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  • Writer's pictureSimon Basten

The day calcio died

1979-80 Season

Game 7, Serie A

Sunday, October 28, 1979

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Lazio Roma 1-1

Vincenzo Paparelli, a Lazio supporter, was killed by a flare fired from Curva Sud before the start of the game.

It was a gloomy Sunday late morning on October 28, 1978. The environment was not exactly friendly between the clubs but one has to also remember what was happening in the country. In 1979 there were 269 armed organisations in Italy and during the entire year there had been 659 terrorist acts. And the battle between the two groups of supporters reflected this climate of violence.

Source Wikipedia

About an hour before the game Vincenzo Paparelli, married with two children, was sitting in Curva Nord having a sandwich. From the Curva Sud, Giovanni Fiorillo fired two flares towards the Lazio Curva. They zig zagged over the top. For the third attempt, the Roma supporter lowered his aim. The flare hit Paparelli in the eye. His wife, sitting next to him, cried “Vincenzo don’t die, we have two children”. A fan tried to take the flare out of his head but only partially succeeded. He was quickly transported to the ambulance but he died on arrival at the hospital.

What happened then was complete chaos. The Lazio fans did not want the game to go on but the police decided that it was best to play for security reasons. The players did not really know exactly what had happened, but they did sense that something tragic had taken place. Captain Pino Wilson went under the Curva Nord to try and calm people down, hence learnt the awful news. In a climate of warfare with few Lazio supporters left in the stands, the game was played. Paparelli’s son Gabriele in a recent interview stated that the Captain “told me he felt it necessary to go out there that day to try and calm the Lazio supporters. And he said that if they hadn’t played, there would have been more than just one death”.

Source Wikipedia

The game was a farce. Neither team wanted to play. Lazio scored after 6 minutes. Renzo Garlaschelli crossed in the box from the right and Vincenzo Zucchini headed the ball in. Ten minutes later Roma equalised. Free kick from the left, a long ball from Mauro Amenta and Roberto Pruzzo’s perfect header beat Massimo Cacciatori.

For the rest of the match there was a slight territorial predominance for the Biancocelesti and Bruno Giordano tried to score a few times but he was always denied by Franco Tancredi.

Towards the end of the game there was an argument between Maurizio Montesi and Amenta and the referee sent both of them off. Pietro D’Elia did not want even a hint of trouble on the pitch. He even ignored a blatant penalty for Lazio because he was happy with the draw since it would allow a safe journey home for the rest of the spectators.

The ball ended up in Curva Nord twice and both times the fans did not want to give it back. Giordano and Wilson were forced to go under the stands to reclaim the football.

A terrible day, calcio would never be the same again.

Ticket owned by Dag Jenkins, photo by Dag Jenkins

Who played for Lazio

Substitutes: Avagliano, Manzoni, Todesco

Manager: Lovati

Who played for Roma

Tancredi, Rocca, Peccenini, Benetti, Turone (40' De Nadai), Santarini, Amenta, Di Bartolomei, Pruzzo, Ancelotti, B.Conti.

Substitutes: P.Conti, Ugolotti.

Manager: Liedholm.

Referee: D’Elia

Goals: 6’ Zucchini, 16’ Pruzzo

The aftermath

The police quickly identified the culprit but Giovanni Fiorillo disappeared. Apparently, he escaped to Switzerland. He turned himself in after 14 months. He was condemned to six years and ten months of jail. He died on March 24, 1993.

Lazio and Roma organised a friendly Rome vs Rest of Italy to collect money for the Paparelli family on November 18. 20,000 fans turned up in peace. This was the only occasion in which the Roma fans showed any kind of solidarity. From then on, the chant “10, 100, 1000 Paparelli” would echo constantly in the stadium and written on the walls all over Rome and in particular in front of Paparelli’s house.

Gabriele Paparelli said “During primary school I changed three schools in just five years. I practically lived without points of reference. I didn't socialise. My classmates were indifferent to me, in fact I often willingly isolated myself by distancing myself from the school context. I attended the Donatello state middle school in Villaggio Breda. On my desk I often found the writing "10-100-1000 Paparelli". Once I identified the author. I locked him inside the classroom. He was a kid like me. Twelve, maximum thirteen years of age. I asked him why he wrote it. He couldn't give me a plausible answer. He only said that he was a Roma fan and that Paparelli was a Lazio fan who died at the stadium in the derby. And for him this was enough to justify that writing. Basically, he didn't even know why he had done it”. But this was not enough. Continuous prank calls throughout the years. No respect for the dead nor for the living. No justification for the chant.

Captain Pino Wilson called the Paparelli family on Gabriele’s birthday and on the anniversary of his father’s murder. The Captain “was a constant presence in my life right from when I was little. I found it amazing that he always found the time to ring me on my birthday and on October 28”.


Vincenzo Di Michele: Pino Wilson – Vero capitano d’altri tempi; Fernandel 2013.


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