Soccer fans on report

Following England’s World Cup qualifier earlier this month, the FA has published a report on the clashes between English fans who were present at the game and the Italian police, whom many believe handled the situation inadequately, writes Juliet Sutcliffe. The match, which saw England clinch their place in next year’s world cup in France, was marred by crowd trouble. Even from the meagre television coverage of the game it was apparent that the Italian police acted in an inflammatory and unprovoked way, by beating back English fans with batons.

David Davies of the FA said that the “overwhelming majority of English fans conducted themselves with great restraint on the night of October 11th”, accusing the Italian authorities of “deliberate intimidation”. Even more alarming is the allegation that the English police, despatched to Italy for the express purpose of monitoring the movements of known troublemakers and preventing hooliganism were virtually ignored by the Italian authorities.

Spokesman for the Italian embassy, Antonio Armllini, gave his response to the report at a press conference, dismissing it as inaccurate and one-sided, claiming that English fans ripped out seating and caused injury to ten Italian policemen.

During the run-up to the game at the Stadio Olympico, the possibility of violence was over-hyped, and given the somewhat tarnished reputation of English soccer fans abroad it is perhaps unsurprising that the Italian authorities were only too ready to quell the slightest hint of trouble, albeit with unnecessary and unjustifiable violence.

FIFA looks set to fine Italy over the debacle, although it is unlikely that they will be banned from the cup, or prevented from playing their next home match in Italy. The FA is expected to put pressure on the English government to establish a system which prevents known offenders from travelling to fixtures abroad. Perhaps this will signal the end of so-called co-operation being merely an exercise in diplomacy, and will lead to a concerted effort on the part of all nations to stamp out violence with authorities being prepared to deal with trouble, without being responsible for aggravating it.

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