Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Ultra violent?

Developments so far this season with regard to violence and ultras have been interesting, if uncertain. In the aftermath of the death of Filippo Raciti, a great many column inches were spent on an unedifying combination of sanctimony and mea culpa hand-waving. The political reaction was rapid - far too rapid - and now comes the proof of the pudding. With the new measures in place, is anything changing? Well... yes and no. A greatly increased and focused political will to tackle hooliganism seems to have been met by a deliberate increase of violence targeted at the agents of that repression. The new policy of stewards inside and carabinieri outside the stadium, has been accompanied by a blitz of banning orders up and down the country as well as a more vigorous response to violent incidents from the sporting authorities. But violent incidents are being reported more than ever, and the media at least would have you think that all Italy is a battle-ground.

Interestingly, the three newly promoted teams have been chucking it about the most. Perhaps this is partly because of Serie B's lower attendances and lesser media scrutiny (insofar as there is any *serious* media scrutiny of the nature of Italian football violence). Napoli have built on the reputation - 'awful' or 'impressive' depending on your level of sanity - which they built up in Serie B for being the country's most consistently violent fans. Genoa have already got into trouble for their conduct in the first of this year's long-awaited Derby della Lanterna. And Juve don't like to be left out of anything, so have been getting up to some frankly ridiculous cross-dressing antics of late.

Yes you heard me. A number of Juve teppisti donned Torino scarves last Sunday in order to be able to get closer to their city rivals without police intervention. I remember once offering Chelsea Boy a giallorosso scarf to borrow for a match at the Olimpico he was coming along to; he looked horrified and said 'I just don't think I *could* wear another club's colours, sorry.' He looked as though I'd asked him to wear women's underwear or something. Clearly there were some Juventini who felt able to at least temporarily overcome any such revulsion they might have been feeling. Some 40-odd Juventus fans ("coming from all over Italy", tee hee) were arrested, with only a couple of arrests for the granata. Weapons of all kinds were confiscated, tear gas fired, the works. Lovely.

So Torino-Samp will be played in front of the Granata's season ticket holders only, though some were calling for it to be behind closed doors; the actions of both sets of fans in their respective derbies has not inspired confidence in a peaceful game. Meanwhile no tickets will be sold to Juve fans for their game at Fiorentina on Sunday. This is not just due to the violence at the derby, according to the Osservatorio Nazionale: there were violent incidents at over 1/3 of the bianconeri's away games last year, and the match with the Viola is considered a maximum risk fixture. Tough measures of this kind kicked off with Napoli's home game against Genoa behind closed doors last weekend, and further sanctions on the Napoletani are in place this coming weekend as they are banned from travelling to the San Siro for their match with table-topping Inter. These measures are hard to argue against given the trail of robbery, violence and intimidation which a small sector of the azzurri have left behind at - where else - various Autogrill service stations up and down the country. And of course the armoury of the laziali arrested the other weekend hardly bespeaks an interest in the values of sporting rivalry, mutual respect and fairplay.

Some things don't seem to change... Inter have been fined €25,000 as a result of their fans throwing an explosive into the home crowd last week, causing minor injuries to a steward; Roma have been fined €15,000 for the appearance of a pair of coloured smoke bombs in the Sud later in the game. These fines are dished out every week... does anyone think they will make any difference? But on the whole there seems to be a new toughness in the sanctions being applied.

The intention, I suppose, is that enraged ordinary fans will turn on the hooligans and cease giving them quarter, as the many suffer for the crimes of the few. There have been some signs in the last year or so that people are getting fed up with the excesses of the contemporary ultras movement: the reactions of Lazio fans to the Nord's protests last year; the reaction of "ordinary" Juventini (do they exist?) to the idiot who throw a smoke bomb in the distinti during the Udinese game last month. And according to La Repubblica, residents of the Marassi area helped police to identify the protagonists of the violence at the Genoese derby.

