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 Among the two wars

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PostSubject: Among the two wars   Sat May 31, 2008 12:23 am

2. Among the two Wars

Bernardini and Sclavi

When football can start again, Lazio, which has lost many athletes during the war, discovers a champion, Fulvio Bernardini. Certainly, there was no lack of luck: indeed, Bernardini had planned a trial with Fortitudo, but once arrived there, the gate of the pitch was locked. He then turned to Lazio, where everyone immediately realised how great were his potential. Bernardini, who at that time was fourteen, had played up to that moment in a small neighbourhood team, the “Esquilia”, as a goalkeeper. And as a goalkeeper he played his very first match with Lazio, on 19 October 1919, against Audace in the Canalini tournament.
From the very beginning, Fulvio impressed both the managers and the fans with his fantastic skills, although nobody could have imagined the career that was waiting for that kid, and, more than this, the fact that Bernardini would have found the glory playing in a different position than the goal.
The very young Fulvio was one of the positive things in that period, when Lazio had almost lost the supremacy in Rome against the very strong Fortitudo, which could field at that time quality players such as the Sansoni brothers, Alessandroni, Degni and Corbjons. Because of these players, even the strong northern teams, such Juventus, Inter, Bologna, Pro Vercelli e compagnia calciante, started to consider Fortitudo as a serious opponent.
A second important thing from that not great period was the recognition of Ente Morale awarded to the club founded by Bigiarelli; the reason for such a glorious award were the numerous merits in the fields of culture and sport that Lazio, guided by Ballerini, had accumulated in the previous years. Lazio had indeed become the ideal gathering point, where many youngsters that wanted to play sports had found a perfect environment. A key role in awarding the recognition of Ente Morale has been played by Enrico Boselli, a well known politician and Lazio member, as well as Ballerini’s friend. As we will see later on, the title of Ente Morale will turn out to be crucial and will shape the destiny of the future biancoceleste club.

The 1921 tournament had been very important for the Italian football. Many people started supporting the idea of having one single tournament, whose access was based on merits. On the other hand, the majority still favoured the current system, where every club could participate, with the consequence that the tournament needed to be split in two.
During that season, the Lazio manager Baccani decided to field Bernardini as a forward, obeying the insisting pressure of Fulvio’s family, who were worried about the violence of the play, which often put the goalkeepers in dangerous situations. The results of such a move were fantastic: the young Fuffo showed immediately his talent, as well as great potential and a lot of room for improvements. Led by the young star, Lazio gained again the Rome’s supremacy in the 1922-23 tournament, also thanks to new interesting players with good qualities, like Saraceni. And not only in Rome: filled with enthusiasm for the good results, Lazio won the central-southern tournament, gaining the right to play the national final against Genoa.
Expectedly, the Gryphons easily won the title, (4-1 and 2-0). The rossoblù captain, the mythical “Son of God” De Vecchi, was however impressed by the authority with which Bernarini had moved on the pitch, even in that difficult situation due to the gap between the two teams. At the end of the match he approached the young Lazio player to congratulate him, predicting a brilliant career for him.
The final against Genoa proved to be important for another reason, too. Indeed, that very day Lazio met Ezio Sclavi. Sclavi, who at that time was in Rome for the military service, had already sustained a trial with Lazio, but a negative decision by the manager seemed to close any possibility for a Lazio career for him. Later on, however, a lucky circumstance brought a Lazio manager to notice Ezio playing in a summer tournament, and to realise the mistake that had been done; the initial assessment of Sclavi was completely overturned, and the goalkeeper was immediately called up to defend the Lazio goal starting from the following season.
Another important signing characterised the 1923-24 Lazio: the forward Vojak, from Istria, a very classy player who would eventually be called up for the national team. His goals unfortunately were not enough to bring Lazio to the national final, which was conquered instead by the Savoia of Torre Annunziata.
Within Lazio, the contraposition between two opposite views of football became stronger and stronger. On the one hand, there were those who wanted to remain faithful to the Olympic ideals, with the president Ballerini in primis. On the other hand, there were those who shared the more modern views of a football that was heading towards a professional system, like Olindo Bitetti; they claimed that keeping following the romanticism of the past époque would have lead Lazio to a marginal position in football. With the latter approach becoming stronger, the fracture in the Lazio management seemed definitive. Ballerini, who did not share the new approach, and being a man who did not like compromises, decided to step aside in favour of Giorgio Guglielmi.

