, and a 30-point deduction for the previous campaign, which saw them miss out on the UEFA Cup.

While Lotito’s reign has been controversial among Laziale, they won the Coppa Italia in 2009 and 2013, beating their city rivals Roma in the final with a goal from Senad Lulic in the latter.

Now coached by Simone Inzaghi, Lazio have a young and exciting team, and are seen as real contenders for a Champions League place this season.

The Aquile are also through to the Last 32 of the Europa League, and fans are not unreasonably dreaming of a first European trophy in 19 years.

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