Thursday, 15 November 2007

Atalanta say enough: no more

So what, you may be wondering, has the reaction been from the world of football itself? Pictures of Atalanta players appealing to the club's ultras on Sunday were shown everywhere, as the shocking violence of their Curva Nord erupted.

Club President (and owner) Ivan Ruggeri has come forward with an amazingly brave and determined stance: he has announced that irrespective of what the authorities decree, he is going to close down the curva. In fact he has announced that if needs be he will close down the whole club. In an open letter to the press the manager, Luigi Del Neri, and the entire first team squad, have announced that they 'publicly and unconditionally support the hardline position taken by President Ruggeri' and that 'we don't want these delinquents any more, neither at the stadium nor at our training.' This 'violent minority' has 'brought shame on the entire city', they say.

This is a dramatic change for a club which has traditionally had fairly close links to its ultras: this video shows Del Neri, then newly appointed, at the celebrations of one of the main Atalanta ultras groups just this summer, being introduced by an ultras leader notorious for his love of violence. And when Ruggeri was asked 'do you know Francesco 'Baffo' Palafreni?' (the 58 year old historic leader of Atalanta's curva), his reply was revealing: he's been around for thirty years, it would be impossible not to know him. Comparable situations of course have existed at many other clubs - not least Lazio, where under former president Sergio Cragnotti the Irriducibili attained a level of power and financial clout which no ultra group before or since - thankfully - has ever rivalled.

Anyway, Ruggeri has decided that enough is enough. League president Antonio Matarrese has heralded this tough line and urged other club presidents to follow Ruggeri's example. It remains to be seen, of course, whether tough actions can follow these tough words. In his Monday interview, he said that "Bergamo cannot afford to have these 200-300 people disrupting our football." He also pointed out that "here we are suffering the inefficiency of the state," calling for firmer political will, for more consistent judicial intervention and more reliable sentencing.

He is of course spot on with these last observations. Without the backing of the police, the judiciary, and the political system in general, no individual - no matter how influential - can change this culture of violence. Again, I have to reiterate: this is a political and social problem. Rioting, hooliganism and vigilantism are real problems here in Italy in a variety of contexts, not just football. (Consider the G8 in 2001, consider the reactions to the recent murder of a woman in Rome by a Romanian gypsy, consider the self-proclaimed neofascist 'militias', consider the violent protests against Opus Dei during the beatification of Francoist martyrs last month, consider the vast number of stabbings in incidents outside clubs and bars, the huge number of young men who habitually carry knives, the rate of deaths of young men in Naples). Violence in football can only be tackled as a part of tackling endemic violence in Italian society.

Meanwhile the Osservatorio Nazionale (the relevant govt department) have issued bans on sales of away tickets for the games scheduled for the weekend of 24/25 November, when the championship resumes (at least in theory: we are still awaiting confirmation on that). An unprecedented 15 games have been subject to a ban on away fans.

In Serie A: Atalanta (at S. Siro against lnter), Catania (at Napoli), Milan (at Cagliari), Roma (against Genoa), Sampdoria (a Livorno) andTorino (at Empoli). From Serie B the banned fans are Bari and Cesena while there are 5 sides affected in Serie C (Potenza, Reggiana, Taranto, Ternana and Verona) as well as two amateur sides (Gragnano and Turris).

Lazio-Parma meanwhile is likely to be played on the Saturday, and away fans may also be banned from that game, but it's still to be finalised. (Shockingly, I am thinking of going along - Chelsea Boy will be over for his birthday weekend, so it would be nice to get to a game, and I would like to see what they are planning in terms of commemorative tifo).


Aussie Romanista said...

chelsea boy said...

Ooh dear, that seems a tad mawkish for me. The cheesy pop tune doeesn't help that clip one bit.

PLus the words irriducibbili fanni are used in teh comments section, which made me stifle a giggle. I know that's bad, but I laughed when a Chelsea fan shouted 'Andy Townsend.. you're a WANKER!!' at the top of his voice during a minutes silence for Stanley Matthews, so there you go.

de vertalerin said...

Interesting to see the clip of the funeral, though, and to hear the singing for oneself. Though Spangles' account was oddly more vivid than the film. The power of the written word, eh?

There's a nasty comment in the comments section, which I'm surprised the site owner hasn't pulled - can't you do that on YouTube?

de vertalerin said...

And the addition of the cheesy pop song is very Italian.

ginkers said...

I never thought I'd read about you considering going to a Lazio game. Maybe the world can change, after all?

I, too, admire Ruggeri's stance but will it be just another round of strong words? And, as you rightly say, there are ills in Italy which football alone cannot be blamed for or tackle.

patcook said...

I think football can help solve the social and perhaps even the political issues. Football plays an important part in many peoples lives and players, managers, club executive and association representatives all can have a strong influence through the media outlets they have available that some ministers can't even access. I mean Ruggeri's view point is all over the internet and news.

I know football isn't going to be the magic answer to all the countries problems but it has the resources and influence to make a difference and I think it would be a shame if more of calcio's elite don't take similar stances to Ruggeri's.