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Serie A Sorrow
By Abdalla M. Taryam May 06, 2010
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Italian football has produced great teams over the years. The magical Napoli of Maradona or the all-conquering Milan of Ariggo Sacchi to name a few but in all honesty I was never too fond of the Italian catenaccio style of football. Personally, I would rather entertain myself with the fast paced Premiership or the free flowing Spanish Liga than to nod off watching the likes of Inter and Juventus on a weekly basis.

Many have argued about which of the top European leagues is most entertaining but it is evident why more international viewers have chosen to stay away from the Italian league. Leaving my opinion of boring football aside, the true culprits are the Italian fans themselves.

Starting with the Calciopoli scandal and the stabbings of Middlesbrough fans in Rome, the Serie A was making the news for all the wrong reasons. It was obvious that the fans of the beautiful game were ruining football when the chaos reached a climax in February 2007 with the suspension of all football matches due to the killing of police officer Filippo Raciti at the hands of hooligans. This brought more unwanted publicity to the Italian game and coupled with the downfall of Juventus, it made no sense watching this league.

If the Italian fans did eventually calm down from all the violence, they ultimately resorted to something just as damaging. Racism in sports has existed all around the globe but nothing has equaled the levels that the Italian game has brought. Recently, fans all over the league have taken the liberty of chanting at the expense of Mario Balotelli.  Balotelli, a naturalised Italian citizen of African origin, is not considered to be the most civil footballer around and some might say that he deserves the heckling of the fans but to go to the extreme lengths of insulting him at venues where he is not even present is unwarranted. Fans have dedicated their entire time at stadiums to affront this player and to make their voice heard that they do not wish to see him represent the nation at international level.

Fines and threats by the Italian Football Federation have, to some extent, limited these events recently but nothing in their power would prevent the latest disgrace bringing the game into disarray.  What the world witnessed from Lazio fans in last week’s match with Inter has brought shame and antipathy to football. Now, we all know how rival fans can hold extreme hatred to one another and that they would celebrate a single victory over a close rival just as much as a title but to actually encourage your team to lose just to affect your rivals is absolutely shocking.

Roma, Lazio’s eternal rivals, are the only team left with a chance to dethrone champions Inter Milan but the matter is out of their hands. With three games to go Inter sat atop the standings with only one tricky fixture left which ironically was an away match to Lazio. Could Lazio, who are actually struggling to steer away from the relegation zone and in dire need of some points, do themselves and Roma a favour? Not if their fans have anything to do with it.

After sending death threats to their club president warning him over the consequences of a Lazio victory they showed up to the stadium to cheer on the opposing team. For 90 minutes they whistled, booed and insulted their own players in their own stadium while celebrating Inter’s goals. They simply sucked any morale out of the players who came to win and left them wondering why they even bother.

This has brought sporting rivalries to a new level. To rejoice at an opponent’s failure is one thing but to do so at your own expense is something else. As Lazio defender Aleksandar Kolarov put it, “this went beyond common sense and intelligence. It isn’t passion any more, this is sick. I simply cannot understand how someone could prefer to damage another team rather than support their own.”

This tragic behaviour has no place in sport and if the Italian football supporters continue with their violence, racism and poor sportsmanship its only a matter of time until the international stars start questioning their involvement with such a place, where fans are too occupied with hating each other. Then surely the entire boring Italian league will wither away into insignificance.

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