Bernardini in the National team

In the meantime, Lazio had signed the first professional manager of his history, the Hungarian Desiderio Koszegy, and had considerably improved thanks to the arrivals of atletes such as Pardini and Cattaneo. Once again, Lazio was the leader of the central-southern football.
The new trainer was very prepared, and his major merit is to have understood that the fantastic skills of Bernardini, and particularly his ability to interpret the match brilliantly, could shine much better in the center of the pitch; he then gave to Fulvio the key role in the Method, the mostly used football module at that time. In the new role of method midfielder, Bernardini impressed immediately, confirming in the best possible way the intuition by Koszegy.
After a series of extraordinary performances, the youngster who had became the leader of the biancocelesti finally reached the national team, where he was called up on the occasion of the match against France to be played on 22 March 1925. The call up of Bernardini was also due to the insisting way in which Baccani, who was part of the national team technical commission, had talked about the great skills of the Lazio talent; these insistences, however, were not motivated by mere provincialism from Baccani, who knew the enormous abilities of a player who would have signed an époque in both the Italian and Roman football.
In order to stress the importance of this event, it’s important to notice that Fuffo was the first athlete of a team playing in the central-southern tournament to succeed in the deed to be called up in the national team. As a confirmation of what we have said before, it is sufficient to consider the reaction to the performances of the Roman athlete. The young very talented player impressed everyone by playing a fantastic match, contributing to the hammering against the poor French, trashed with an explosive 7-0.
Lazio fans were obviously very happy and proud of the great performances of Fuffo. On the other hand, the skills showed by the Roman athlete ended up by attiring the interest of the teams which at that time were top class and that could and would easily offer lot of money to the best athletes. Very soon, that the enthusiasm within Lazio caused by Bernardini’s deed with the national team jersey turned into a worrying feeling, like the last moments of quiet before the break down of a storm: the very storm that, in the following months, would have pierced the Lazio’s ship.
Sclavi leaves Lazio

The 1925-26 season kicks off, and the dilemma between professionalism and dilettantism reappears in all its importance as some promising youngsters such as Sclavi, Vojak and Cattaneo finish their military service in Rome. The Ballerini’s decision to leave, which left some nostalgic members in despair, had only postponed the burst of the bomb primed by the money that had started circulating in the Italian football, almost uncontaminated up to that period.
From some time now, at least in the rich northern Italy, the most unscrupulous presidents used to compete with plenty of money in order to get the strongest athletes; this practice would eventually arrive in Rome, it was just a matter of time. Players such as Sclavi, Vojak, Cattaneo and Bernardini, who were considered by everyone as athletes of national level, could only become the target of the richer teams. And so it happened.
The Lazio quality players knew well what was going on and asked for a better treatment in order to remain, also because in the mean time they had received more than one good offer from other clubs; Lazio did not meet their requests, leaving them no choice but leaving. The case of Sclavi was a truly particular one; the guy was so in love with Lazio that, in order to stay, I asked the minimum pay, the amount that was strictly necessary to survive in Rome. With Lazio denying it, and given the absence of a way to sustain the expenses in the city, Sclavi finally decided to leave the club he loved, to join Juventus.
Obviously, all this could only lower the biancocelesti’s ambitions. Lazio suffered the loss, and the reorganized team ends up third in the Roman group in the 1925-26 tournament, below Alba and Fortitudo, despite the great abilities of Bernardini and the good performances by Fraschetti, Filippi and Ottier. In such a bad period, two things deserve to be remembered: Remo Zenobi, who later on will become one of the greatest presidents of the long and glorious biancoceleste history, joins Lazio; in this period, Lazio also changes her social denomination, from Podistica to Società Sportiva.
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PostSubject: Re: Among the two wars   Sat May 31, 2008 12:24 am

Bernardini leaves, Sclavi comes back

The worst, however, was still yet to come. Indeed, the progresses of Bernardini had been followed with a lot of attention by the big clubs in the Nord. Juventus had been first club to get interested to Fuffo, who however had kindly declined the offer. He was indeed, at that time, still not aware of the possibility of exploiting his immense talent, and besides he was still fascinated by the Olympic ideal that had characterised his career at Lazio, since his debut. On the other hand, Lazio had helped as much as possible Bernardini, finding him a job as messenger in a bank, and hiring his brother in the club as secretary, as well as following his studies. All this strengthened the affection from Fulvio towards the biancoceleste club.
Then a massive offer from Inter arrived: 50.000 lire to sign him, with a monthly wage of 3000 lire. Bernardini, whose popular origins did certainly affect his sensitivity to such advances, accepted. Despite the promise he had made to his dad dying, not to leave Lazio, the club in which he was grown, Bernardini understood that it was not possible to say no to the offer from Inter. A last attempt to keep Fuffo at Lazio was made by the Roma’s Governor, Filippo Cremonesi, who tried to involve the Roman people in order to raise enough money to match the offer from nerazzurri, but it did not work out and the inevitable happened. Right in that circumstance, Olindo Bitetti, the one who more than anyone else would have had to try to find a solution to keep Bernardini, gave proof of great intellectual honesty. Having Bitetti always supported the idea of professionalism in football, saying that it was the future and that it was wrong to look at football with the deforming lenses of sentimentalism, Bitetti decided not to go against his theory trying to keep the player that was, for him, like a son.
The cession of Bernardini gave rise to a sort of civil war within the club, and both the disappointment and the disillusion prevented both Lazio members and fans to look at the facts with lucidity. A contract clause saying that in case of future cession Fulvio should have came back to Lazio would have been enough to avoid watching, two years later, his return to Rome, but, as a sad joke, on the other side of the Tiber.

