Things aren’t great on the blue half of Rome. First, S.S. Lazio’s fans took to the streets to protest the botched hiring of manager Marcelo Bielsa, and now they’re showing their displeasure with their wallets, refusing to buy season tickets, with only 11 tickets sold.
Lazio sold a club record low of 12,800 season tickets last year for the 72,698-capacity Stadio Olimpico, and it looks as if they might set a new record this season if president Claudio Lotito can’t steer the capital club in a positive direction. Lines were pretty much non-existent on the opening day of sale, according to reports in Italy.
This wouldn’t be the first time the notoriously controversial Lotito has been in trouble with the Lazio fans. He was involved in the infamous Calciopoli case, received death threats when he sold Hernanes to Inter in January of 2014, and his relationship with the Aquile fanbase is a strained one to say the least. Losing Bielsa, who allegedly was swayed by a conversation with Walter Sabatini, the sporting director from none other than bitter cross-town rivals Roma, could be the last straw for the notoriously temperamental Biancocelesti supporters.
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Francesco Totti of AS Roma sits on the bench before the Serie A match between AC Milan and AS Roma
To make matters worse, Roma keep growing in stature under new American ownership. Video of legendary captain Francesco Totti laughing about Bielsa’s decision not to join stung the Lazio supporter base, but Lotito remained bullish in an interview with La Repubblica: "I don’t know what he’s laughing about — Roma don’t have a club and they don’t have any money, you’ll see."
The problem is, Roma have consistently finished ahead of Lazio in the league recently, they have Champions League soccer, and they’ve got plans to move out of their shared space with Lazio into their own purpose-built stadium. They’re moving further into the future with a coherent plan, and the gap between the two teams is widening into a chasm. The Lazio fans sense it, and the writing’s on the wall for Lotito. Even Roma owner James Pallotta fired back at Lazio’s "joke of the month" president:
#Pallotta responds to Lotito: "I love this guy. Makes me laugh. It's like belonging to the joke of the month club." #ASRoma
Marcelo Bielsa’s hiring was meant to be a beacon of change for Lazio. An exciting, progressive (albeit eccentric) manager who would play beautiful football and maybe even beat those guys in red across town. Now Lazio is stuck with interim manager Simone Inzaghi, no plan for the future, and a city full of irate fans who want Lotito’s head. It’s a recipe for disaster, and it doesn’t look like it’s getting better anytime soon.