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Mar 10, 2014

Lazio fans boycott home game

Lazio president Claudio Lotito says he will seek talks with the club's supporters after they deserted Sunday's 1-0 Serie A defeat to Atalanta out of protest.

Little over 2,000 tickets were sold for the game.
Little over 2,000 tickets were sold for the game.

Little over 2,000 tickets were sold with the Stadio Olimpico, that boasts a capacity of 82,307, looking practically empty for the game, which marked the latest round of the fans' protests against Lotito.

Prior to the 3-2 win over Sassuolo on Feb. 23, they adopted the opposite strategy by filling the stadium and protesting vociferously against the club chief for the entire 90 minutes.

The message now appears to have got through, though, with Lotito on Sunday saying he is prepared to meet with the angry supporters, as long as talks can be constructive.

"There's been a breakdown in communication with the fans," he said. "I'm ready to meet with them and I'd be glad to do so, as long as they are not prejudiced."

Lotito's leadership has long been the cause of the fans' ire. Only last season, when Lazio reached the quarterfinals of the Europa League and beat Roma in the final of the Coppa Italia, did their disapproval relent slightly. The club's poor start to the current campaign, however, soon saw renewed calls for Lotito to quit.

The sale of Hernanes in the winter proved to be the final straw for many Lazio fans, who have now decided to vote with their feet.

"It hurts my heart to see the Olimpico so empty," Lazio coach Edoardo Reja said. "It's upsetting. We're in a good period of form and Europe's within touching distance and having our fans close to us is indispensable. I hope their protests last only for this one game.

"Certainly playing without fans helped Atalanta. I hope those who are still undecided find the will to return to the stadium. We've still got [AC] Milan, Parma and [Hellas] Verona to come here and we need our fans for those matches. Criticism and protests have got to be accepted, but the team needs supporting every Sunday."

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