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 The Pioneers

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Honour member

Number of posts : 734
Age : 39
Country and city : Italy, Rome
Laziale since : I was born
Registration date : 2008-05-26

PostSubject: The Pioneers   Sat May 31, 2008 12:06 am

1. The Pioneers

Rediscovering the importance of sport: an Ideal called Lazio

The year 1896 celebrates, in Athens, the first Olympic Games of the Modern Era. These games, attended by about 250 athletes representing 14 Countries, are the largest international sports event ever held until that time. In those turbulent and difficult years, with many countries still involved in wars and a very uncertain future, the Olympic Games play a crucial and stabilising role, spreading the enthusiasm for sports among young people.
In Rome, the most popular sports at that time are running and swimming in the Tiber, sports affordable by the most since they do not require expensive equipment. A lucky minority can practice cycling, an increasingly popular activity that will experience its definitive consecration in 1903, with the first Tour de France. Several boat clubs are established along the Tiber, such as Canottieri Aniene, Canottieri Remo, Canottieri Tevere, devoted to high-society people only. The large majority of Roman youth athletes have two main meeting points: the Talacchi brothers’ building, below Margherita bridge, and Pippa Nera building. They are expression of a very enthusiastic way to approach sports, but still quite disorganised. At Pippa Nera, Luigi Bigiarelli is among the most well known guys.
Luigi Bigiarelli is a bersagliere who fought in Ethiopia in 1986. He survived to one of the most dramatic battles in the Italian history, at Adua, in March 1986, when sixteen thousands Italian soldiers, under the command of General Oreste Baratieri, were defeated by Menelik’s army. Seven thousands Italians died, while the rest had to suffer a long retreat in the Tigray region. Luigi, who witnessed the war’s atrocities, knew that Sport could bring peace and friendship between peoples and countries.
Bigiarelli is not satisfied about the disorganised approach to sports that characterised Roma. For Bigiarelli, sports need to be something well organised, with a clear social and educative value. He has in mind a very ambitious project. He comes up with an idea: to create a runners’ club, having in Piazza della Liberta’ its meeting point, so that all the members could take part in competitions wearing the same colours. Bigiarelli’s friends, a bunch of guys he used to train with, are enthusiast about the idea, and they accept immediately.
They choose to name the club “Societa’ Podistica Lazio”. Why Lazio? Grifoni explained: “We must represent the Urbs Aeterna, the Eternal City, but we must not be bound to it. We must find a name that encloses Rome, but which is not limited to Rome. Let’s call it Latium, or Lazio, our region, in Italian”. Latium, in Latin, comes from the Indo-European root “Lat“, meaning “wide, spacious”. In fact, Lazio is mainly a large valley where Rome lies. And this reflects perfectly the ideas of the founders of the Club. The eagle as symbol, from the Great Imperial Rome, the Eagle of Rome, the one and only Aquila of the Legions. The colours are taken from Greece, mother of Olympic Games (originally, Greece’s colours were white and pale blue, and then become white and blue).
The first Lazio consists mainly of very young athletes, most of them below the age of 20, having as Captains Luigi Bigiarelli, a true leader full of enthusiasm, and his brother Giacomo. The other guys are Arturo Balestreri, infantry sottotenente who seven years later will become the Italian champion on the 10.000m; Odoacre Aloisi, Alceste Grifoni, a future admiral of the Royal Navy, Giulio Lefevre, Galileo Massa, Alberto Mesones, Enrico Venier. According to other writings of that period, however, next to the nine founders there were also the future army colonnell Fortini, Masini, Mavi and Mazzonali; moreover, it is certain the presence of a very young Olindo Bitetti, determinant for the choice of the name and the social colours. Their motto is “Concordia parvae res crescunt”: in the harmony, even the smallest things grow big.
The following day, the newspaper “Il Messaggero” writes: “Yesterday, thanks to a group of keen youngsters, a running club named Lazio has been founded. Lazio, like the sister-clubs Milano, Torino and Genova, has the aim to promote this sport so useful for everybody, and young people especially. Lazio will organise competitions and training excursions; finally, Roma will have its own section of the Italian Audax podistico, headquartered in Milano. The number of members guarantees that this sport will spread as it deserves. The provisional headquarter is located in via degli Osti, n.15, for all those who need information.”
It was the 9th day of January, year 1900. This is when Lazio sees the light, within horse-drawn vehicles, buggies and the first electric train in Rome. A fate shaped by the bersagliere Luigi Bigiarelli. His dream will soon become true. The 2nd day of June, 1921, a Regio Decreto declares Lazio “Ente Morale”, for its social, cultural and sportive merits. In 1967, S.S. Lazio receives the “Golden Star” for sportive merits. Today, Lazio has 34 Sport sections, being the second biggest Polisportiva in Europe.

