Rotten (Italian) Football (and Inept Police)

First let me place the blame squarely onto the Police for the homicide of Chief Police Inspector Raciti in Catania on Friday night, by a group of football “killer” fans.

I am not saying the police personnel on the ground had any fault. My anger is at those in charge of managing public order, from the local Police Chief up to the Italian Home Minister.

They knew well in advance where, when, how, by whom and against whom, fans of football club Catania were going to strike: and still, they let the situation degenerate, to the point that large numbers of people had no qualms in assaulting the Police

Crowd control is based on instigating fear to prevent problems, not in becoming sitting ducks for rocks and home-made bombs. 

Police people that find themselves in a situation like Friday’s are like a bank that gets robbed after having been told all the details of the robbery; or a surgeon that is surprised to find in the patient the very tumor he or she diagnosed.

For me, the lasting impression of Saturday’s incident will be of a State that cannot bring the Rule of Law within a couple hundred meters of the stadiums

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Commentators keep repeating that violent fans are no true football fans. It is hard to believe them anymore, having heard the same mantra for decades.

Perhaps it is much nearer to the truth to say that “killer” fans are part-and-parcel of contemporary Italian football.

Its whole structure has in fact plenty to blame itself for having let the rot overcome any good it had had inside, becoming a “Sleaze&Aggression” ensemble that rejects violence only in words.

And so club presidents and managers lament conspiracies only to join any they are made privy of. Players busy themselves tricking the referee either by diving untouched, or by committing hard-to-see fouls without any sense of fair-play.

Referees develop embarrassing relationships with football clubs (and I don’t mean of a sexual variety).

After the football league’s previous managers had been found asleep if not worse during the Summer 2006 match-fixing scandal, the new ones proceeded to water down any punishment, not to mention claiming the miracoulous occurrence of having lowly Reggina manage to collect more guilt than multiple championship winners, powerhouses Lazio and AC Milan.

(I am not angry at “sport” journalists: more, at “normal” journalists, forever oblivious of ongoing scandals)

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Is there a dark side to Football? For some reason, other sports such as Rugby Union do not attract any fan violence.

Perhaps, because they don’t inspire any.

There is indeed something very wrong in the very game of Football: ambigous rules on when and how to stop the opponent; the injustice of having a team with a single good player win over a team with a single bad player, perhaps thanks to a single penalty dubiously rewarded by an all-too-powerful referee; the exceedingly strong link to the city or village a team is named after, making the players akin to the local militia of ancient times.

It’s all part to a “temptation to violence“, like semi-transparent clothes that subliminally “inspire” whilst pretending not to.

All in all, Football (like Basketball, like Waterpolo) is inferior to Rugby Union or Volleyball, because one can bring the family to follow the latter group more or less everywhere around the world.

It’s for these reasons that I don’t believe that, were Football to be banned in Italy from tomorrow, its “killer” fans would simply move their violent instincts elsewhere. There would be lots less violent instincts.

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Fact is that Football defects’ outlined above compound with other typical Italian issues: a weak sensibility for the Rule of Law, sometimes in the Government itself; a weak State when confronting the Mafias; way too many examples of people getting rich by dubious means; rampant sleaze and corruption in some kind of collective delusion where everybody else is stupid.

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What shall we do then? Wait for Italian society to change inside out? Petition Platini and Blatter to change Football by outlawing all physical contact (or by allowing it freely), and by introducing instant replay for the referees?

For the time being all I’d wish is for the economical interests of all the “actors” of the Italian Football Circus to be severely dented by the latest uproar. Perhaps that’ll inspire them into doing something better about their game than throwing it to the dogs.

In the meanwhile, let’s not kid ourselves: lasting changes there will be none, at least not until clever idiots keep zooming forward at the sight of a red light.