In the middle of the confusion caused by the Bernardini’s affair, and the polemics that kept dividing the Lazio members into different groups, nobody paid attention to the way things were evolving for Lazio in the meantime. The loss of the qualities from Bernardini did hurt the club, a club which, worryingly, was already not impressing and had already been lowering her expectations in the last years. Unfortunately, there was more: the reform of the tournaments in the Italian football gave another huge blow to the club founded by Bigiarelli.
The tournaments were reorganised in big groups by territory, which were formed by privileging the teams that had been doing well in the last four seasons. Because of this criterion, Lazio was assigned to the First Division, a sort of Serie B of that époque; after the first degrading for Lazio in her history, Lazio found herself playing in the tricky football grounds in the Southern Italy, where the tradition and blazon of the Roman club did not certainly constitute something to be respected, but it was rather an incentive to fight even harder.
In this critical, almost dramatic situation, Lazio has some luck and finds again Ezio Sclavi. The goalkeeper, after one season spent with Juventus as second to the very strong Combi, was facing the perspective to stay in Torino to basically watch the progress of the goalkeeper of the national team, or to play as defender in the next season, as the Juventus manager had suggested to him. On the other hand, Lazio still had a great consideration for the keeper, and the recent events had only increased the affection towards him. When Lazio called him back, Ezio did not think about it twice and immediately embraced his old club.
Apart from the fantastic performances from her goalkeeper, Lazio could count on those from Saraceni, who had been moved to play as defender, and from Fiorini, as well as the good progress from all the members of the squad. The maximum division was conquered again within just one year, although that very season ended with a sound defeat at Novara, a 9-1 which still represents the worst defeat ever in the biancoceleste history. When the worst moments seem just something for the history books, other clouds were about to cover Lazio once again, endangering the survival of the club.

So it begins: the Rome’s rivalry

June 1927. The Secretary of the National Censored Party’s Roman Federation (Italo Foschi) comes up with an idea: to merge all the major football teams in Rome into a unique club. This meant that Lazio, Alba, Fortitudo and Roman had to merge to give birth to “Associazione Sportiva Roma”, which was going to wear the City Council’s colours, that is yellow and red.
In the Lazio headquarters nobody knows about the existence of such a possibility. Hence, nobody fears. It is about the end of June. In San Giovanni, people are preparing for the Patron’s festivity, decorating the streets with banners and lights, when a letter is delivered to Lazio’s headquarter. Lazio’s chairman is summoned to the Censored Federation head office for urgent communications.
Lazio’s people are shocked. It was not possible to think about something worse than this happening to Lazio. Italo Foschi’s idea was sinisterly clear.
Olindo Bitetti gets mad. He grabs the letter and rushes to the caserma della milizia, in Magnanapoli road. He bursts into the office of the Chief of the Army General Staff, Consul Vaccaro, a well-known Lazio member. We are f*cked!, he exclaims, without even saying hello to Vaccaro.
Giorgio Vaccaro is stunned. He tries to calm Bitetti down before asking him for an explanation. Bitetti, panting and with his face red as a tomato, says: Foschi wants to merge Lazio with the other clubs to create Roma!!! Look, I’ve got the letter here, this is a swindle! We are f*cked!
Vaccaro looks at the letter and reads: Lazio’s chairman must meet Foschi within two days...
He then looks again at the grief-striken face of Bitetti, opens his arms saying: why Lazio too?
Bitetti vents his anger: because Foschi thinks that only with just one big club, without opponents, it is possible to do well in the National football. Because Lazio is a strong team and very well organised, we would challenge any other team in the Capital. Moreover, because this new club does not have any football pitch, while we have the Rondinella. We need to do something!!! Oh my God, what can we do, what?
Vaccaro thinks for a while, then says: Well, there is not much we can do in just two days!!!
Suddenly the room becomes silent, both Vaccaro and Bitetti sit down. The face of the latter was now changing from purple red full of tension, to olive-coloured white full of resignation.
Some minutes go by and nothing happens.
Finally, Vaccaro breaks the silence. Bitetti follows him with his eyes, some hope appears on his face. Vaccaro stands up and says: “There is a way! Let’s appoint General Varini President and myself Vice-President. And then I will go to meet Italo Foschi!”
Bitetti feels relieved, but Vaccaro has not finished yet: “Call the members’ meeting immediately and make sure these appointments are done. Then come back to me. In the meantime I will keep the letter.” Vaccaro grabs the envelope and places it inside his right boot (at that time, military boots had small pockets for documents hidden in the inside of the boot). Bitetti has a doubt: “will Varini accept?”
Vaccaro replies immediately: “we’ll tell him later!”
Bitetti runs away, heading to S.S. Lazio head office. As he arrives he starts shouting like a mad “Meeting! Meeting! Meeting! Come, quick, there is a members meeting!!!” His colleagues, who still don’t know anything, look at him sceptically, thinking he is a madman.
This Bitetti guy - they whisper - is always incredibly hyperactive.
The members’ meeting is held on the following day. The Infantry General, Ettore Varini, takes over Micozzi as President of S.S. Lazio, Vaccaro is appointed Vice-President, Bitetti Secretary.
The following day Vaccaro goes to meet Italo Foschi. Giorgio Vaccaro knocks at the door of Foschi’s office, then slowly opens the door; he then lets first one leg in, then suddenly shows himself. Foschi looks at him and: Hi, can I help?
Vaccaro replies: You called me. Foschi is even more surprised: Me? And when??
Vaccaro is nearly amused: Here, this is your letter
Foschi: Ah yes, but that letter is addressed to Lazio and I called its President
Vaccaro: Exactly. Since yesterday, Varini is the President and I am his Vice. So, tell me what do you want.
Foschi looks at him, wondering and starting to understand, then says: “Well, we need to create a big football club in Rome. Alba, Fortitudo and Roman are more than ready to merge; with you too we are perfect, since you have a very good organisation which we can benefit from, and you also have a good football pitch.”
Vaccaro pretends to be interested: “Everything is possible. But which are the terms?”
Foschi is a bit relieved: “The gold medallist Ulisse Igliori will be the President”
Vaccaro: “Ok. What about the colours?”
Foschi: “Clearly we are going to use the colours of the City and the Council, yellow and red”.
Vaccaro then turns chilly, changes his position on the chair, but he still wants to keep playing for a while: “Ah Ok, I see. And which name will you give to this new club?”
Foschi: “Well, it will be Roma, of corse”
General Vaccaro then concludes: “So, Lazio disappears. The new club takes yellow and red colours, the name of Roma, and Lazio’s pitch. Very well. Then, my friend Italo, you are forgetting something: Lazio is an Ente Morale. Hence, we can think about the merger (Vaccaro is ironic, while Foschi is nodding), but only if the new club will be called Lazio, and will have the colours of the sky. I also have to confess that personally I do not agree with mergers, because two strong teams create emulation and emulation is at the basis of sports. Lazio has a great number of supporters, bigger than the other clubs, this is also an element that needs to be considered. Supporters and athletes are the blood and the future of the sport. We must protect them.”
Foschi looks at Vaccaro, takes a few seconds then says: “I’ve perfectly understood, Lazio won’t be merged”.
Once again Lazio won, in the name of her ideal. And this is its most secret victory, flashing, decisive. Only a few will know that within two evenings, back in June 1927 (the 25th), the Lazio of Bigiarelli, Ancherani, Corelli, Ballerini, the Club that preserves the memory of heroic deads, legendary champions and belowed pioneers, Lazio, which was (and still is) the first and more modern frontier of sports in Roma and Central-Southern Italy, died and came back to life.
The opposition to the merger disappointed the other clubs, which took it as an offence and this worsened the rivalry between Lazio and the newborn Roma.
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PostSubject: Re: Among the two wars   Sat May 31, 2008 12:26 am

