FanDuel - WFBC

November 13, 2007

Violence Threatens Italian Soccer: "The recent soccer-related violence hit a little too close to home," Nicole Martinelli writes from Italy, where riots and protests followed a soccer fan being shot and killed by a police officer during a scuffle. "Officials made the bad call of not canceling the day's games immediately. So when they finally decided to it was a better idea not to hold the Inter-Lazio face-off at Milan's San Siro stadium, they turned a river of irate young men into the streets."

posted by rcade to soccer at 07:03 AM - 12 comments

The completely surreal situation on Sunday was thanks to a whole slew of fuck-ups on all sides. The inital story that broke was that a Lazio fan was killed around 9am Sunday morning by a cop during a fight between Lazio & Juve fans at a highway restaraunt stop. And of course the media jumped on the violent hooligans story straight away without getting all the facts first, with headlines that read along the lines of "Hooligan Highway Fights; 1 Dead". By all accounts of eyewitnesses and manager/employees of the diner, there was some minor scuffles going on in the parking lot, but by the time the police on the other side of the highway reacted, all parties involved were calmed down and driving off or about to be. There is also some discussion about whether or not Gabrielle was involved; he's a popular DJ in the discoteques here in Rome, had been working until 6am, and left for Milan at 7am. Also, he was passionate about footie, but not a part of the hooligan Ultras and only followed the away games when it was a major game (ie Inter-Lazio). In any case, he was sitting in the back of the car when the shots were fired. As seen on the news before they wrapped the car up in plastic and carted it off, the hole in the car window is an almost perfectly clean bullet shaped hole at about chest/neck level; no spidering of cracked glass around the entry point. Suss. The cop in question claims he shot one warning shot in the air and while he was running to cross the highway, another shot accidentially went off. There is an eyewitness report that says the cop assumed shooting stance and fired off two rounds. In either case, the cop's badge should be taken away. In the former, a supposed expert cop (as claimed by the Arezzo commissioner) let off an errant shot in a populated parking lot while running towards a busy 6 lane highway. Even the warning shot is suss; what the hell was it for? "Hi, my partner and I are now going to play SuperCop and run across six lanes of traffic to subdue a group of young men fighting.*" In the latter case, lock the bastard up; what if he had instead hit a father driving on the highway, possibly causing a huge accident? At this point in the day (noonish), Inter-Lazio is cancelled, the other games are unsure, and the media are still playing up the Footie Fan aspect even though the details are begining to trickle in. In a few cities, spontaneous demonstrations uniting fans/Ultras from opposite sides of the field decry the police and call for a suspension of all games, in line with the suspension of all games after the death of Officer Raciti last February. So you have a tragic incident conflated with footie thanks to the media, and demonstrating fans/Ultras calling for all games to be suspended. Of course the Football Commissioner decides to let the other daytime games go on. In Bergamo, police are recalled from the the stadium, allowing Ultras to bring a sewer cover into the stadium & smash the protective glass barrier, leading to the desired suspension of the game. Everyone's nerves are on a trip wire; fans, police, refs, players. The games that did go on were not pretty and there were a slew of red cards. At 6pm, only two hours before game time, was it announced that the Roma-Cagliari game would be suspended "for security reasons". Brilliant move there. You've now given pissed off Ultras of both Lazio & Roma time to conviene at the stadium and an 'excuse' to cause mayhem. And now it's turned political as well: The Right have called for the Minister of Internal Security to step down, while the Left claim that the Ultras are largel controlled by extreme Right groups. There's been a spate of police brutality incidents that have gone undereported lately, such as a man arrested for growing marijuana in his house dying in isolation after being severly beaten by officers. Instead of that issue getting the attention it deserves, the media's initial sensationalism of "Ooga Booga Hooligans" allowed the incident to be purloined by Ultras and politicans alike for their own uses. Until Sunday, this year there had been no outbreaks of violence at the stadiums - one idiot who threw a petard during a Juve game was subdued by surrounding fans until security managed to haul him off. But the combined mistakes in handling this incident by police, media, and the Football Commission managed to pour the petrol and light the match. /my take * because it wasn't clear from that distance that the young men were footie fans. Also the inital line from the commissioner was 2 warning shots fired in the air.

