The Napoletani, that is. Having been officially banned from the Meazza last time out, though with dubious impact as reported by my trusty Milan correspondant, away fans are also banned from the Olimpico for the Roma-Napoli match on Saturday evening. This on top of a home ban in their match against Genoa. In fact there are major concerns about Saturday from the police and from Roma officials: if 1000 Napoletani managed to be present at Inter, how many more are going to turn up here, so much closer? Consensus among Romanisti seems to be that this measure may prevent the organised groups turning up but will do little to prevent large numbers arriving 'informally'. And in all likelihood - as happened at the Meazza, and last year at the Olimpico when some 8000 ticketless Catania fans arrived - they will be let in and arranged somehow or other in order to prevent worse. Since the next home game for us is the derby, and everyone is desperate to risk any kind of ban arising, even the more lunatic fringe is sounding a note of caution. But Il Tempo, the regional newspaper, has been talking about up to 8000 of them arriving. Meetings between the club and the authorities are still ongoing, and the precise details of the situation are unclear. To the best of my knowledge, tickets are still to go on sale, and it may end up being season ticket holders only.
Meanwhile Napoli have caused plenty of trouble of another kind for the Inter ultras. For the first time, the Giudice Sportivo, the sporting justice department which allocates bans and suspensions, has exercised its right to suspend a curva. The punishment has been imposed on Inter after the behaviour of the ultras there during the Napoli game. In the past, clubs have been punished for fans' behaviour with fines; or if there was violence, or safety concerns, then games have been played behind closed doors or at neutral grounds. Here the giudice has punished, essentially, only the ultras, and not for violence but for racism.
Perhaps they're just highlighting the shocking state of the healthcare infrastructure in the South and appealing for greater attention to their fellow citizens' plight.
Or not. The judge decided they were in controvention of the anti-racism regulations which cover territorial discrimination [it would be hard to disagree] and observing that the offensive singing and slogans were limited to one sector of the ground - that is, the upper tier of the Curva Nord, where the ultras stand - has punished that sector. What to do for the Inter ultras? They've spent enough time protesting and emptying their own stand in the past. Will they protest outside, or buy tickets elsewhere? Still, good work, it's about time someone started to get tough on prejudice in Italian football. Now let's have more of the same next time there are monkey noises, please.
Ah yes, one other thing. I thought all striscioni were supposed to be authorised by the police one week beforehand via fax, and then only admitted two hours before kick off after careful inspection? Now since I very much doubt that either of the banners pictured were smuggled in folded up in someone's back pocket, either 1) that's exactly what happened and the Milanese police share the ultras' rather dubious sense of humour; or 2) (brace yourselves here) the law is not being enforced. I hope you're sitting down. Ah, it couldn't be that the law is an unenforceable piece of tripe rushed through in a knee-jerk festival of idiocy, could it? surely not.