Monday, November 12, 2007

Grim reading

I always try to keep a sense of humour about my football but this weekend has tested that to the full. The tragic death of a Lazio fan on his way to watch his team against Inter and the resulting acts of violence have thrown Italian football into darkness once again. I sometimes wonder if it can ever find a way out.

Coverage in a lot of sections of the UK media has been superficial at best. I feel that this Sunday's events ought to be distinguished from the death of Filippo Raciti last season in some significant respects. This was not the kind of pre-meditated horror which that incident turned out to be.

By all accounts it appears a tragic accident prompted the unsavoury scenes in Bergamo and Rome. Yes, the skirmishes at the service station in Arezzo were unacceptable but when word got out that a fan had been shot and killed there were large sections of Ultras up and down the country who felt all games should have been suspended. That appears to have been what Atalanta fans wanted and, ultimately, achieved.

The scenes in Rome also had the air of an improvised response to the shooting by the Carabinieri. It was senseless and stupid - without waiting for any kind of explanation - but it was not entirely incomprehensible. The more hardcore Italian fans have been maintaining an uneasy peace with police and it was always likely to take a lot less than this to set things off. And, of course, there are plenty of imbeciles out there who were only looking for an excuse to go out and cause trouble.

Ultimately, the scenes flashed around the world are easy prey for newspapers and television stations happy to continue the Italian football chaos theme. There have been knee-jerk calls for games to be abandoned but this, in truth, would achieve little. Everything which happened on Sunday was either a long way outside any football stadium or prompted by matters which had precious little to do with the game itself. To hold Calcio responsible for that would, I believe, be unfair.

Unfortunately, a bit like a hopeless criminal who keeps getting caught, the sport's previous convictions are likely to be taken into account.


patcook said...

the low standard of media coverage is disgraceful.
Many media outlets in Australia tried to portray the events as possible revenge acts by the police a Raciti's death last season.
I think Italy can fix these issues, like England has reduced the hooliganism in its country.
We all just have to pray for a competent Italian government...

Spangly Princess said...

I agree with what you've said here, apart from it does now seem that there was a degree of organisation & direction to the rioting here in Rome - coming from extreme right militants. Showing ever more clearly that this is a social & political problem first and foremost.

It should indeed be distinguished from the death of Raciti: that was the (probably) accidental result of malice aforethought, Sandri's death was the result (probably) of incompetent and careless policing.

But I find it impossible not to sympathise with the view that the championship should have been suspended. After an untimely death connected to football it is inappropriate to play matches, simple as that.

* (asterisk) said...

A sorry state of affairs, whichever way you look at it... not least from the question, How does a warning shot kill a man in a car? Like Spangly says, probably incompetence and carelessness.

ginkers said...


The coverage has been very mixed with some going into decent detail and others being totally superficial.


I noticed that there did seem to be a more organised effort in Rome which is depressing. I agree that it is inappropriate to play after a sport-related death but I am unclear as to how obvious it was that this was connected to football when the games kicked off.


A sorry state of affairs indeed. I wish there was an easy answer. I kind of feel sorry for everyone who was involved with the initial incident.

patcook said...

i think abandoning all the games would have been like paying a ransom to kidnappers and Calcio has paid too often.

I think it was right to abandon games with safety concerns but it was encouraging to see calcio get on with the show.

Spangly Princess said...

Patcook, I'm never going to agree with you there. I think it was insulting and insensitive.

The information we now have makes the death look very unrelated to sport. But what the Italian media were putting out between, say, mid-day and 3pm on Sunday, made it seem very clear that the death was football related. If anything, I would say that the style in which the tragedy was immediately reported was highly incendiary.
So at Sunday lunchtime, fans were being told that an ultra had been shot by police tackling two groups of fans; and that this didn't matter enough to call off matches.

However disgusting the subsequent behaviour - and it was - I think it's legitimate to have found that upsetting. I certainly did.

The Inter-Lazio game was, according to some sources, only called off in part after Lazio players - many of whom personally knew the dead man - said they didn't want to play.

ginkers said...

These situations are always hard to handle. The worst ever was Heysel which should never have been played.

Sunday was another bungled piece of judgment. Now I'm not sure it would serve any purpose to stop the games on, say, November 25. It might seem a bit of a token effort anyway having failed to do so at the weekend.

patcook said...

SP, you know the situation better than me. But looking at all the incidents, over so many years, it just seems every time an ultra gets their nose bent out of shape all they have to do is kick up a stink and they basically get what they want.

That Roman derby that was called off because ultras falsely believed or made up that a fan had been killed was a disgrace and shows that most them don't really care they just want an excuse to do what they do.

I'd just like to see the authorities say enough is enough, were going to take the hooligans out of the stadiums and were not going to be influenced by their violence any more.