Understandably, the police are getting fucked off with all this. One reason for the presence of stewards inside the grounds instead of police is that the police don't see why they should continually put themselves at risk. (What do you mean, you thought the Italian police loved beating people over the head with big sticks? Surely some mistake). Stewards are not the object of anyone's hatred - mild derision, maybe, but that's rarely a violent emotion - and so are less at risk. Not ratcheting up tensions by reducing the number of armed and armoured men in a potentially violent situation seems fairly sensible to me. But the national policemen's union is saying that their members should not be needless asked to go into situations deliberately engineered for their assault, and that grounds should be closed to the public as an immediate response to violence. Whether this hard-line policy could ever be put into place seems doubtful to me, despite the apparent new political will to take firm if unpopular stances.


Anonymous said...

Do ordinary Juventini exist?

No. We're all extraordinary!!!

- Juventini

Chelsea boy said...

As in, live extraordinarily far away from Turin?

TrentToffee said...

Cross dressing football hoolies ! What ever next ?

Given time the playing behind closed doors banning orders may work yet. Or, drive honest fans to the point whereby they really can't be arsed anymore and the stadiums remain perpetually empty. But you have to admit, these fuckers are determined. The cops have to remain equally determined.

I have a question. By law, do the stadiums in Italy have to be all-seaters ?

ursus arctos said...


The answer is no. And even those stadia that are theoretically all seater in order to comply with UEFA regulations feature entire Curvae that stand throughout the match. I very much doubt that Spangles has sat for more than a minute at any of the matches that she has chronicled on here.

We also don't really do banning orders here, at least not with the rigour of the English, who will require bad guys to turn up at police stations on match days. To the extent they exist at all, they are "enforced" through the observed in the breach process of requiring names on tickets and checking id, which last year was shown to allow Benjamin Franklin, Karl Marx and Marconi free entry into the Olimpico.

Typically cogent analysis and excellent writing by Spangles. I would say that there has been a shift in attitudes outside the Curvae, but the very complex web of economic, social, political, familial and other ties that establish the context in which those communities function (and the degree to which ultra-police relations are seen as a venue for manifesting hostility that has its roots in society at large) makes them a much, much, harder nut to crack.

Anonymous said...

I didn't realise Abramovich was a native of the King's Road, but there you go.

Chelsea boy said...

Yeah, you've got me there....

Spangly Princess said...

Ursus is correct as usual, though in theory most stadia in Serie A are all-seater, in the main Curva you would never expect to sit.

Banning orders are both inadequately enforced and indiscriminately applied making them ineffective and ill-respected. They are dished out by police, rather than magistrates, with woefully poor burdens of proof, and thus often mis-applied. In theory, some banned people are meant to report in to their local carabinieri station. In practice it makes not that much difference. So the system needs to be a lot more rigorous and a lot fairer.

ursus arctos said...

Well, that whole thing about barring Napoli fans from the Meazza was carried out with the kind of efficiency and professionalism we have come to expect from the public authorities here.

Although the authorities banned ticket sales outside the Provincia di Milano, stopped internet sales and restricted purchases to one ticket per person early in the week, there were still more than a thousand Napolitani in the ground last night, though largely scattered, as they had all gotten tickets before the ban was put in place or through other "furbo" means.

Given that the section of the Curva Sud usually reserved for away fans was closed (another part of the ban), the Meazza staff had to scramble to figure out where to put these people so as not to encourage fights breaking out all over the ground, with the result that several hundred Inter season ticket holders were turfed out of their seats in the second tier to make room for the Napolitani, with small groups of away fans be escorted to the "protected" section throughout the first half.

The usual range of disgusting anti-Napoli and anti-Southern chants were in full force, and there apparently was a "Napoli, the sewer of Europe" striscione somewhere (we didn't see it) that is likely to get Inter a fine (as will the four or five flares in the Nord and an another banner comparing the Interior Minister's hard line on ultras with the general impunity available to politicians (the latter being the only thing the two groups of fans agreed on last night).

For all of that there was no serious aggro, and the match was quite entertaining.