Tuesday, January 09, 2007

S. S. Lazio and Their Rejuvenation Movement

Racism is a stain that plagues a lot of European football, not just in Italy or Spain. But for some reason, Italy has had more than a few run-ins over the years with accusations of racist fans and players harboring possible fascist sympathies. It’s the unfortunate sinister underbelly of the sport, something fetid like eating a bad sausage or meat pie, scrunching too close in the stands to that one big, bald smelly guy, or supporting S. S. Lazio.

Lazio were Mussolini’s favorite team. Out-of-the-closet fascists such as Paolo Di Cannio have proudly served them, and Di Cannio infamously gave the fascist salute last year after his team won their derby against Roma. The team’s rabid ultras, the Irriducibili, routinely display banners and flags with Nazi and/or fascist symbolism adorning them (such as the SS Totenkopf), racist and anti-Semitic chants are routine, and up until recently they rarely if ever recruited black players to the squad. And if they did, those players didn’t last long.

ESPN soccer columnist Roberto Gotta would like you to cease being so hard on these lovable black shirts. Sure, his argument is a valid one—be wary of generalizing or demonizing teams, individuals, etcetera. I can’t argue with that. Pretty much all of the major football teams in Europe and South America have had problems with their more militant-minded supporters and I don’t believe that the majority of Lazio fans are little wolves. But this is a team that has fervently embraced the iconography of Roman imperium for too long to simply be dismissed as mere symbolism or the way of the old guard. Owner Claudio Lotito’s attempt to refashion the team into something more accommodating to the world beyond Rome’s borders is admirable, I guess, but I’m not really convinced that it’s anything more than cosmetic. Just ask Di Cannio if his devotion to the club was only skin deep.

I realize that the Gotta article is a few weeks old, but I just came across it yesterday. I’ve been hibernating.

6 comments:

Zach Dundas said...

Why worry about Lazio when there's such a handy alternative:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.S._Roma

Laust said...

I probably know this, but there is a few clubs over here who's supporters are predominantly left wing, e.g. Serie A side Livorno or the loveable FC St. Pauli of Hamburg, which has a solid cult following even here in Copenhagen.

Btw, good luck with Becks. We don't want him back.

Derek said...

laust:

Thank you for the heads up about FC St. Pauli. I don't follow German football and only had the vaguest recollection of St. Pauli. But I think I now have a German club to follow. Cheers!

zach:

I've been known to enjoy a good Roma game from time to time. Inter was always the Italian side I leaned toward--mostly because of the many Argentine players there. And while they are ostensibly a leftist club (or center-left, whatever), I still can't seem to break my interest in AC Berlusconi, despite my shame.

Zach Dundas said...

Ah, you know, I think that (up to a point) it's impossible to sort football teams out based on politics. Obviously, Real and Lazio have dodgy pasts, but just about every major club in Europe has some unsavories among its support. I don't really have strong rooting interests in Italy so I sort of pull for Inter, Roma, Fiore and Palermo...

Derek said...

Zach:

I totally agree with you. Even teams such as Barca (clubs with an obvious socialist or left-leaning "philosophy") have complex and convoluted histories, despite what the more strident propagandists would like you to believe. Barca's politics and socially-minded outlook are without a doubt a big attraction for me, but it's 100% about the football first and foremost--the style, good sportsmanship (although Marquez really belied that notion this afternoon in the derby against Espanyol), and imagination.

drgogol said...

I personally favor a strict organized crime slate: Napoli, Olympique Marsilles, Chelsea, CSKA Moscow...