Soccer: Rome attack on Spurs fans linked to anti-Semitism

One person badly injured, calls for govt to report to parliament

Soccer: Rome attack on Spurs fans linked to anti-Semitism

Rome, November 22 - The Italian government was called on to report to parliament on Thursday after anti-Semitism was linked to a brutal attack on a group of Tottenham Hotspur fans in a Rome pub overnight. Seven fans of English club Tottenham Hotspur were taken to hospital with injuries and one was in a critical condition after being set on by a group of assailants wearing helmets and armed with knives, clubs and knuckle-dusters. The most badly hurt of the fans, who were in Rome to see Tottenham take on Lazio in a Europa League match later on Thursday, is said to have suffered injuries to an artery after being stabbed in the leg and losing lots of blood. According to eye-witness accounts, the assailants shouted "Jews" as they attacked the fans in the Drunken Ship pub in the central Campo de' Fiori square, one of the focal points of Rome's night life. Tottenham, or Spurs, are traditionally considered to have a strong Jewish element in their fan base and followers continue to be proud of this, although there seems to be little evidence that today they have a higher ratio of Jewish fans than other clubs. "I call on Interior Minister Annamaria Cancellieri to report to the Senate on what happened," said Raffaele Ranucci, a Senator for the centre-left Democratic Party, who also made an unsuccessful appeal for the match to be postponed. "It is necessary for the government to show the public and parliament the dynamics of an attack that is increasingly taking on anti-Semitic, racist, Fascist connotations". Some reports said the attack was carried out by as many as 50 youths. Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said the number of assailants was smaller as he condemned the attack and called on police to find the culprits. "It is an episode of stadium thuggery transported to the centre of Rome," said Alemanno. "It's incredible that a group of 16 fans, thugs in reality, should move deliberately to go on a raid and attack fans of the opposing team. "I hope the police and investigators find those responsible, because what happened shows that a band of madmen and criminals is in action, hiding behind the support in our stadiums and this is unacceptable". Police detained several Italians suspected of taking part in the raid and searched the homes of around six of them. An AS Roma supporter was arrested later in the day. Lazio hardcore 'ultras' were initially blamed by many for the attack. There are extreme right-wing elements in Lazio's support, including some Fascist sympathisers. Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that supporters of several teams were involved. Lazio Chairman Claudio Lotito flatly denied suggestions his side's supporters were responsible. "Lazio fans have nothing to do with what happened last night," Lotito said, claiming three non-Italians were among the attackers. The head of the central Rome borough where the attack took place said the signs of it were still visible after dawn. "I spoke to the pub owner's assistant, who was on duty last night," said Orlando Corsetti. "A group of young men wearing helmets attacked the pub, first throwing rocks and breaking the windows and then starting the fight and stabbing the English tourists who are fans of Tottenham. "We don't know if the incident is linked to the match or if there are other reasons. "The pub is totally destroyed and there are still blood stains in the square". There have been several incidents of fans of foreign teams being attacked and stabbed before European soccer games in Rome in recent years. Three Middlesbrough supporters were stabbed during fights with AS Roma fans at the same pub as Thursday's attack before a UEFA Cup quarter-final in 2006. Thursday's match against Spurs was meant to be a celebration as Lotito has invited former England midfielder Paul Gascoigne to attend. 'Gazza', who has been engaged in a long battle against alcoholism, played for both clubs and is still highly popular among Lazio fans.

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