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Xenophobia in Sport

Xenophobia in Sport Italian "tiffozi".

Racist sentiments are common in Italian football. During the Italian football championship 2015 we can record 403 ultras movements among those 155 have a specific political orientation and 93 of those have a neo-fascist blueprint. The most notorious of those far-right organizations are Hellas Verona, supporter of the Verona football team, the Viking group supporter of the football team Juventus, Padroni di Casa group supporter of the Roma AC, some members of CasaPound, Forza Nuova and Militia, Curva Nord group supporter of the Atalanta football team.

Nevertheless, the actions of the police during the period under review produced some results: in the 2012/13 football season, compared with the 2007/08 season, the number of wounded at or after football matches was reduced by 52%, and the number of arrests - by 55%. However, when compared with the season 2011/2012, the number of arrests increased by 26%.

According to police reports in 2013, Italy has around 41 000 football ultras, spread across 388 different groups. 60 of them have clear political undertones, particularly in group “A”. Despite government’s and football union’s definitive measures (e.g. introduction of “tiffozi” classification), ultras are a “time bomb”, according to the police . Fans organised in extreme right groups (ultras) can become an effective weapon in the hands of radical politicians.

Nevertheless, police actions during the monitored period gave certain positive results. The 2012-2013 football season, compared to 2007-2008, had 52% less injuries sustained during football-related clashes, and the number of arrests decreased by 55%. However, if we compare this to 2011-2012 season, the number of arrests increased by 26%.

In total over 2013, 13 football fans have been disqualified for racist actions against football players. These instances mostly involved gestures or verbal insults, such as a banana thrown at Monza-Rimini FC player from Senegal, Ameth Fall .

The whole world was shocked by an incident during a friendly match between Milan FC and Pro Patria FC, which was interrupted due to racist abuse against a Milan player Kevin-Prince Boateng. After hearing insulting chants, the player kicked a ball in their direction and left the field. After this, team captain Massimo Ambrosini took the team off the stadium.

There have been cases of anti-Semitism on the tribunes. On May 28, during the finals match of Cup of Italy in Rome, “Lazio” fans displayed a following poster addressing the Roman fans – “The story is always the same, you want the star on your chest”, alluding to the Star of David . In early December, the same fans pasted pictures of Anne Frank dressed in Roma football uniform around the city.

During the match against „SSC Napoli“ fans of Verona insulted the Colombian player Pablo Armero of „Napoli“ imitating the sounds of a monkey . . Fans of “Cagliari Calcio” insulted Mario Ballotelli during a match against “AC Milan”.

On March 10, 2014, an 18 year old player from Atalanta Bergamo youth team was banned for ten games, after insulting an opponent with the term “vù cumprà“ during the match against Verona Calcio . On March 8, during the football-match between Juventus Turin and AC Firenze, supporters of the former chanted: “Fiorentini are not Italians, but a crowd of Jews” . On March 26, it was reported that football player Bernard Owusu was insulted by his opponent from Grigano FC, who called him a “Banana” and a “Bloody nigger” during an amateur league match. Owusu struck his opponent and was removed from the field as a result .

On May 11th during soccer match in Bergamo between Atalanta Bergamo and AC Milan a fan threw a banana at a black player of AC Milan Kevin Constant. "Milan" player Nigel De Long immediately picked up the banana and threw it out. On May 21st in Florence during a training game of the Italian team in preparation for the World Cup in 2014, Mario Balotelli was offended by several fans, who called him "a bloody Negro".

On July 25, Carlo Tavekko, presidential candidate of the Italian Football Association (Figc), said in his pre-election speech: “In the UK they check the players for professionalism. We approach in a different way. As they say, any Opti Poba [fictional name] who used to eat bananas can play for Lazio and win the championship . While the statement was deemed racist and resulted in FIFA inquiry, Tavekko was still elected president of Figc . On July 18, tennis player Fabio Fognini made racist statements against Roma.

In total, during the 2014-2015 football season, there were 28 manifestations of racism (23 involved racist chants and teasers against players of African descent). 11 cases escalated to police investigations.

UNAR, together with the Italian Football Association and the Italian Sports Union (UISP), is implementing a program to combat racism in sports venues. As part of this program, for example, the Italian national football team in March 2013 entered the field in T-shirts with the slogan "Get racism out of football!" Later, as part of this campaign, the team's sports facilities hosted a giveaway of these T-shirts signed by all members of the national team, a group of special guests included political refugees, asylum seekers and immigrant children born and raised in Italy. The team also visited Auschwitz death camp as part of this programme.

In 1997, Emilia-Romagna association of football fans in collaboration with Istoreco organised an Anti-Racism World Cup, which grew significantly since. In 2014, 190 football teams take part in the cup, along with 24 basketball, 20 volleyball, 6 rugby and 3 cricket teams .

Spartak Lecce is a football club in Puglia that promotes antifascist views. In 2009, Lecce held an annual tournament called Football Without Borders, organised by Bfake cultural organisation . A similar club, RFC Lions Ska Football Club is operating in Caserta since 2011 .

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