A turning point

1928 has been a crucial year for Italian football. That year the Federation approved a reform introducing, in two years time, a radical change in Italian football: the unique group. For that purpose, the 1928-29 season became a classification tournament: two groups were formed, and the first eight teams of each group would have participated to the newborn Serie A. The reform at hand was the natural solution to the contraposition that was characterising the football politics in Italy; on the one hand, there were those who, in the name of the need for evolution in football, were ready to sacrifice the weaker teams; on the other hand, those ready to resist to the modernisation instances in the name of the sport universality.
Lazio was included in a group with, among the other teams, Bologna, Juventus and Ambrosiana, and very soon the biancocelesti found themselves fighting with Napoli for the last Serie A spot. The competition between the two teams could not be resolved within the regular season; the Federation decided that Milano would have hosted the tiebreak, in order to prevent many fans from moving to support their team. That decision proved to be completely useless on 23 June 1929, when thousands of fans arrived to Milano to attend a match that will soon display some drama.
With Napoli leading 2-1, and Lazio with ten men due to the sent off of Saraceni, the hopes started to fade for the biancocelesti. Caimmi, one of the most resolute Lazio players in that match, noticed that Rier was giving up, he was not fighting anymore, in total discomfort. He then approached his teammate and asked for explanations about a behaviour that, at the eyes of Caimmi, was totally unacceptable; the answer he got back from Rier must have been not really what he expected, so Caimmi attacked verbally the man, who replied, upset. In a matter of seconds the two of them started beating each other. Sclavi, who had previously realised that a fight among the two was the only outcome of that chat, was already there to divide the two players and to bring the peace back, saving the two team-mates from the red card. In these crazy moments, Caimmi even hit Sclavi, who was great not to lose his mind, remained calm, and convinced the referee to resume the match.
Lazio managed to equalise thanks to a goal by Cevenini V, a goal that was defended by the same goalkeeper Sclavi with a series of extraordinary saves, up to the final whistle. Only once back in the locker rooms, Sclavi gave back to Caimmi, and with some interest fee, the slap he had received from him, showing once again his affection towards the social colours. Right that very day, the legend of “Saint Peter”, the nickname that the Napoli fans gave to the goalkeeper from Stradella, began: and we can really talk about miracles, more than saves, referring to the performance of Sclavi in Milano. When the only solution to the draw seemed to be a re-play, which was now feared even more by both teams, the Federcalcio decided to accept the instance from Triestina to be re-admitted in Serie A and, consequently, to enlarge the newborn tournament to allow 18 teams: both Lazio and Napoli were admitted to Serie A.

