Over 4,000 “hearts filled with passion” packed the “wall of the Olimpico” when Frosinone visited Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico this season. The town is home to around 45,000 people, so nearly 10% of them had descended upon Rome to see their side play. As they arrived at the Stadio Olimpico, the clamour of the yellow and blue morass reached a crescendo.
Having travelled in coaches, minibuses, cars and trains, they were keen to get their first taste of a match which qualifies as a derby geographically, but is non-existent in terms of history and prestige. It falls well short in comparison to theDerby del Basso Lazio, Frosinone’s virulent and historic rivalry with Latina Calcio.
Nonetheless, there is a level of ill-feeling that belies the short history of this rivalry. In February, La Repubblica published a phone call in which the Lazio president, Claudio Lotito, bemoaned the difficulty he would have when selling TV rights should “minnows” such as Carpi and Frosinone be promoted to Serie A. In a particularly disparaging outburst, he claimed that the TV companies didn’t even know Frosinone existed. Unsurprisingly, the Frusinati took their chance to berate Lazio’s president and chants of “Lotito pezzo di merda” echoed around the Stadio Olimpico. Frosinone’s resistance was broken by two late goals, but the support of the travelling thousands endured.
Afterwards, the club took the chance to thank their fans on their Facebook page. “Over 4,000 hearts filled with passion spurred on our boys for 90 minutes. The scenes will be difficult to forget.” They invited fans to recreate the “wall of yellow and blue that made us proud of our history and origins. Search and tag yourselves in the photos so that we can rebuild ‘the wall’ of the Olimpico”. This yellow and blue assault may have paled in comparison to the Sack of Rome, but considering that Lazio’s colossal home could comfortably house the population of Frosinone, this was quite the invasion.
In many ways, the story of Frosinone Calcio is a footballing fairytale comparable to that of fellow Serie A debutants Carpi. Wedged between the Ernici and Lepini mountain ranges, the town’s football team was formed in 1912 under the guise of Union Sportive Frusinate. Their route to Serie A has been one of prolonged struggle and two years ago they were competing in Italy’s third tier – the Lega Pro. But back-to-back promotions saw them reach the top flight for the first time in the club’s history.
It was this modest history that fuelled Lotito’s haughty comments, but the Lazio president would do well to remember that, like Carpi, Frosinone have provided a positive blueprint. The success of the Gialloazzurri (the Yellow and Blues) has been achieved through financial prudence and not spending above their means. Furthermore, the club has pursued a policy of stability and youth. This is encapsulated by Frosinone’s head coach, Roberto Stellone, who took charge in 2012 after his success with the under-19s and who, at just 38, is comfortably the youngest coach in Serie A.
Frosinone’s support is often considered one of the most passionate and numerous in central Italy, especially given the relative size of the club and town. Mirroring the proliferation of organised support during the period, the movement began with the formation of Fedayn in the early 1970s. Originally, the ultras’ stronghold was located in the Curva Sud and it wasn’t until the end of the 1980s that they shifted permanently to the Curva Nord. The club operated in the lower reaches of Calcio’s professional tiers during these years, yet the birth of Heroes Korps (1979) ensured support was ardent and the movement maintained leadership and direction. A group called Freak Sisters also emerged, allegedly one of the first made up of solely women.
Ten years after the appearance of Heroes Korps, there was a fusion of some of the Curva Nord’s smaller groups, namely Fronte and the Rebels Group. They had no interest in challenging Heroes Korps for leadership of the Curva, but instead wanted to create an exclusive group born of “action, militancy and comradery”. To borrow their words verbatim, they were born as a “movimento antagonista”, a cadre if you will. This rhetoric and the adoption of the moniker Uber Alles, a term hijacked by the National Socialists to serve their ideology in 1930s Germany, reveals their right-wing allegiances. Further proof of this lies in a vignette from Dr Mark Doidge’s book, Football Italia. Doidge recalls an episode in which the left-wing supporters of Livorno were banned from attending a game at Frosinone in 2009 due to the potential for politically charged clashes after some Frusinati had performed the Fascist salute.
The existence of extremism has long been a problem in Italian football and there is recognition that it remains profound, as illustrated by a La Repubblica reportexploring the politicisation of ultras and their links to other fan groups across Europe. But not all fans are the same and, there have been no notable reports of trouble since the club was promoted to Serie A.
The ground is becoming quite the fortress, with the club unbeaten in their last four home games. This is partly down to the vociferous backing of their supporters and they have showcased their propensity for the creative. While the players entered the field against Roma in September, the Curva Nord was transformed into a mosaic of the town’s skyline, underlined by a banner reading “We will fight for our city till eternity.” There are no half-measures and this zeal can sometimes prove infectious.
Few Frosinone fans will forget their first ever Serie A point, let alone those who travelled to watch their side snatch a last-gasp equaliser against reigning champions Juventus. Perhaps as eventful was their journey to Turin. Travelling on a Ryanair flight, some of the Frosinone ultras burst into song, serenading both passengers and pilot with a selection of their favourite chants. Some passengers even participated in the in-flight entertainment. While the best was yet to come in the form of Frosinone’s historic 1-1 draw away to Juventus, transforming a plane into a Curva is an experience that both the passengers and ultras will not forget in a hurry.