Welcome to Italy – One Day of Soccer Riots, Coming Up

sansiroI arrived in Milan yesterday afternoon, and the husband was actually at the airport to greet me – this surprised me, as I thought he had been planning to go to the Inter/Lazio soccer game at San Siro. He quickly explained that he had gone – or at least attempted to go – but that the match was canceled, and then he explained why. (San Siro photo at left)

By now you may have already seen the news about the Lazio fan who was killed in what appears to be an accident. He’d been on his way to the match at San Siro when he and some other Lazio fans met up with some Juventus fans who were en route to a Juve game in Parma. The two groups got into a fight, and when the police arrived to try to break things up one officer evidently fired a warning shot which inadvertently killed the Lazio supporter.

sansiro2In addition to the Lazio/Inter game being called off, a game between AC Milan and Atalanta in nearby Bergamo was halted about ten minutes into the match because some fans threw flares onto the field and then started trying to break down one of the barriers between them and the players. And then last night there were protests and riots in a couple of cities – apparently the protests in Rome turned into riots (the fan who was killed was a DJ based in Rome), while the ones in Milan were relatively calm. (Unhappy fans outside San Siro in photo at right)

Now, as for those protests in Milan, the husband and I were just walking around Duomo Square when we heard the chanting start so we stayed to watch for awhile. The husband kept wanting to get closer and closer, but at one point someone in the group threw a flare toward the object of their ire (which I’ll get to in a moment) and it hit a couple of people who were just milling around duomowaiting to see if something would happen. So I was a little less excited about getting in too close. (Protesters in Duomo Square in photo at left)




Just to the right of the entrance of the big shopping area, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which sits just off Duomo Square, there’s a quick-stop restaurant called an AutoGrill. Ordinarily, you’ll find these along Italy’s highways – they’re rest areas, but with quickie restaurants and mini-marts all in one. The food is, well, just what you’d expect from anything you’d eat alongside a highway. I’m still not sure why there’s an AutoGrill in the Galleria, considering it’s pedestrian-only, but there you are. This AutoGrill was the point at which all the protesters’ anger was being directed, because the skirmish with police in which the Lazio fan was killed happened outside an AutoGrill. Personally, it seems to me that unless the AutoGrill employees were out there starting the fight or pulling the trigger themselves, that seems a little harsh. Although, it could be that it was the line of police officers in front of the AutoGrill (protecting it?) that the crowd was yelling at. It was obscured enough that one could have read it either way, which is maybe what the police wanted.

At any rate, aside from the line of officers who were “protecting” the AutoGrill and otherwise doing nothing, we kept wondering where the police were. After the first flare got thrown, there didn’t appear to be anything else happening, but still – it seemed odd that they were just letting it go. Then at one point we wandered around the back of the Duomo, away from the protest, and discovered the police. There were several vans and cop cars behind the cathedral, and lots of police in riot gear. We went back to the corner of the square and just watched, one eye on the police and one eye on the protest. And neither moved.

duomo2Eventually we got cold and decided to go back to the hotel, and I think the protesters themselves got bored soon after. Several of them – including the fellow carrying the banner they’d made – ended up waiting for the same subway train we were taking, and a couple kept yelling their chants while in the station.

It’s too early to tell what the long-term ramifications of yesterday’s events will be, although last year there were several games canceled and then subsequent games closed to fans after the death of a police officer in a football riot in the south of Italy. It just doesn’t seem to be getting any better. The banner the Milan protesters carried read, “For Raciti you stop the championship, but the death of a fan means nothing.” Raciti is the name of the cop who was killed in last year’s riots.

Forgive the crappy quality of this video, but it was dark and the batteries were running out on my camera. I wasn’t able to catch the one chant that I could understand, when they just yelled “Assassini!” over and over again, so this clip seems incredibly tame by comparison. But rest assured they were loud. And there were lots of them. Even though you can’t see them here. Again, sorry. Next time there’s a protest I’ll try to do better for you. Although I can’t promise anything on getting the right chants – something tells me they don’t take requests.

For more on the story, see the updates at the Italy Offside and this BBC News story.

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