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Thursday, April 5, 2007

Editorial: Ban Italian Football from Europe!

The scene on Wednesday was horrific.

During Wednesday's Champions League game between AS Roma and Manchester United, Italian Police - without cause - beat and brutalized Manchester United fans (see pic to the right - courtesy the Daily Express). Another fan was stabbed near Roma's Olympic Stadium. About 18 fans required medical treatment due to crazed Italian fans with many more leaving with minor injuries, and shattered nerves.

Overshadowing what was a first-rate Champions League game (with Roma winning 2-1 over United), the incidents have moved world-wide attention away from clean and exciting competition to anarchy on Roman streets. During the game, AS Roma's fan threw glass bottles containing urine and other objects over the plastic barriers, while Italian Police did nothing. In fact, reports clearly showed that Italian Police stationed themselves only within the Manchester United fan area, and not in the Italian section from where the dangerous objects were being thrown.

No one knows for sure why Italian Police decided to attack Manchester United fans, but the videos and facts support that it was clearly unprovoked. Manchester United, so concerned about matter, has set up a fan inquiry line, and those who were assaulted or attacked can be directed to : or by mail to Roma Inquiry, Manchester United FC, Sir Matt Busby Way, Manchester, M14 0RA.

After this and other incidents, its time for the UEFA to step in and declare that Italian venues are unsafe for all soccer fans. The UEFA must take steps to immediately ban Italy from European competition and perhaps even their own interleague games for the safety of all involved.

Italian Football (Soccer) has long been scrutinized for the violent and unruly behavior displayed by their fans. In fact, due to the behavior of some Italian fans with teams playing in Serie A, many teams such as Catania must play in closed stadiums without fans. So this means that many Serie A games can be seen on TV being played with empty stadiums. It's a well known fact that Italian Football officials refuse to govern themselves accordingly, or provide realistic and consistent sanctions and punishments for unruly fans.

There is precedence for shutting down an entire nation's football league until they solve for security issues. UEFA and other organizations successfully shut down English Football in 1985 when the Heysel (Brussels) stadium tragedy occurred in which 39 fans died during a match between Liverpool and Juventus for the European Championship.

England took the right steps to ensure that hooliganism was reduced to a minimum, and the correct number of police, and crowd control procedures and equipment where put into place. The ban was lifted after a full five years and after England could demonstrate to UEAF and local government officials that venues were safe and England could better manage soccer fans.

The fear is that Serie A and Italian Government officials apparently need their own tragic Heysel incident before they take the time to clean up their act. Or perhaps a better alternative is for English, French, German, and other European nations simply take the step to protect their fans by refusing to play Italian teams in European competition until Italy reforms itself.

At least for now, let's hope that when AS Roma comes to Old Trafford, England to play the final leg against Manchester United on April 10th, that Manchester United fans don't retaliate and conduct themselves in a manner that blurs the issue and takes the light of scrutiny off of Italian League soccer - where it clearly belongs.

I also recommend you read this great piece by ESPN's Jon Carter.

On April 10th, even if you hate Manchester United, the world's fans owe allegiance to the Red Devils, and pray they knock Roma out of the competition, if not for anything else - for the safety of Soccer fans everywhere!

UEFA shut down Italy!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

a pity there wasnt this kind of press reaction or forum back in 84 after the European Cup Final between Roma & Liverpool, had UEFA reacted to the attacks on Liverpool fans the way they reacted in 85 there would never have been a Heysel disaster, 39 innocent fans would not have died, and English clubs wouldnt have been banned from Europe.