A difficult début

1929-1930 season. Once admitted in the top division, Lazio had to plan a strong transfer campaign in order to prepare for a season that was announced to be very demanding, a season where Lazio, among the other teams, would have faced the newborn city rivals, Roma. In the previous years Lazio had lost some key players and been suffering, as the result shows, and some new signings were needed in order to be able to compete with strong and well organised teams such as Ambrosiana, Bologna, Juventus, Torino and Milan. Lazio signed several good players, such as the tough defender Tognotti, the midfielders Foni (a player with a great potential that, unfortunately, Lazio was not able to discover, and that will make him an extraordinary wingback at Juventus) and Malatesta, the forwards Pastore (who was already wellknown in Italy, having been player for Juventus and being as well a good actor in the Cinema industry) and Ziroli (a winger who had played for Roma and had been protagonist of a weird career, a career that saw him in the goal at the beginning, to then play as forward and finally as a defender).
Even considering the expected difficulty of the new tournament, which would gather the best teams in Italian football, the transfer campaign seemed completely adequate to do the job and, hence, to avoid the Lazio fans the sufferance they were getting used to. On the bench sat Piero Piselli, and this fact can be considered something quite extraordinary in a period where the big majority of the top club managers were foreigners (English or Hungarians mostly). Despite these transfers, the more cautious Lazio fans still expressed some doubts and warned the team about the difficulties of the season to come. Unfortunately, their worries were soon proved right by the response of the pitch. After a sensational start, with Lazio unexpectedly beating Bologna 3-0, the campionato very soon turned into a sort of Via Crucis for the biancocelesti, never able to leave the bottom of the table. Strangely enough, Lazio was always playing good football against the strong teams, while the matches against less important teams were discomforting; this weird pattern caused Lazio to lose many precious points, which could have consented to reach a more comfortable spot in the Serie A table. The team did never manage to find what the manager use to call amalgam, a secret mixture of technical, physical and psychological elements that make a team work great. Among the clubs playing a better football then Lazio there was Roma as well, the Roma of Volk, the former Lazio star Bernardini, and Ferraris IV. The first Lazio-Roma in the history of Roman football was getting close!

The first Lazio-Roma

As we have seen, the 1929-30 season was another tormented one for Lazio. Penalised by the incapacity to prevail over the less blazoned teams, Lazio’s path was very irregular, it was like going by snatches. There was no continuity at all, and the team passed from the fantastic 3-0 against Bologna and the 6-0 against Cremonese to the defeats from Padova , Brescia and Livorno. Quite soon, Lazio will find herself fighting to avoid the relegation. It’s the ninth fixture when the team trained by Piselli is called to face Roma. In the table, Lazio and Rome were really close, and the same equilibrium was expected on the pitch. This very first match against Lazio and the newborn club, created with a marger among Alba, Virtus and Fortitudo, had been preceded by alarmist rumours that seemed the prelude to a match full of incidents. The local police authorities even thought about cancelling the match; these worried were proved wrong since the derby was played with a lot of fairplay. Lazio played with Sclavi, Saraceni II, Bottaccini, Pardini, Furlani, Caimmi, Ziroli, Spivach, Pastore, Rier, Sbrana; Roma replied with Ballante, Bazzan, De Micheli, Ferraris IV, Degni, Carpi, Benatti, Delle Vedove, Volk, Corsenini, Chini. The giallorossi won 1-0 thanks to a goal by Volk in the last part of the match; on the other hand, Bernardini did not take part of the match, probably he did not feel right to play against so soon against the team were he was born as footballer.
Since that day, the two teams, so far equal in the table, took two divergent roads: the giallorossi pointed at the top table positions, while Lazio slowly started sinking in the table to reach the lowest zone, a zone Lazio would not have been able to leave anymore for the rest of the season. A disappointing path for Lazio, which was yet able to defeat at home top teams such as Torino and Genoa (which will end up respectively 4th and 2nd) and to draw against the scudetto winners Ambrosiana. At the end, Lazio managed to avoid the relegation thanks to a two points difference with Padova, relegated in Serie B with Cremonese.
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PostSubject: Re: Among the two wars   Sat May 31, 2008 12:28 am

A slow progress

After a season once again in the sign of sufferance, the Lazio fans expected some good reinforcements to the team, but they were disappointed. The club management ignored the numerous alarm bells that rang during the first tournament with one group, and conducted a quite weak transfer campaign. One of the strongest and key Lazio players, Rier, was sold to Juventus in exchange of Zanni; Lamon arrived too. Luckily, Lazio decided not to sell the “Admiral” Malatesta anymore, contrarily to what had initially been decided. Malatesta had been one of the best players of the past season, and losing him would have meant weakening even more the midfield.
1930-31 season. Despite the club’s policy, Lazio finished the tournament eight, marking an improvement with respect to the previous season. That season was enriched by a 5-0 win against Genoa (with all the goals scored on the second half); on her own ground, Lazio defeated also strong teams such as Juventus, Ambrosiana and Bologna; the two draws against Roma in the derbies, moreover, stopped the giallorossi’s run for the scudetto against Juventus. The return derby ended up with the police entering the pitch in the attempt to stop the riots between both the rival fans and the players. The brawl had started because of an incident Vaccaro and the Roma defender De Micheli. With Lazio leading 2-1 and right at the end of a Roma’s attack, Vaccaro had moved the ball away to retard the throw-in by De Micheli, provoking a vibrant discussion that ended up in a clamorous riot. As if it was not needed, the events of that derby showed that the Lazio-Roma rivalry has had, since then, no equal in Italian football.
Among the good news of the season there certainly is the arrival from Brazil of the Fantoni cousins (Octavio, a very good midfielder who will even reach the Italian national team, and Juan, a forward with the skills of a good playmaker), both signed from Palestra Italia. They had immediately showed to possess good abilities, and confirmed the expectations about them. Their arrival opened a path that Lazio decided to follow in a really determined way.

