Italian soccer has been surrounded by polemics lately.
While missing the 2018 World Cup qualifiers is definitely one of the biggest upsets in Italian history, there is a more profound stigma that is hurting this beautiful game: Fascism in the stadiums.
Italian ultras have a long tradition for expressing this extreme political view during games and it’s time for a change. It’s time to say NO and find a solution because these types of behaviors cannot be tolerated any longer. There’s no more space for fascism in the 21st century.
Back in 1998…
On November 1998, Lazio ultras, well known for being pro fascism, decided to insult their historical rival A.S. Roma with a banner, “Auschwitz is Your Country; the Ovens Are Your Homes.”
This shameful episode was condemned by the FIGC, the Italian soccer federation, and many public figures who asked to keep politics away from soccer. However, no official acts were taken and political extremism is something that doesn’t magically disappear; in fact, it just waits for the right time to come back and bite again.
In 2000, Lazio fans made another banner against Roma that read “Squad of Blacks, Terrace of Jews.” Then, Roma ultras fired back to Lazio while playing Livorno in a Seria A match in 2006; in that instance, the fascist banners read “Lazio-Livorno. Same Initials, Same Oven” and “Gott Mit Uns,” a famous quote used during the Nazi regime. To support even more their political ideology, the fans also waived flags with Swastikas and portraits of Mussolini.
After the game, the indignation of the Jewish community in Rome was intense and completely understandable (via lastampa.it).
At this point the question becomes spontaneous: Why? Why insult your opponents by reminiscing on one of the saddest pages in human history?
There is no explanation for an act like that. But once again, the Italian soccer federation didn’t adopt any radical changes and… Here we are with another recent episode of anti-Semitism on October 23, 2017.
This time, the Lazio supporters made stickers that portrayed Anne Frank wearing a Roma jersey and placed them on glasses, seats and walls in the stadium. They also attached other stickers to offend the opposing ultras, such as “Roma fan is Jew” and “Roma fan is gay.”
After this episode, the leader of the Jewish community in Rome, Ruth Dureghello, tweeted a picture of the insulting stickers, followed by some very harsh words. “This is not a curva, this is not soccer, this is not sport,” Dureghello tweeted. “Out the anti-Semitists from the stadiums.”
Questa non è una curva, questo non è calcio, questo non è sport. Fuori gli antisemiti dagli stadi. pic.twitter.com/Q1uJnDQ7Cl
— Ruth Dureghello (@dureghello) October 23, 2017
In response to these controversies, the Biancocelesti used a warm-up jersey that portrayed Anne Frank and stated in capital letters “NO ANTI-SEMITISM.” Moreover, the FIGC ordered to read aloud some passages from Anne Frank’s diary before all games.
— S.S.Lazio (@OfficialSSLazio) October 25, 2017
However, fans’ reactions were alarming: in Turin, people chanted the national anthem as soon as the speaker started reading it; in Florence, tons of whistles erupted from the stands; in Bologna, Lazio hard-core ultras chanted Nazi songs with their right arms up in the air, resembling the Nazi salute (via Algavenews.it).
Lazio team president, Claudio Lotito, took the front line in this tough battle. First, he visited the Synagogue of Rome and laid white and blue flowers outside. Then, he announced that about 200 youths would be sent to Auschwitz every year in order to educated them and raise awareness about this issue.
“I’m here to express our total dissociation toward all xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism,” Lotito commented after the last incident. “The club has put in place every measure to prevent any further anti-Semitist behaviors and the majority of our fans agrees with our position,” per Repubblica.it.
Although people remain skeptical and don’t believe these initiatives will immediately fix this problem, it’s certainly a major first step.
Fascism cannot be eradicated over night and ignorant people will most likely not change their political views. However, these measures become instrumental in teaching new generations that politics does not belong in soccer stadiums.
There are ways and ways to support your team in a very respectful manner. Fascist chants and banners are simply not one of them.