posted by romakimmy at 09:06 AM on November 13

The following is criticism of the article, not the posting thereof. Actually, it's a great post because it is relevant, interesting, and can promote some healthy discussion. MS Martinelli sounds like she's shocked at the passion of Italian Football fans. Why? Are the Italian fans any different from the English, or different from sports fans in the US? One does not see too many news articles of US sports-related riots, but they have happened. At least 2 deaths in Boston alone were from violence during victory celebrations. Some of it is learned behavior, not a natural reaction. My son called me after the Red Sox won the World Series and only half-jokingly said he really wanted to turn over and burn a car. (Rather a lack of maturity here. We'll have to have a talk about where his tuition money is going.) Is MS Martinelli's surprise because of the violence being directed in part at journalists? Have not some journalists (by no means a majority) drawn a lot of anger for their inflammatory writings? To make it short, my criticism is that MS Martinelli has written a piece that was unnecessary. The story could have been told with a brief news item describing the violence. The fact that she finds something unique in all of this is the real story.

posted by Howard_T at 09:19 AM on November 13

On further review, thanks for the background information, romakimmy. As I wrote my comment, I did not know that the situation was as bad as you have described. Perhaps that explains MS Martinelli's writing, but she did not seem to get her point across well.

posted by Howard_T at 09:23 AM on November 13

One does not see too many news articles of US sports-related riots, but they have happened. I think the media has caught up to the fact that rioting and other trouble is possible after major American sports events -- I had family that had to hole up in a restaurant to escape post-Super Bowl parade violence in Dallas, and that leaves a lasting impression. But one thing we haven't seen in the U.S. is this kind of extended civil unrest after the initial trouble, which to me makes the situation in Italy worthy of more notice.

posted by rcade at 09:26 AM on November 13

I doubt that the Highway restaurant clash was a matter of coincidence. The irriducibili are generally a bunch of right-wing fascist fucktards with pocket-sized pictures of Mussolini in their wallets. Remember Paolo di Canio's 'Roman salute'? A planned pre-match ambush at the local Inter Milan hangout would be the norm, not the exception. This is as much a political battle as a sporting one. As long as Italian teams support their Ultras with money, tickets, and political power, the violence will continue. Ultras often control the grounds of their team. They decide who gets in, who gets beat down, and even which players are bought/sold/benched. I don't blame Italian police for brutality on these knuckledraggers at all. It sucks that someone got shot in needless violence, but a nickle to a donut says the departed was far from an innocent bystander. He was at that restaurant on his own accord. He was there to fight, injure, or harass Inter supporters. The club he supports is well known for its' neo-fascist ideology and political captains; the rival, left-leaning Inter opponents are often a target of their wrath.

posted by r8rh8r27 at 10:57 AM on November 13

I think the whole cultural context of the fan violence in Italy and clashes with the police in general have to be understood in order to grasp this, and romakimmy does a good job of starting that discussion and filling in some of the context. I think a key difference between these situations and in the U.S. is that in U.S., fan violence or rioting almost always follows a victory or a loss in a championship -- in some respects, it seems that the rioters are just looking for an excuse to riot or the opportunity to cause a ruckus, and the sports "celebration" just provides an excuse to do so. As I understand it in Italy, there is a more pervasive violent element intertwined with the sporting events generally -- due in no small part to the empowerment of the Ultras as r8rh8r27 suggests above. I believe in the major derbies and rivalry games, there is typically a huge police presence (often in riot gear) outside of the stadiums. I also have read that attendance is down in Italian football (I certainly see a lot of empty seats when I watch on the weekends), in part due to the presence of the hard-core Ultra fans and the associated violence or threat of violence. I think you would be hard pressed to find a Red Sox-Yankees, Cowboys-Redskins, etc. type of game with a police presence of the type found in Italy and elsewhere on certain game days and there are very few situations in the U.S. today where fans are staying home because of concerns about their safety at the stadium. My own take when I heard about this situation in Italy was that this shouldn't have warranted the calling off of matches, and is not remotely close to the reaction that was warranted when a police officer was killed directly outside of a stadium last year. Thinking through an American lens, it's highly unlikely that an NFL game would ever be called off because, say, a Bears fan was killed by the police in Milwaukee on his way up to Green Bay -- or that there would be calls to suspend the whole slate of games. But the more I've read about the broader context (including the helpful information provided by romakimmy above), the more I've come to realize that this just isn't something that can be fully grasped without understanding the overall situation with police-fan interactions and conflicts, the role of the Ultras, the local (Italian) media coverage, the broader social and political context, etc. So I think any comparison to what the response would be in the U.S. (or England or Japan or anywhere else, for that matter) or what the "right response" would be is pretty futile.