The first Lazio

During the first two years, the newborn society devotes her efforts to the gymnastic and all the sports already known in Rome. The first great event takes place on 21 April 1900: it is the “Giro of Castel Giubileo”, a half-marathon organised to celebrate the monument dedicated to Carlo Alberto, in via XX Settembre. The victory goes to two athletes from Torino, while Lazio wins the team competition, having four athletes within the first six.
One of the first issues to be addressed is the definition of the society’s headquarters: a very small flat in via Valadier n.6. The training ground is the huge Piazza D’Armi, a green field stretching from Lungotevere to Viale delle Milizie. Very soon, Piazza D’Armi will become a very popular place to visit for many Roman youngsters. And indeed, one of them, who will introduce himself by running hundred meters in exactly 13 seconds, will shape Lazio’s destiny for a long time: his name is Sante Ancherani.
Olindo Bitetti talked about those days in his memories: “the sport pioneers were called stinky-feet and madmen from the intellectual of that époque. The ladies grieved at us running in shorts during the cold winter evenings; but we had no choice but training in the winter evening to prepare for the competitions taking place in the spring, since we had to work or study during the day. Our passion brought us to the club’s locker rooms, some poor basement in the Prati quarter, where we would prepare for the training, our theet chattering with cold; then we would come back at the end of the session, steaming tiredness and enthusiasm”. At the Società Sportiva Lazio also the swimmers had to face the rigor of the winter: “Already in April, the swimmers would reach the cold Tiber to prepare for the first competitions, in July”. Bitetti also underlined the importance of Bigiarelli for that group of youngsters: “we showed to Bigiarelli the same devotion that the religious showed to the Saints”.
But how did the passion for sports start in Bigiarelli? More than one hundred years later, the diary of the Lazio’s founder offers precious answers. The diary, which starts on the day 21 April 1899, it’s written on an old 1881 memorandum book, to which Luigi had corrected all the dates, day by day. It’s the “Rome’s birthday” when the conversion of Bigiarelli takes place, apparently caused by a love’s disillusion. “21 April. My love has left for Bruxelles and my habits have changed. I do not know what to do anymore, I do not know where to go, and reaching those places where I spent beautiful moments with her does not ease my pain; everything bothers me, I even avoid my friends. In order to give a shock to my life and to avoid those places that made me recall of her, I’ve decided to abandon the gallant life, the walks, and the elegant coffees. I will change this life with sport exercises that, apart from distracting my mind, will tire me so that I will be able to sleep at night”
The exercises start on April 27: “training done, short fast run, good results”. The trainings become tougher and tougher, for Bigiarelli was testing the possibilities of his body, which could benefit from the hard military trainings. The results are immediately surprising when he tries the chilometer, a few days later: “first training: 3’14”; second training: 3’23”; third training: 3’12”; fourth training: 3’09”” During the summer Bigiarelli turns to swimming: “distances measured by myself: from Teverone to Acqua Acetosa 2.200 meters; from Acqua Acetosa to Ponte Mollo 1.800 meters; from Ponte Mollo to Ponte Margherita 3.600 meters”.
“5 October. I run 700 meters in 114”; got the idea to found a podistic club named Società Podistica Romana” So the dream begins. The last page of the diary talks about the meeting where the idea Lazio had certainly been discussed: “31 December. We went together to a nice place in the fields to have lunch. Very nice atmosphere”.

Bigiarelli moves to Belgium

In less than one year from is birth, Lazio is already turning the first page of its history book. The founder Luigi Bigiarelli moves to Belgium, not to return. Behind this decision, the desire to follow his brother, who moved there earlier to work as goldsmith; as well as a few clashes with other Lazio members. Bigiarelli had earlier refused to become Lazio president because he believed in organisations where all the members have the same rights and duties. Moreover, among the reasons that probably caused the decision of Bigiarelli, there might probably be also the sale of some Lazio thropies, in order to gather up some money to face the club expenses. Although he will never come back, he will always be tied to his Lazio.
In 1902, a French newspaper writes about an Italian guy winning the 30 km marathon in the Fiandre, with the total time of 2 hours and 28 minutes. He is wearing a white and pale-blue jersey. His name is Luigi Bigiarelli. He was however not new to incredible deeds: only a few months earlier he had been running from Roma to Firenze in 2 days and 19 hours: 700 km run with only a pause during the night! The news of the great victory of the Fiandre marathon, reported by the Gazzetta dello Sport, is unfortunately the last one before the premature death of the young Lazio athlete. Luigi Bigiarelli will die a few years later because of a lung infection, at the age of 25; a terrible destiny, since the doctors had always told him “with your lungs, you could never die because of a lung infection”.
The victory of the Marathon was indeed his spiritual testament, whose echoe had reached the proud shores of the river Tiber. In Rome, the dream of Bigiarelli is soon becoming a reality. Lazio opens to other sports, such as rowing and swimming. Then, to something completely unknown: Rome is about to discover an incredibly fascinating sport.
Bigiarelli has already moved to Belgium when, in January 1901, an odd guy just arrived from Paris knocks at the Lazio office’s door, in Via Valadier. Bruno Seghettin, an Italian immigrant to France and member of the Paris Racing Club, takes out from his bag a leather ball: the first football seen in Rome. Immediately afterwards, Bruno and the enthusiast Lazio guys are already in Piazza D’Armi, to discover together the new game. Lazio has just started his greatest adventure in history.
The 21 March 1901 the first assembly is held. The Statute is approved and Giuseppe Pedercini is appointed President. Lazio athletes achieve important victories all over Italy in their disciplines, but it is football the sport gaining the greatest attention. It soon becomes irresistible, and Piazza D’Armi is the theatre of endless matches, one after each other in a continuous loop. The only problem is the absence of a real opponent: Lazio players do not have anyone but themselves to challenge.
This is how Sante Ancherani, one of the greatest Lazio’s strikers, described the trainings:
“At first we used to make the goals using our clothes. We measured seven steps and a half. I was quite fast, and it was clear since the beginning that I was able to do things that my teammates could not do. After we formed the team, I was elected captain, and used to play as a striker.
For a while, we kept going like that. Then, we started using sticks to make the goals. We didn’t have much, just enough. Then we started playing each other. We would take off our jackets and start playing. We had a cobbler put a number of strings below our walking shoes. That’s how we played”

Last edited by Conn on Sat May 31, 2008 12:09 am; edited 1 time in total
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