Tuesday, April 10, 2007

It's like deja vu all over again...

I have been away from civilisation for so long that this is the first chance I have had to post on recent events in Italy and abroad. My in-laws are great hosts but their dial-up internet connection is too slow to make blogging a possibility.

In any case, maybe it was best that I had some time to meditate on this, my 100th post here, which will touch upon a familiar theme. Namely, the perception of Italy and Italian football in large sections of the English media. It is something of a personal crusade, as you are no doubt aware by now.

It all kicked off on Tuesday night in Rome when there was trouble between police and Man Utd supporters. Plenty of column inches were spent telling us how "heavy-handed" the Italian police were and then citing numerous previous incidents - including Anders Frisk being struck by a coin. I was watching the game in a pub on a small Scottish island and was the only one cheering Roma's goals. The general consensus seemed to be that "those Italians were at it again".

The following day's press coverage was largely laughable. Ignoring any thought of blame on the Manchester side it pretty much pointed the finger at Roma and Italy in general. A lot of nonsense about Raciti, mopeds being thrown in the San Siro and Ultras was written.

24 hours later, however, the mood changed. This time it was Seville and the Tottenham fans. Maybe there was an inkling that a common theme was emerging - English supporters abroad, rather than heavy-handed law and order. Both should shoulder the blame, not one exclusively.

The worrying thing, for me, is that there is a similar air of denial to the one which first circulated when hooliganism surfaced in the 1970s and 1980s. I hope it does not take another tragedy to get everyone to get their act together. There is no doubt there IS an issue about policing these games but there are also problems attached to several thousand English football fans travelling abroad together. I always imagine it like bumping into the biggest Club 18-30 holiday you have ever seen. At best, loud and offensive.

So please, spare us the sanctimonious headlines if there is trouble in Valencia when Chelsea visit tonight. No doubt we will also be on thug watch when Roma come to Old Trafford. The simple fact, I hope and pray, is that I can never remember there being any trouble when Italian fans travel abroad. Long may it continue.

I wish this post could have concentrated on matters on the field of play - where I will be watching intently in the days ahead. But, sometimes I feel a degree of balance is called for in the coverage of other matters - even if that means taking the opposite view to create debate rather than facile reactions based on stereotype and misinformation.


martinobhoy said...

First of all congratulations on your 100th post.

I agree that there are problems on all sides with this one and it does no-one any good to be simply blaming it all on over-zealous policing although I'm not denying this can be a factor. However it does have to be asked why 8,000 Celtic fans can go to Milan or 7,000 Scotland fans can go to Bari without scenes like we saw in the Olimpico when Manchester United were there.

I'm probably going to use a sweeping generalisation here but there does appear to be a mindset in some English fans that travel abroad that the foreign country is to be "conquered" and that doesn't help. As I've said elsewhere the first rule of travel should be to respect your host's laws, traditions and culture.

Red said...

Congrats on the 100th post, Ginkers! Here's to another 100!

We've had this conversation at Casa AsteRed, and although * was quick to condemn the Italian police in the first instance (and fair enough, they are/were heavy-handed), he was much less vociferous when the same scenes played on our TV screen again the following night, from lovely Sevilla. The only common denominator? English fans abroad...

I think that many people in mainland Europe still think of hooliganism as an English problem. Ask the average Italian what they think of the English football fans who gather on their squares and get pissed before the match, and most of them will say "Tutti hooligans, tutti ubriaconi".

And it's all very well to say that these gatherings are joyous occasions, that there is no tension, that it's just a few hundred Englishmen drinking beer, singing football songs and getting burned by the midday sun, but who are we kidding? It is an intimidating sight. Which is why we are rarely treated to footage of the locals also sitting at a bar, having a spritz. They feel their town is taken over, and that pisses them off.

So it's a combination of (say) Italians being suspicious and annoyed that their towns are no-go areas for a few hours/days, and the fact that many English football fans see going abroad as a ticket for a free-for-all type affair.

No good can come of it...

TrentToffee said...

Welcome back. It's fair to point out that the common theme (of the agro) was the English clubs. I really hope we aren't going to see a resurgence of the bad old days.

I don't mind seeing hoolies getting battered with truncheons. However, it would have been fairer if the cops had battered the fans on *both* sides of the flimsey perspex wall dividing them. How is it that the Man U/Roma fans were within throwing distance of each other ? It shouldn't be necessary, but unfortunately, *proper* segregation is now a requirement for all matches.

On Red's point about the pre-match drinking. It's true, the English don't seem to be able to drink passively. I read (perhaps inaccurately) that the local authorities had closed all of the bars within the vicinity of the Roma stadium. However, it didn't deter the bar owners from selling crates of beer *outside* the ground (making a fast buck, and pre-arming the hoolies with bottles incidently). I just wish a ban on pre-match drinking meant just that. Stick the away fans in pens and only let them out 5 mins before kick-off. They'll soon get the message.

For what it's worth, I think Roma have this one in the bag. Man U, historically, do not overturn a deficit, on the home leg, in the KO stage, of the CL.

Congrats on the 100th post :o)

Pat said...

Man U are 5-0 57 minutes in so my attention on the game is wanning.

Unfortunetly there are reports of more troule outside the stadium.

One issue that frustrates me is that Man U release all these warnings which are inflammatory and basically a call to arms.

oh 6-0 now, what a disaster. Still I said not to under-rate Man U

ginkers said...

I wish my 100th post could have brought a bit more luck to Roma. They were totally shell-shocked and didn't look to have a Plan B after going behind. Still, credit to Man Utd, though it sticks in my throat, they looked the more hungry and more fluent team on this occasion.

What a nightmare, though, three English teams in the last four. Can Milan keep the Italian flag flying? I have my doubts but if tradition counts for anything they just might...