Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Tragedy of Italian Violence Is No Surprise to Boro Fans

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Tragedy of Italian Violence Is No Surprise to Boro Fans

Article excerpt

We'veseenit all before ...

very few Boro fans who were in Rome last year will be surprised that Italian football has been suspended after yet another outbreak of violence ended in a shocking death.

A policeman was killed when a firebomb was lobbed into his car during riots in the Sicily derby between Catania and Palermo. That led to the entire programme being postponed and the government finally wading into the festering sore of Italian football thuggery.

The tragedy won't be a shock to Boro fans who saw violence and intimidation up close last March. Then the unprovoked armed attacks on bars, the barrage of padlocks, coins and bottles of urine in the Stadio Olimpico and the air of military oppression at the hands of the robocop Carabinieri left almost all that went to the Eternal City for the UEFA Cup clash rattled.

Even hardcore eighties fans who saw the dark days of English football violence were staggered by the vicious attacks and heavy duty policing.

In the Villa Borghese Park beforehand there was an real sense of fear. Seeing Boro fans herded aggressively onto buses by gun toting cops just itching for an excuse to crack heads I genuinely believed someone would be killed.

That no one was, that there wasn't a bloody baton charge, that there weren't headlines proclaiming "English thugs run riot again" was largely due to the dignified refusal of stoic Boro fans to react to provocation. Those who came back with wounds and bruises were lucky. It could so easily have been, far, far worse.

A host of English fans of many clubs have come back with similar tales. In the past many Teessiders may have assumed beery behaviour or aggressive posturing had been the flashpoint.

But not after Rome. That trip showed quite categorically that systematic planned violence was the norm. Worse, that the police, if they did not actively condone it, certainly turned a blind eye. They had no intention of protecting law abiding visitors who they saw as part public order problem and part legitimate target.

That situation is a shocking affront to all norms of civilised behaviour and a situation that in truth should see Italian football not only suspended on the domestic front but also expelled from all European competition until they put their house in order. …

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