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Lazio will take fans to Auschwitz in bid to tackle anti-Semitism

Lazio will take fans to Auschwitz, the club said on Tuesday, after supporters were accused of using Anne Frank’s image as an anti-Semitic slur.

Lazio will take fans to Auschwitz in bid to tackle anti-Semitism
Lazio fans in Rome. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/APF

Meanwhile Lazio’s players are to wear shirts bearing the Holocaust victim’s face during their next pre-match warm-up.

The club’s management went into damage control on Tuesday after police in Rome said they were investigating offensive stickers found in the capital’s Stadio Olimpico after Lazio played there on Sunday.

The stickers showed Anne Frank wearing the jersey of Lazio’s arch rivals Roma.

Lazio’s chairman, Claudio Lotito, announced that the club would start a project to take 200 young people a year to visit Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in Poland.

He was speaking from Rome’s Great Synagogue, where he laid flowers at a memorial for Holocaust victims, accompanied by some of Lazio’s players.

“Lazio will go to Auschwitz,” he told the cameras. “What happened must not be forgotten.”

Insisting that most of the club’s fans were not racists, he said: “No one can use Lazio this way.”

Lotito also ordered his squad to wear Anne Frank shirts during the warm-up for their match against Bologna on Wednesday night, Ansa news agency reported.

The club had considered temporarily adding the Star of David to their strip, as suggested by Italy’s former prime minister Matteo Renzi.

In addition extracts from Anne Frank's diary will be read out before all of Italy's mid-week fixtures, the Italian Football Federation said.

The Anne Frank pictures, which were found alongside anti-Semitic slogans stuck to barriers in the Lazio ultras’ section, drew fierce condemnation in Italy and abroad.

“There are no words to condemn such a shameful gesture,” said the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, Efraim Zuroff. “It is trivialization of the Shoah, transforming an inhuman tragedy into a simple squabble between fans.”

Anti-Semitism has long been a feature of Lazio-Roma rivalry. The Anne Frank image has been circulating among Lazio supporters since at least the early 2000s, alongside chants such as “AS Roma Juden Club” and “Auschwitz is your hometown, the ovens are your houses”.

Some Roma fans have proved no better, using slogans such as “Anne Frank supports Lazio”.

Lazio’s fans found themselves banned from their section of the stadium they share with Roma after they were heard chanting racist taunts at a rival club’s black players early this month.

The two-game ban forced them to sit in Roma’s section for their match against Cagliari last Sunday, which is where the anti-Semitic stickers were found.

The club will use all means to identify those responsible, Lotito said, including surveillance cameras.  Police and the Italian Football Federation are investigating.

But Lazio’s hardcore ‘Irriducibili’ fan group refused to distance itself, stating they were surprised by the furore.

“There have been other cases which, in our opinion, should deserve much more attention by newspapers and TV,” a statement read.

“We don’t distance ourselves from what we’ve done, we simply wonder why nobody takes our side when we are the victims of these alleged incidents.

“We wonder why nobody talked about our initiatives to remember the victims of terrorism. We think these moves are oriented to block and boycott Lazio’s growth, as they’re one of the best Serie A teams.”

FOOTBALL

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.

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