The Brazilazio

In the meantime, Remo Zenobi had become president. For the following season, the new Lazio management decided to abandon the policy followed so far. Given the good results from the signing of the Fantoni cousins, more players were signed from South-America: the strong wingback Del Debbio, then Rizzetti, Serafini, Guarisi, Castelli, Salatin, Tedesco and De Maria. 1931-32 season. The result of this experiment was however disappointing. The “Brazilazio”, trained obviously from a Brazilian manager, Barbuy, did never manage to fly; and not only that, Lazio even risked to be relegated in Serie B. The main reason for this flop was the difficulties met by the newly arrived play to get accustomed to the Italian football; in particular, they struggled to overcome the tenacity characterising the way Italians played, in a football that certainly was becoming one of the toughest to face.
So, the great expectations matured during the summer, and somehow confirmed by the good results obtained by Lazio in the preseason friendly matches, sank in the sea of a tricky tournament and full of perils. The Brazilian school, based on the technical skills, crushed against the physical approach to football of the Piedmont school, or with the extreme roughness of most Italian defenders. The one who paid the biggest price to the new football was Filò, whose extraordinary ability to get past the opponents was nullified by the rudeness the defenders recurred to stop him, rudeness that was largely ignored by the referees.
So, the 1931-32 season witnessed the failure of the Brazilians experiment. The difficulties that the South-American players met to fit to the Italian league induced Lazio to radically change policy for the following season. The Austrian manager Sturmer, one of the most respected managers at that time, and known for being a keen Danubian school tactician, was chosen to guide Lazio. Among the oriundi, only those who had proved a greater consistency, like Guarisi, the Fantoni brothers, De Maria and Del Debbio, are confirmed. On the other hand, the only relevant Lazio signing for the coming season is the forward Bisigato from Bari, considered a youngster with great potential and who had been doing really well at Bari. In order to take Bisigato, Lazio had to win the tough competition from several other teams; unfortunately, however, Bisigato never managed to show his qualities has he had done in Bari. The Lazio management had many hopes in the manager Sturmer, and in his extraordinary ability to work with youngster; something that the Austrian tactician had already done in Torino, where he really created the Balon Boys, personally following their trainings and progresses.
And these hopes were fulfilled. Sturmer left an indelible memory among the Roman fans thanks to his great work with the junior teams, among which there were players such as Vettraino, Uneddu, Giovannini, Capponi, Ferri and Longhi; he certainly left a invaluable legacy, whose extraordinary value would have come to the light in the years to follow. Even after Sturmer leaves Lazio he would be remembered in Rome by many people, the same who learned with grief, at the end of the Second World War, that he resulted missing after he followed the German army retreating under the Allies attacks.

Under the guidance of Sturmer, Lazio disputed two average championships, concluding both 10th, without ever being in any dangerous situation. In these two years, the Austrian manager worked mostly on the youngsters, a sector he took several players from in order to remedy to the usual lack of funds from the club, and the impossibility to sign strong players from other clubs. Then, players such as Gabriotti and Tonali made their debut in the first team; however, everyone knew that, even if keen and promising footballers, the youngsters could not change the Lazio’s fate, a fate shaped by financial constraints rather than technical choices.
Luckily, Sturmer was a very well prepared tactician. He immediately realised that the Serie A was a very tough league where there was no room for just technique, especially because of the toughness of the defences. He then focussed on building an equilibrated team, where there were elements able to compensate the scarce attitude to fight characterising the Brazilians who had remained at Lazio. It certainly was not a great period for Lazio, but yet the biancocelesti managed to take out of the hat some memorable matches, like the victory in the derby, 23 October 1932: Lazio defeated Roma with the result of 2-1, goals by Castelli and De Maria. That match, the first victory against Roma, was saluted with great enthusiasm by the Lazio fans, and marked the beginning of a first inversion in the tendency of the Roman derby, which had so far seen Roma prevailing.

