Another Sunday, another motorway service station, another football fan dead. Oh God.
Yesterday, Matteo Bagnaresi, 28 year old Parma fan, was killed at a service station in Piedmont. He was on one of the two coaches full of gialloblù who had stopped off at around 12.30 outside Asti, some 50km from Turin, en route to the Olimpico for Juventus-Parma. When they stopped, they found that a coachload of Juve fans also travelling to the game was already present.
Accounts of precisely what happened next diverge somewhat, but all agree that the bianconeri boarded their bus in haste and fled, the driver setting off with the door still open and fans still scrambling on board. Bagnaresi, perhaps partially hidden by a petrol pump, was hit by the rear corner of the moving coach.
The driver didn't immediately realise what had happened, and only stopped some half a km down the road when juventini from the rear of the bus alerted him to the fact. He is under investigation for omicidio colposo (manslaughter) but has not as yet been arrested. The local police chief is talking about a tragic accident, and certainly that is what it seems to be.
But of course nothing is so simple. Bagnaresi is already, alas, being spoken of in the same breath as Sandri and Raciti. Firstly he is by no means an uncomplicated victim in this sad tale: yesterday's was to have been his first match back after a three year banning order, imposed following the pitch invasion and general disorder of 6 January 2005 at the Tardini which took place following a game against, guess who, Juventus. Juve-Parma is not a peaceable tie. Unlike the mainstream Italian press, I don't automatically think that the fact that Bagnaresi had been subject to a banning order means he must have been a hooligan: the banning system in Italy is notoriously slapdash and scattergun, with bans imposed by police rather than judges and with minimal levels of evidence required. But it certainly raises questions.
As do reports circulating from the juventini present at Asti service station yesterday who claim that the arriving Parma fans bombarded them with glass bottles and descended from their coaches wielding belts and batons. Other eye-witnesses have claimed that there was nothing more than some shouted banter and/or verbal abuse. One way or another the driver of the bianconeri coach certainly panicked; who can say, at this stage whether this was due to actual violence or his perception that it might break out.
To me, this death seems to have even less to do with football than did that of Sandri. Yesterday only Juve-Parma was called off, all the other 15.00 games went ahead after a minute's silence. I think this was the right thing to do, given the accidental nature of the death - it's quite different from a sleeping man being shot dead by the police, after all. And the difference was also reflected in the reactions - nothing like the horrific rioting of last November took place. Empoli fans took down their banners as a mark of respect, in sign of their twinned relationship with Parma, and the silence was greeted warmly. Meanwhile various ultras' sites are closed today, as they were after the deaths of both Sandri and Raciti.
I would like to think that this sad accident won't be exploited and manipulated for ends wholly unconnected to the event itself. But I know better than to place much reliance on the sense or restraint of Italian sporting or political authorities. So more in hope than expectation.