Italian officials want to curb ultras’ influence after violence-marred Coppa Italia final
The most serious shooting victim of the violence-marred Coppa Italia final has been given the all-clear by doctors as Italian politicians take a hard look at how to eradicate “ultra” fans from football.
Late on Sunday Ciro Esposito, 30, had a delicate operation to remove a 7.65 calibre bullet from a Beretta gun, which had punctured a lung before lodging dangerously close to his spinal cord.
Police have charged a 48-year-old man, Daniele De Santis – who has already served bans for football-related violence – with attempted manslaughter after shooting at Esposito and two other Napoli fans hours before Saturday’s final against Fiorentina.
Esposito’s mother, Antonella Leardi, stunned Italian media when she said from her son’s hospital bedside: “In my heart I’ve already forgiven him [De Santis].
“But I cannot understand what he did. We are all supposed to be countrymen from Italy.”
The incident adds to the long list of football-related violence between fans of rival Italian clubs, who seem to require little motivation to embrace the opportunity for violence.
Saturday’s final was between Florence-based Fiorentina and Napoli, and De Santis is a hardline Roma fan.
Yet, the events that followed inside Rome’s Olympic Stadium have caused much grief and embarrassment, and the inquest is only just beginning.
New Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi was among dozens of high-ranking officials who watched as the final was delayed for 45 minutes after news of the shootings filtered through to Napoli’s Curva Nord (North End).
Hardline supporters often hold great sway within major clubs and it is alleged they ordered Napoli not to play.
When rumours that a youth had been killed by police spread like wildfire during a Roma versus Lazio derby in 2004, fans rioted and, after Roma captain Francesco Totti spoke to ultra leaders, the authorities called the game off.
During Saturday’s delay, Napoli captain Marek Hamsik was ushered over to speak with ultra leader Gennaro De Tommaso, who was holding court at the front of the stands.
Also known by the gruesome nickname “Genny ’a Carogna” (Genny the carcass), De Tommaso is the son of an alleged Camorra mafia boss, Ciro De Tommaso.
For the past two days, his picture has been splashed all over Italian media. On Monday, La Gazzetta dello Sport even published a picture of him holding the Italian Cup during celebrations at the Olympic Stadium after Napoli’s triumph in 2012.
Soon after, a new kick-off time was scheduled although not before the national anthem was widely whistled and jeered.
Outspoken Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis later played down the role of the ultras’ influence in causing the delay.
“The fans give their hearts and passion to the shirt right to the end. So to talk with those groups without the police present seems to me a sign of responsibility both on the part of the organisers and the fans.”
Napoli won 3-1, prompting a mass pitch invasion that saw their fans run towards Fiorentina’s Curva Sud.
The incidents have heaped huge embarrassment on a country in crisis and already fighting to shed a long-standing reputation for football-related violence.
Maurizio Gasparri, a vice-president of the Italian Senate, said: “In addition to whoever shot the victims, people like Genny ’a Carogna should be jailed immediately. They have made a mockery of the State.”
Italian football federation (FIGC) president Giancarlo Abete said: “It’s a matter of fact: in the stadiums ultras play an unacceptable role.”
De Tommaso boldly wore a black T-shirt emblazoned with “Speziale Libero” – a call for the release of Catania fan, Antonino Speziale, who was jailed for eight years for killing 40-year-old police officer Filippo Raciti with a block of concrete outside the Sicilian Derby with Palermo in February 2007.
A statement from Italy’s national police trade union hit out: “We are astonished that an ultra leader can decide when a game is played.
“It’s incredible he was even allowed in to the game and even more surprising that nothing was done to remove him.
“We want to express our sympathy to [Raciti’s widow] Marisa Grasso that, after seven years, we still have to live through this.”
Grasso, in an interview with L’Espresso magazine on Sunday, said: “Last night I saw just how weak the vestiges of the State are. The State has lost.”
Although Italy already applies one-year “DASPO” bans to fans deemed a security threat, there are urgent calls to get tougher.
Maurizio Beretta, the president of Lega Serie A, said individual thugs should be targeted and isolated.
“If you punish a club or an entire Curva, it gives the minorities the possibility to blackmail everyone,” he said. “We have to target the individuals.”
Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano, who denied Napoli’s ultras played any decisive role, called for life bans to be introduced – a proposal Beretta supports.
Published: May 5, 2014 04:00 AM