The Gualdi Era

The policy of Remo Zenobi, whose risk adverse strategy had been to follow common sense and avoid costly projects given the financial constraints, had brought some stabilization in the Lazio’s performances. The importance given to the youth system was certainly a big step forward, but yet, the “small steps policy” had caused an increase in the malcontent and disappointment in the Lazio fans, who kept seeing their team too far from the Serie A top positions.
It is in this situation that, in 1934, Gualdi takes over Lazio. He was bringing with him an important project: to lead Lazio finally back to the noble quarters of the Italian football within a few years. Contrarily to the previous Lazio presidents, Gualdi did not pay too much attention to the financial constraints; and indeed, it was exactly abandoning the rigorous management, based on the economic balance more than on the technical decisions, the only way in which his mission could be accomplished.
Immediately, with his first signing campaign, Gualdi clearly showed his intentions by signing Piola, Blason, Viani, Levratto and Ferraris IV. Among these five great players, two shone, for different reasons: Piola and Ferraris IV. Ferraris IV had been one of the best Roma players, and also a key man in the Pozzo’s National Team, the fresh 1934 World Champion, and his signing could be considered like a partial revenge for the Bernardini’s signing by Roma. Piola was the greatest talent of Italian football, and in order to sign him Lazio had to make really huge efforts. Silvio Piola was born in Robbio Lomellina, (Pavia) in 1913. He had begun his career with Pro Vercelli, and had debuted in Serie A at the age of 17 on Febrary 16, 1930, in the match against Bologna. He immediately showed his qualities, scoring 13 goals in his first year; he would then score 51 goals in 127 matches in Serie A with Pro Vercelli. The Lazio fans immediately fell in love with Piola, a true nightmare for the Roma fans. He was not only a classy player, but also a true figher. When he was not training or playing football, Piola used to devote some of his time to his other great passion: hunting.
Among those who instead leave Lazio, certainly the most painful goodbye is Ezio Sclavi’s. The goalkeeper, who had just recovered from an important knee injury, had been replaced in the meantime by Blason, a youngster signed by Lazio for the future years, given also the physical problems that the poor Sclavi unfortunately had been experiencing in the previous season.
Given the situation, and all the good that Sclavi had done for the Roman club, the Lazio managers offered him the opportunity to find freely another club. Sclavi found then an agreement with Catania, but he only played a few months. The pain to be away from Rome, and from the club that he always loved so much was too big and he could not see himself with the jersey of another team. So, he decided to rather quit football. Afterwards, he enrolled in the army, and participated to the African war, to then come back to Liguria, finding there a discrete success as a painter.
With the departure of Sclavi an époque finished, and, maybe, the most romantic story ever in the Lazio football, the story of Ezio Sclavi and Lazio. Many anecdotes are told about Sclavi, but perhaps the greatest one refers to the match against Alessandria, 10 May 1931. In the attempt to stop a counter attack, Sclavi clushes against one opponent. The goalkeeper faints, but he immediately recovers and gets back among the posts, wearing a bendage over his head. But, once again, the goalkeeper has another incident, when he is kicked on his face during a very courageous save. He needs abandon the pitch to be cured. Despite the seriousness of the wound, Ezio does not want to leave his teammates alone on the pitch in ten men, so he asks to go back on the field. He has bandage all over his head, so that he seems a mummy, but he is back to save the Lazio goal. Lazio wins, and the members will pay homage to such courage and dedication by presenting Sclavi with a gold medal.
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PostSubject: Re: Among the two wars   Sat May 31, 2008 12:29 am

Going up

Despite the promises, and the enthusiasms that followed the great Gualdi’s signing campaign, the 1934-35 tournament turned out to be a disappointing one. Lazio, which had substituted the very good manager Sturmer with another Austrian manager, Walter Alt, started the season very well and reached the top of the table after five fixtures. Unexpectedly, however, Lazio’s path become more and more difficult as the days passedby.
The first warning bell sounded at the match day seven, when an average Milan walked in Rome, punishing Alt’s men with a clamorous 4-1. Then, four defeats in a row put the word end to the glory dreams of Lazio, although the biancocelesti managed to fight back and closed the league with a discrete fifth place in the table. Still, however, a disappointing result in the light of the huge investments made by the club in the summer and the expectations present among the club and the supporters.
The disappointment that, once again, the Lazio fans had to experience made Gualdi work out a true revolution, with the signings of Monza, Baldo, Camolese, Visentin, Zacconi and D’Odorico, all good, if not excellent, footballers. Among them, Monza, a wingback taken from Livorno, will prove to be a fantastic defender, by playing many at a very high level for many season; he did not reach the National team only because of an excellent competition on a position, the wingback, for which Italian football continued restlessly to produce talents.
1935-36 season. Once again, the new season was preceded by high expectations and enthusiasm. The first delusion, however, comes quite soon, at match day four: Lazio is defeated 1-0 in the derby and suddenly realised that the road to success in Serie A would have required more efforts. Lazio ended the season in the seventh position: clearly, once again, it was not enough. Not enough to satisfy the ambition of Gualdi, who believed that his presidency could only make sense only if Lazio managed to gain the top positions in the Italian football. That was indeed the only result that could ever have justified all the monetary efforts by the Lazio president, something unprecedented in the now decennial Lazio history.
With Gualdi, the consequence could only be one: another relevant financial effort brought to Lazio three players from Alessandria, Busani, Riccardi and Milano, and Costa, from Vicenza. All of them had a huge market, being followed by all the major clubs. With these new signings, Lazio is ready to start her most exiting and successful season in the years between the two World Wars: the 1936-37 season. Indeed, Lazio concludes the first half on top of the table, leading up on the rivals Bologna. Unfortunately, however, an impressing series of injuries decimates Lazio in the second part of the season, giving the opportunity to Bologna to gain an important advantage. A great final of the season bring Lazio just three points below Bologna, for a second place which is as great as painful. There are many reasons to be disappointed about a success that was so close: certainly one of them have been the two derbies, both lost to a mediocre Roma, which on the other hand would lose both matches against Bologna. In that season, Lazio went very close to the success not only in Italy, but also in Europe, where Lazio reached the final of the Europe Cup against the Hungarian Ferencvaros. Even in this case, Lazio has much to recriminate about, since the biancocelesti’s defeat is to be attributed to the first leg, played in Hungary, where a scandalous referee literally consigned the victory to the Hungarians, an episode that was widely explained and denounced by Bruno Roghi on the”Gazzetta dello Sport”.

