In a remarkable day of announcements to deal with anti- Semitism in football, Lazio and the Italian FA initiated a series of educational measures that go as far as having a paragraph of Anne Franks diary read out before matches this week.
The Lazio President, Claudio Lotito, announced during a visit to Rome’s Great Synagogue that they would take 200 fans a year to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp and the team would wear an image of Anne Frank on their shirts during tonights match against Bologna.
“Lazio will go visit Auschwitz,” he said. “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.”
Italian police and football authorities on Monday opened investigations after Lazio fans posted anti-Semitic stickers of Anne Frank wearing the jersey of their top-flight city rivals AS Roma.
The stickers and anti-Semitic slurs were found on glass barriers, walls and bathrooms in a section of Rome’s Olympic Stadium that was used by Lazio supporters on Sunday in their Serie A match against Cagliari. The ultra right-wing fans of Lazio associate their Roma counterparts with being left-wing and Jewish, and had hoped to incite Roma fans, since the teams share the same stadium.
Sergio Mattarella, Italy’s president, said using her image was inhuman. “Anne Frank’s face, the pages of her diary, her suffering and her death thanks to Nazi barbarism shocked the world,” he said.
Outrage over the stickers came from a wide variety of officials and rights groups across Europe. “This is not a Curva,” Ruth Dureghello, President of Rome’s Jewish society wrote on Twitter. “This is not football, this is not sport. Get anti-Semites out of the stadiums.”
Antonio Tajani, the head of the European Parliament who is Italian, also denounced those responsible, saying in Brussels that anti-Semitism has no place in Europe. “Using the image of Anne Frank as an insult against others is a very grave matter,” Tajani said.
Nicola Zingaretti, president of the Lazio region, of which Rome is the capital, was leading a group of historians at the Nazi death camp of Treblinka in Poland when he heard of the incident. He said it had provoked “added indignation”.
In response to the anti-Semitic displays, a section of Anne Frank’s diary will be read aloud before all Italian league matches this week. The readings will take place in the centre circle before all midweek Serie A, Serie B and Serie C matches, and before amateur and youth matches at the weekend.
A statement the Italian Football Association (FIGC) said: “The FIGC, in agreement with the Minister for Sport and the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI) has decided to take a minute’s reflection on all football pitches to condemn recent episodes of anti-Semitism and to continue to cultivate memories of the Holocaust, and the commitment of civil society, especially young people, so that every sporting environment is a place that transmits strong values.”
The selected passage of Frank’s diary reads: “I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”
Italian football has been beset with problems of racism for many years from statements by leading figures to racist violence by supporter groups. The issues made global headlines this year when the Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari was racially abused during a Serie A match while playing for Pescara. Several generations of players from minority backgrounds, mainly those with African roots, have bene subjected to similar treatment, since the 1990’s.