The Drunken Ship pub in Rome was host to 30 Tottenham Hotspur fans, in town to watch their soccer team’s Europa League encounter with S.S. Lazio last Wednesday night. At approximately 1 a.m. Thursday, Lazio so-called ultras —extremist hooligan fans — turned up at the bar armed with stones, metal bars, and knuckle dusters and clad in motorcycle helmets and scarves to obscure their identities.
The ultras smashed up the place, breaking windows and turning over tables, and then proceeded to assault the Tottenham fans. Of those who attempted to escape, Ashley Mills, 25, was stabbed in the leg with a switch blade and received several wounds to the head. The whole incident was over in around ten to twenty minutes, but in all ten Spurs supporters were injured, one seriously. Two Lazio ultras, Francesco Ianari, 26, and Mauro Pinnelli, 27, have been charged with attempted murder for the attack on Mills.
Police are currently investigating the motive behind the assault, with a number of factors pointing towards anti-Semitism.
Lazio has had a long association with Italian fascism. It was as the club favoured by Benito Mussolini, and this connection has not dimmed amongst the ultras who continue to unveil pro-fascist banner at matches. Witnesses at the scene of the assault heard the assailants shouting “Jews!” as they entered the bar and carried out the battering, and at the game itself on Thursday evening home supporters chanted “Juden Tottenham” as the two teams played out a 0-0 draw.
Lazio fans also unfurled “Free Palestine” banners in the stands.
Fans of London’s Tottenham Hotspur soccer team have long referred to their club) as the “Yid Army”, seizing and transforming a nasty pejorative into a peculiar badge of honour, as a way of pushing back against their abusers and detractors.
Not the first time, however, this modern tradition is being called into question, with London’s Society of Black Lawyers threatening legal action against Tottenham if their supporters do not retire their chants. Chair Peter Herbert told The Daily Mail, “In discussions with members of the Jewish community, we were made aware that this practice is still continuing and it has to come to an end. If neither Tottenham FC nor the FA are willing to take a stand then we will report the matter to the Metropolitan Police for investigation and, if necessary, prosecution.”
A deadline of November 20 has been set.
It is not uncommon for us here in the small world of Jewish journalism (or, as Marc Tracy over at Tablet so aptly dubbed it, the “shtetlsphere”) to marvel when The New York Times runs a story that would seem even too narrowly Jewish (or Israeli) for us. It happens, strangely, all the time. We don’t even feel beat, just confused.
But it is rare when, embedded in such a story, there is an acknowledgment of the inordinate interest that the paper of record takes in Jewish life. This morning I was reading an article in the sports section about the soccer team of Kiryat Shmona, one of Israel’s northernmost cities just on the border with Lebanon, home to 25,000 people. That’s right, the soccer team of Kiryat Shmona. At least the Times had the good sense to anticipate my incredulity with this:
When The New York Times recently contacted Adi Faraj, the club’s 26-year-old press officer, about doing an article about the team, he was initially convinced the phone call was a hoax.
“Why would The New York Times want to write about us?” he said.
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