Gualdi leaves

The great results achieved by the team in the 1936-37 season had, however, the effect to light up again the internal clashes that periodically appeared among the Lazio members, always divided into opposite groups, each sustaining a different policy to follow about the conduction of the club. The definitive clash takes place at the end of the 1937-38 season. Gualdi, tired and deluded by the team, finishing the league 8th, decided to leave the club after the nth disagreement about the management. Gualdi understood that his policy had not been a source of union among the Lazio members, and realised that many people, who probably had soon forgotten about the difficulties faced by Lazio in the pre-Gualdi periods, had not appreciated his efforts.
With Gualdi resigning, Remo Zenobi, who had a completely opposite view of football than Gualdi, comes back to guide Lazio. The change of strategy became immediately clear with a signing campaign in a minor tone: Ramella and Allemandi, a footballer at the end of his career, were clearly too little to remain on the levels reached with Gualdi. Not surprisingly, a period not really exalting is awaiting Lazio, a period where the only positive news were represented by the youngsters reaching the first team from the youth teams. Among them, certainly Vettraino and Ferri were the most successful players. A series of mediocre seasons and not many things to celebrate for Lazio apart from some rewarding victories: among these, certainly victory against Roma, on 15 January 1939, when the goals from Zacconi and Busani awarded Lazio the first away derby in Testaccio. Still ways too much, if compared to the splendour of the Gualdi age.

The kingdom of Zenobi

If on the one hand Zenobi’s policy did not give much to dream about to Lazio fans, it is also true, on the other hand, that it gave Lazio a relative tranquillity and constituted the basis for a promising future, in a period where the whole country was about to experience the war’s tragedy.
A certainly good move, in a forward-looking perspective, was the strategy, exactly identical to the one that Zenobi had followed in 1931, to look in the South-American football. In preparation for the 1939-40 season, indeed, Lazio signed the Argentinian Flamini, Barrera and Pisa, whose signings were immediately followed by those of Gualtieri and Fazio. These were a bunch of good quality footballers, among which certainly Flamini and Pisa will emerge and constitute one of the best pair of central defenders in these years. The results of this market operation were good, so that Lazio achieved a very good fourth position in that season.
This good result, however, was not confirmed in the following 1940-41 season, despite the arrivals of two players such as Gradella and Puccinelli. Both of them will largely repay the hopes that Lazio placed on them. In particular, Puccinelli will become the ideal partner for Piola, who, thanks to his acrobatic qualities realized many goals exploiting the crosses from Puccinelli. A series of extraordinary matches was however not enough for Puccinelli to be called up in the National team, whose wing position was occupied by the great Torino’s player Menti; according to many people, Menti would have kept his National team jersey only because he knew better than Puccinelli many of Nazionale players, which he knew having been playing with them wearing the Torino jersey.
In that tourmented season, Lazio managed to avoid relegation only at the very last fixture, and thanks to the goal difference in the tiebreak with Novara. Needlessly to say, this poor performance shocked the Lazio fans, who only a few months earlier had seen their team fighting for the scudetto. Zenoby, who strongly believed in his austerity policy, considered the disappointing season as an incident and remained faithful to his ideas. Only a few small changes to the squad and the arrival of Popovich on the bench was what Lazio needed to start again. And he was right. In the 1941-42 season, Lazio came back to play good football, concluding the season at the fifth spot. In the following season, however, the biancocelesti did not manage to repeat the deed and achieved a good ninth place, a result to which we have to add the bombers’ title won by Piola in the scorers’ table.
With the war at his doorstep, the National football championship was stopped and substituted by regional tournaments, having the only aim to keep the players fit and give to the Italians something different from bombs and distruction. In the two Roman tournaments disputed between 1943 and 1945, Lazio and Roma divided the prize, winning one tournament each. Moreover, the Lazio players showed great fair play, when they all signed a pedition in favour of the Roma striked Amadai, who had got a life ban after the riots occurred in a Coppa Italia match between Roma and Torino.

Research and translation by Conn - Laziofever.org
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PostSubject: Re: Among the two wars   Sun Jun 01, 2008 4:39 am

Thanks for doing these articles, Conn. they are really helpful and interesting.
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