Champions League

Italians sorry for racist row

2012-11-23 19:34
Fan violence (AP Photo)

Milan - Italian football bosses have offered an apology for the violent anti-Semitic incidents which greeted Tottenham fans in Rome, leaving several supporters in hospital and causing uproar in the Jewish community.

The incidents marred Spurs' visit to the Italian capital for a Europa League game against Lazio on Thursday, prior to which fans of the London club were attacked in a pub by a group of around 40 thugs.

During the match some sections of the Lazio support brandished a banner which read "Free Palestine" and sang "Juden Tottenham" ("Tottenham Jews" in German) at the visiting fans, whose club have a historical Jewish connection.

Police have since arrested two of the assailants and charged them with attempted murder. Reports Friday said the pair are known to have connections with Rome's other Serie A club, AS Roma.

Italian football federation chief Giancarlo Abete said the gravity of the affair warranted an apology to Tottenham and the victims.

In a letter addressed to English Football Association chairman David Bernstein, Abate wrote: "I have already had the opportunity to publicly express my condemnation and outrage at what has happened.

"We would like to extend our apologies to all of the Tottenham fans and in particular to the families of the people involved.

"We are following the investigation closely and remain at the disposal of the authorities to help take this case forward."

UEFA have not yet commented on the matter but the FA said they would be sending a report on the match to European football's governing body.

"We were saddened and alarmed to see reports of violent incidents prior to the game as well as anti-Semitic chants," said a spokesperson for English football's governing body.

"The FA had a crowd control advisor present at the fixture who will provide an urgent report, which we will pass on to UEFA as a matter of priority."

Lazio have already been fined 32,500 ($51,800, 40,200 euros) by UEFA this season after fans directed racist monkey chants at Tottenham players during the reverse fixture in London in September.

Lazio, however, distanced themselves from the attack on the pub. Reports Friday said the men arrested by police, 26-year-old Francesco Ianari and 27-year-old Mauro Pinnelli, have links to Roma.

One of the victims of the attack, identified as Ashley Mills, had suffered cuts to the head and leg which left him in a serious condition in hospital although he is now reported to be out of danger.

Abate added in the letter: "Once again, unfortunately, football has been used as a vehicle by mindless thugs to express their racist and anti-Semitic views.

"This was unquestionably the motive behind this attack, which has damaged the image of our football and does not reflect the real tradition of warmth and hospitality of the city of Rome."

It is not the first time English fans have fallen victim to violence in the Italian capital.

Liverpool supporters were stabbed after a European Cup final win against AS Roma in 1984. Fans from Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Manchester United have since been attacked by hardcore "ultras" from both AS Roma and Lazio.

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