posted by holden at 11:09 AM on November 13

I doubt that the Highway restaurant clash was a matter of coincidence. I do. If you read my recap above, the purported clash was between Juve & Lazio fans. Lazio fans were heading to Milan for Inter-Lazio. Juve fans would have been heading presumably to Parma. The purported fight happened in Arezzo, which is near Florence. Care to tell me how an Autogrill near Florence is a 'local Inter Milan hangout'? And I beg to differ that by following a club one must support the whole kit n' kaboodle, such as dumb political undercurrents. I'll also beg to differ that by going on a roadtrip with some friends to see an important away game, making a stop for petrol, panini, or a piss means that you were an Ultra looking for trouble. If the cop had accidentally shot a driver on the 6 lanes of traffic that separated the two Autogrills, I'd give even odds that footie wouldn't have been invoked by the media. Please note this is not in defense of the idiots who ran amok Sunday; but the powers that be fell down on the job Sunday and the Ultras took the resulting opportunity to do what they do best - be assholes.

posted by romakimmy at 11:42 AM on November 13

I don't blame Italian police for brutality on these knuckledraggers at all. It sucks that someone got shot in needless violence, but a nickle to a donut says the departed was far from an innocent bystander. He was at that restaurant on his own accord. He was there to fight, injure, or harass Inter supporters. I can't find any justification for this man being shot to death. And our feeling is that this kind of result is going to somehow prevent violence at future matches? No. If anything, the hooligans will better arm themselves. I agree, that it would be nice if we could package up shit like this is a tidy little rational bow, feel safe in our prejudices and move on - but sorry, that's a fairy tale.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 01:50 PM on November 13

If you read my recap above... I did, however I somehow missed, "fight between Lazio & Juve fans". I just assumed that if Lazio fans were beating the shite out of someone on match day at a planned (and I'm sure the scruff was organized) showdown it would have been Inter supporters. I guess it is a 'first come, first served' policy with regards to football violence. If the cop had accidentally shot a driver on the 6 lanes of traffic that separated the two Autogrills, I'd give even odds that footie wouldn't have been invoked by the media. The 'media' shouldn't mention footie fans in that scenario. The cop didn't shoot a passer-by, he shot a football supporter, on his way to a match, where he magically met up with opposing fans and caused a ruck. And I beg to differ that by following a club one must support the whole kit n' kaboodle, such as dumb political undercurrents. This is a cop-out, and a poor one. I will gladly bow to your assertion that not all Lazio supporters are violent neo-nazi scumbags, and conceed it is only most. If you agree that the Italian supporters at away matches are comprised almost entirely of Ultras organised at the club level. ..our feeling is that this kind of result is going to somehow prevent violence at future matches? Um, no.

posted by r8rh8r27 at 02:35 PM on November 13

Paolo Bandini has a piece in The Guardian about how the Ultras have tried to make the most of this opportunity. Try: www.guardian.co.uk/football And follow the headline links.

posted by owlhouse at 04:09 PM on November 13

owlhouse's link appears to be broken. Try this instead.

posted by holden at 05:26 PM on November 13

Thanks holden. This internets thing still has me foxed.

posted by owlhouse at 06:19 PM on November 13

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