Sunday, February 04, 2007

The beautiful game

It's a rare Sunday here in Italia. My last-place club -- Ascoli -- didn't lose. The reason? They didn't play. In fact, no professional soccer clubs played this weekend. League federation officials cancelled all matches after a deadly riot broke out on Friday in the Sicilian city of Catania. A police officer was killed and some 100 fans were injured after rioting hooligans decided to detonate explosives and wreak bloody havoc in what's become an increasingly familiar scene at football stadiums around the country this season. It was the second match-related death in less than a week. And now the government is considering the unthinkable: cancelling the entire season.

Depriving Italians of their national sport? Have things turned that ugly with the beautiful game? The answer, shockingly, is certo! As was the case in England a generation ago, hooliganism has completely infiltrated the sport. The Italian daily Corriere delle Sera published this tally of known gangs that support the clubs. In most cases, there is a violent right- or left-leaning gang flying the team colors each week. In some cases, as with AS Roma, there are multiple groups on either side of the political divide.

So, later today, when you groan about the over-commercialization of the Super Bowl, as you view several hours of ads, with a football game squeezed in between, count yourselves among the lucky ones. It may be a corporate sell-out, but the *NFL is not a feeding ground for racist, xenophobic, testosterone-fueled thugs bent on maiming the other teams' fans.

* with the exception of **fans of the Philadelphia Eagles.
** a joke

No comments: