New seasons in European football competitions are slowly starting and everyone expects to see to which extent will the World Cup hangover take its toll on the big teams. Ambitions of the so called ‘big guns’ remain the same, but the reality is that struggles and injuries could plague teams and somewhat undermine their ‘top of the league’ assault in the weeks to come. So far, English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, and Italian Serie A offered no signs of such scenary. It was, more or less, business as usual. Apart from Mourinho’s Manchester United – and an internal havoc caused by the manager himself – other teams went on with their business. The first real shock at the beginning of the season came not from the field but rather of it – from the Stadio Olimpico and Lazio fans!
It was in the eve of the Serie A first round deby match between Lazio and Napoli, when host fans, a part of ‘ultras’, distributed flyers saying “‘women, wives and girlfriends’ were not welcome in the first ten rows of their ‘sacred space’.”
As idiotic as this message is, it would be even more idiotic not to address it properly. That is something all Serie A, FIFA, UEFA, as well as media must do. Lazio ‘ultras’ have been known for their support of the right-wing politics. As Italian political scene lately swayed to the right, it seems that Lazio ultras’ fascist ideas are growing stronger. It is way to easy and hypocrytical to turn a blind eye to the whole situation and say that the club can not “always intervene to avod politically incorrect displays like the one that happened before the Napoli match”, and that “it’s not the position of the club”, which is, as Lazio spokesman Arturo Diaconale, further explained “against any discrimination.” Therefore, Lazio are in principle, as the spokesman said, against these kind of actions.
But even if the club is against any form of discrimination, does that takes the blame of it?
The link between the club and the fans has always been so deeply rooted in both parties that one can not exist without the other. They are a single entity and their behaviour is mutually very influenced. Historia est magistra vitae, as the ancient Latins would have said. It teaches us by showing the examples and experiences from the past. History is full of examples of football teams being used for the political purposes. And Fascism is no exception to this!
Fans are the most important, arguably integral, part of the club, as the clubs are always quick to announce! It is not a new thing to address fans as the so called ‘twelfth player’ of the team. On the Lazio’s official webpage’s fanzone section, fans are called to seize the possibility and become the next 12th player on court and be presented by the official speaker during lineup announcement at the stadium.
So how can the club which allows and encourages the fans to become so associated with the club publicly announce that the club can not “always intervene to avoid politically incorrect displays?” This is as wrong as the statement of their fascist fans, who have a history of fascist behaviour!
Why this must be treated as the fascist action instead of falling into a trap of finding constant excuses of Lazio fans. It would be easy to define it as a male chauvinism, but it’s much deeper and much darker than that. This falls under the pattern that the world unfortunately witnessed ever since fascism as an idea came to life in 1919.
Arguing strong and traditional beliefs, especially with regard to the role that women played within their families and society, it was the idea of Musolini for women to remain in the traditional role of mother and wife, central to the nuclear Italian family. The founder of Italian Fascism relentlessly demanded from Italian women to have more children to create a great nation capable of fighting the major war. And even if comments made by Mussolini were essentially chauvinistic, the Lazio ultras incident shows much more dangerous pattern.
Faced with mild criticism and even milder fines, this group does not feel repressed but rather encouraged to continue with what must be deemed as unacceptable behaviour.
As early as in October 2017 Lazio fans had two major incidents during Serie A matches. First the north stand – where Lazio’s ‘ultra’ fans are usually located – was closed for the match due to a punishment handed down to the club in response to racist chanting from some fans against Sassuolo. The club moved the fans to south stand where they caused outrage by littering it with images of Anne Frank, the young diarist who died in the Holocaust, wearing a Roma shirt.
It is needless to say that spokesman Diaconale said that the club “always condemns racism in all its forms”, and that the club is “worried by the fact that a small group of reckless people, who are struggling to keep up with the times, could bring such a big damage to a club.”
And that was it! Lazio were fined on both occasions, first time by closing the stand and second time with 50,000 euros. Is this enough? These ridiculous fines could be interpreted as fans petting and fascist behaviour encouragement. Furthermore, besides the spokesman general statements, the signifficant reaction of the club has been missing. There was no official statement against this type of incidents at the club’s webpage press release section.
The association of Lazio fans to the club colors is a very strong one. The club offers a special possibility to the born and bread supporters to associate their newborn and identify to what the club stands for. The problem is that this process goes the other way around as well. As much as the fans associate themselves with the club, the club is being associated with the fans.
Potential of football for sending politically motivated messages is huge. This is something that’s been understood by many leaders. And just as much as their potential is huge, the importance to control such messages is of even greater signifficance. The world can not watch fascist flyers prohibiting women from attending certain parts of the stadium! Fascist behaviour must be addressed as such and not women but those who are sending such messages must be identified and banned not only from Stadio Olympico, but from all Serie A stadiums! The world made a mistake by ignoring the threat of such behaviour once and ended up in chaos. It simply can not happen again!