Were Spurs fans victims of anti-Semitic attack in Rome?
One fan seriously injured amid fears that hooligans from several clubs were to blame
THERE ARE fears that fascist Italian football hooligans from more than one club may have been responsible for what could be an anti-Semitic attack on Tottenham Hotspur fans at a bar in Rome last night.
At least ten fans of the London club, which is known for its connections to the Jewish community, were hurt when a group of up to 50 'ultras' (Italian hooligans) stormed the pub where they were drinking on the eve of a game against Lazio tonight. One fan, named today as Ashley Mills, was seriously injured in the violence and he remains in hospital in Rome.
According to Italian paper Gazzetto dello Sport, witnesses heard the attackers chanting the word "Jew" during the attack, and it goes on to suggest that the ambush may have been the work of more than one group of hooligans "united by racism and anti-Semitism". Other papers, including La Repubblica, carry the same claims.
The Spurs fans were drinking in a bar called the Drunken Ship in the historic Campo de Fiori square when the attack took place just after 1am. The 'ultras' were said to be armed with knives, knuckle-dusters, broken bottles and baseball bats.
One English eyewitness, who asked not to be named, told the website London 24 it felt like a planned attack. "They'd smashed the windows and there was glass on the side of the bar. We were at the back, trying to find something or someone to get behind. People started coughing and we realised they’d thrown gas in through the windows.
"They were wearing helmets and had their faces covered because of the gas."
The Daily Telegraph reports that Rome can be a dangerous place for football fans. "The city may be a tourist trap, but it also has its menacing side, which is personified by the supporters of Lazio and Roma, the city's bitter football rivals. Both have their 'ultras', the fanatical, often violent, section of fans who take their support of one, and hatred of the other, to extreme levels," it reports.
The paper explains that English fans are often singled out by 'ultras' because English clubs gained a reputation for hooliganism in the 1980s. Three Middlesbrough fans were stabbed in the same bar in 2006.
However, others hint that the latest attack could have been politically motivated. The BBC notes: "Lazio's 'ultra' hooligans have in the past been linked with fascism, while Tottenham have traditionally drawn support from the Jewish community".
And the Roman club has a history of anti-Semitism says the London Evening Standard. "The ultras have been known to boo their own black players and banners have been displayed supporting Arkan, the Serbian war criminal, and mocking the horrors of the Auschwitz concentration camp."
Lazio was also fined by Uefa after its fans racially abused Spurs players when the clubs met earlier this season.
Earlier this month there were calls for Tottenham fans, proud of their Jewish heritage, to stop referring to themselves as 'yids'.