A deeper look at the Derby della Capitale, one of the fiercest rivalries in Europe,…
Getting to Know the Napoli-Roma Derby del Sole
What was once a strong brotherhood between two clubs outside of Italy’s powerful north, the Derby del Sole is now one of the most hostile rivalries in Europe.
The Derby del Sole refers to the matches of this rivalry being played in the sunny southern region of Italy, but first we’ll start with a very brief history of each club.
The club was formed in 1926, and didn’t accomplish a whole lot on the pitch until 1984 when they signed Diego Maradona from Barcelona.
With Maradona, they won Serie A in 1987 and 1990, as well as another Coppa and the 1989 UEFA Cup, essentially today’s Europa League — their only European trophy to date. The club retired his number 10 shirt and he is still held very highly in the city, with murals and shrines all over and after his death in 2020, they even renamed their stadium after him.
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After he left the club in 1992 for Sevilla, things got so bad the club technically folded and had to be re-formed as a business in 2004. They restarted in Serie C, the third tier, and they made it back to Serie A three years later.
For the next 15 years they had great players, great managers and great fans, but only another Coppa Italia to show for it. Then last season they caught lightning in a bottle, when a team of unproven young players tore up the league, winning the title by 16 points, setting off epic celebrations throughout the city.
AS Roma, or simply Roma, were founded in 1927 as the result of the merger of three clubs located in Rome. Similar to their Roman neighbors Lazio, the club has spent the majority of its history in the top flight of Italian football, outside of the 1951-52 season, where they played in the second division.
Roma really hit their stride in the 80s when they won Serie A in 1983, as well as four Coppa Italia’s in 1980, 1981, 1984, and 1986. They also finished as runners-up in the European Cup (now the Champions League) in 1984.
Recently Roma has been making some ripples in European competitions. Led by coach José Mourinho, they won the first-ever Europa Conference League in 2022. The following year they made the final of the Europa League before falling to Spain’s Sevilla FC.
Origins of the Derby del Sole
The first match between these two clubs came in 1928, just one year after Roma was formed. The two clubs were the first two clubs outside of northern Italy to be admitted into the National Division, despite this a rivalry never really formed until the 70s and 80s.
In the 70s and 80s, both clubs became more successful and were growing into major forces in Italian football. This is also the time when the name for this rivalry, the Derby del Sole, really took hold. These two clubs also began to challenge northern clubs like AC Milan, Juventus, and Inter Milan for superiority in Serie A. The two clubs had a strong bond due to them both being from outside of northern Italy and the two sides would often cheer for each other and they even had a pregame tradition where they would exchange flags between the two sides.
The rivalry was a very civil and relaxed affair until a game in Rome in 1987 when frustrations from Roma fans over watching Napoli lift the league trophy led to violence breaking out between fans and even the players. To make matters worse, Napoli midfielder Salvatore Bagni made an offensive gesture to Roma fans as he was leaving the pitch, and it led to even high tensions in the crowd.
Matchups between the two after this incident were classified as ‘high risk’ and the reputation for this derby fundamentally changed. During the next three decades, the rivalry began to grow and by 2014 the tensions between the clubs were at an all-time high.
During the 2013-2014 season, the two clubs met in the Coppa Italia semifinals. Each team had an enormously talented squad, but it was Napoli who ended up securing the victory over two legs and moved on to the final. Napoli was set to take on Fiorentina in the final at the Estadio Olimpico in Rome, but before the match had even kicked off a Roma Ultra attacked a Napoli fan bus and killed a Napoli supporter, while injuring a number of others. This tragic incident further damaged the relationship between the two clubs and things have not been the same since.
Take a look at Football Culture’s video on the history of the Derby del Sole, which they describe as “The Tragic Story of Italy’s Broken Friendship”.
Overall State of the Derby del Sole
As of the start of December 2023, Napoli and Roma have played 172 times since 1928, with Napoli winning 56 to Roma’s 63, with 53 draws.
The derby continues to be a hotly contested affair for supporters and clubs alike, and with both teams in Serie A, you can expect this matchup to occur at least twice a year for years to come.
Roma vs Napoli Tickets
Groundhopper Guides is a registered ticket agent for both Napoli and Roma, so whenever they play, we can offer tickets. The next Derby del Sole is currently scheduled for the weekend of April 28, 2024.