Lazio Ultras have slammed UEFA’s decision to impose a partial stadium closure for their match against Celtic as “farcical”.
The fans’ group say that the punitive measure gives Celtic an advantage in the match, with the Bhoys being handed around 9,000 tickets for the game.
Lazio bosses had used the sizeable travelling Celtic support as an argument to UEFA as the Rome club fought a full stadium ban for racist behviour.
A number of fans had made fascist salutes during their home tie against Rennes in the Europa League two weeks ago. Now the North Curve part of the stadium where the Ultras gather will be hit by the closure.
Yuri Alviti, a spokesman for the Irriducibili group, said: “We are amazed at this punishment.”
Speaking on Voice of the North radio programme, as reported in the Record, he continued: “It’s a farcical sentence because UEFA punish the weakest teams in these situations. Our club just accept this and once again, Lazio fans are paying the consequences.
“Against Celtic, they will have 10,000 fans in our stadium. Our players need the contribution of the Curva Nord. So UEFA have given Celtic a massive advantage.”
With a full closure suspended sentence hanging over Lazio, Alviti, however, says they will not “challenge” the decision and risk a worse fate.
He said: “We see no point of further challenging this and inviting further punishment and we have decided there are other ways we can make our voices heard.
“So for our games against Atalanta and when we play Celtic in Rome, we invite every single Lazio fan to wear a scarf and wave a flag.
“Colouring the Stadio Olimpico in Lazio colours will be our response.”
It’s not the first time that Lazio have been in the dock for racism and far-right extremism. 20 years ago, their Ultras unfurled a huge banner around the Curva Nord mocking the victims at the Nazi extermination camp, Auschwitz.
In 2005, Paulo Di Canio incurred the wrath of the game’s authorities after a series of fascist salutes at the Curva Nord, gestures that “deeply moved” Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of the WW2 fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. He defended himself, saying: “I’m a fascist, not a racist”.
Earlier this year, the leader of the Irriducibili, Fabrizio Piscitelli (nicknamed Diabolik) was shot dead in a park by an assassin dressed as a jogger.
Piscitelli had deposed the long-time leader of the Irriducibili, reports the Guardian, and with new brand Original Fans making staggering amounts of cash from merchandise, with right-wing extremism a major marketing point.
The paper reports: ” The deeply offensive extremism of the Irriducibili helped brand the Original Fans label. Swastikas, Roman salutes, antisemitism, hanging mannequins from bridges, plastering Anne Frank stickers as insults, singing the national anthem during silences for drowned migrants … the Irriducibili were always in the news and began attracting thousands of recruits from far-right parties like Forza Nuova.”
Two years ago, the club announced they would wear an image of tragic teenager Frank on their jerseys as a symbol of their “commitment to fighting all forms of racism and anti-Semitism”, reports the Independent.
The move came after Lazio fans mocked Frank, the German-born Jewish girl who kept a diary of her time in hiding in WW2 Amsterdam before being captured and killed in WW2, depicting her in stickers wearing a Roma shirt.
A statement on the club’s website read: “The president of SS Lazio, Claudio Lotito, has decided that tomorrow the team will be coming to the stadium at Renato Dall’Ara Stadium in Bologna with an image of Anne Frank on the Biancoceleste shirt, demonstrating the club’s commitment to fighting all forms of racism and anti-Semitism.”
The club also announced at the time that they would take hundreds of fans to Auschwitz annually to “to educate and make sure we don’t forget certain episodes, so that these lads can know what it is we’re talking about.”
With growing pressure on UEFA in the wake of a rise in the number of disgraceful incidents such as that endured by England’s black players in Sofia, the fact that, for the time being, it’s only a partial closure is perhaps more surprising.