x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Racism and hooliganism is a stain on Serie A clubs

It is easy to assume Italian football does not much like the Europa League ... But the Europa League has lately been given good reasons not to like Italian football much, either, writes Ian Hawkey.

A very vocal group, some of Lazio's fans were a little too vocal on their visit to Tottenham Hotspur, shouting racist slurs at the Spurs' mixed-race and black players.
A very vocal group, some of Lazio's fans were a little too vocal on their visit to Tottenham Hotspur, shouting racist slurs at the Spurs' mixed-race and black players.

 

Given their clubs' record in the competition, it is easy to assume Italian football does not much like the Europa League.

There are strong reasons for Serie A clubs to change that attitude, because the arrogant notion they naturally belong high in the Champions League is being sharply challenged this season, with only Juventus and AC Milan taking part in the top Uefa competition.

The Europa League has lately been given good reasons not to like Italian football much, either.

Lazio's trip to Tottenham Hotspur last week for a 0-0 draw was disfigured by the very audible and repeated racist abuse from travelling fans of Lazio towards Spurs's black and mixed-race players.

The same night, supporters of the Swedish club, AIK, were attacked, and some stabbed, while in Naples for their Europa League match at Napoli. The previous evening, a similar incident had left a small group of Swedes injured.

Lazio, alas, carry around a stubborn reputation for racism among some of their ultras. Though the club has endeavoured to tackle the problem, events like those in London are taken as a sign that little has changed in the 20 years since Lazio signed the black Dutch international, Aron Winter, and he was greeted on his first day at training with graffiti telling him he was not welcome, next to a spray-painted swastika.

Napoli made a positive impression in their debut season in the Champions League in 2011/12. That has been tarnished by a night that seemed to plunge the Italian game back into the dark ages.

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