Serie A blog: The disgraceful display by Genoa fans on Sunday was the inevitable result of Italian football's cosy relationship with Ultras
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Today it's our Serie A blogger, footballitaliano.co.uk 's Mina Rzouki, with her take on the week's big issues in Italy.
"Shame, shame, shame! What happened today in Genoa once again represents the worst side of Italian football,” said the CONI (The Italian National Olympic Committee) President Gianni Petrucci.
On Sunday afternoon, a Genoa side that were visibly distracted, physically unprepared and tactically disorganised took on Siena in the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
Losing 3-0 by half time and conceding their fourth four minutes into the second half was too much to take for a section of ultras.
Between 60-80 Genoa ultras began throwing fireworks on to the pitch and climbed on top of the players’ tunnel to protest their team’s embarrassing performance. The angry scenes forced the referee to suspend the match for over 40 minutes, as the fans demanded the players take off their shirts, deeming them unworthy of wearing the Genoa colours. (See all in the video below).
The scenes were, in a word, disgraceful. Had the match been officially called off then Genoa, who are only a point away from the relegation zone, would have faced heavy punishments. Fans have the right to protest but this is not the manner in which to do it.
However, the bells of hypocrisy chimed again.
The President of the FIGC called it "unacceptable" the Genoa President raged at "the madness" whilst CONI president called it "shameful". Yet the most shameful aspect of this incident is how these powerful figureheads have scapegoated these ultras, blaming them for the demise of calcio.
In a country where racist chanting by Juventus fans is punished only by small fines and threats of stadium closure, where Lazio fans feel free to practice anti-Semitism in the Curva Nord and building a stadium is more complicated than solving the most difficult of equations, one has to wonder how those in charge can be so shocked at the recent incident.
A country that has encouraged ultra power now stands surprised at that the power these ultras wield. For years now these fans have enjoyed the good life from their respective clubs, whether that be in the form of free parking, free VIP tickets or free travel - some ultra bosses are even put in charge of official stores that sell the clubs’ merchandise. They are consulted in certain club matters and even invited to exclusive events.
Clubs consider this a great investment. In treating these ultras well, they are guaranteed utter devotion. Other than guaranteed support in every home and away game, ultras are useful when it comes to convincing star players into staying with the team or applying pressure on a referee during a match.
It is also worth nothing that not all ultras are hooligans who enjoy the power. Many of those who protested in Genoa on Sunday afternoon were young, some not doubt devoted fathers. Their protests were not violent but ones of despair as they lost patience with a president more concerned with buying players for Milan than his own club and a squad more interested in planning their holidays than winning.
Legendary supporter and respected member of society Pippo Spagnolo urged us to not turn our backs on these northern tier dwellers - “the tier,” he noted, “that holds the record for blood donors.”
A spokesperson for the fans, Fabrizio Fileni, spoke out yesterday insisting that no violence took place and that they acted out of concern and anger. “Up to 3-0 we cheered as usual. There was no premeditation [to humiliate the players], but then what prevailed was a mixture of anger and concern.”
Putting the issue of ultras aside, how do these incidents continue to occur and what are the authorities doing to ensure stadium safety? The police did not want to intervene so as to not encourage rioting and yet their failure to act sent a message of acceptance when a zero tolerance attitude should have been adopted.
Since the incident, 11 fans have rightly been handed five-year bans meaning they will not be allowed to attend a live sporting event for the next five years. The authorities have promised more bans as they continue to identify the protesters via video footage in an effort to stamp out these types of occurrences.
Yet it appears the racists and anti-Semites are allowed to continue with their actions.
“What happened yesterday in the Curva Nord of Lazio is serious, perhaps even more serious that what occurred in Genoa,” said Emilio Greco, Director of the Bar Association.
He was referring to the group of Lazio fans who chanted anti-Semitic slogans from the Curva Nord during the match against Lecce - a topic barely covered by the media and hardly addressed by the authorities.
Until the authorities, including club presidents, accept the role they have played in condemning calcio to this level of absurdity then such disgraceful situations will continue to occur and the Italian game will never evolve.