di Marcello Mento
Rome, November 22 - Lazio's hard-core fans aimed an anti-Semitic chant at Tottenham Hotspur supporters and displayed a pro-Palestinian banner during a Europa League match between the Roman and London clubs at Rome's Olympic Stadium Thursday. The incident came after anti-Semitism was cited as one of the possible motives behind a brutal attack on a group of Tottenham Hotspur fans in a Rome pub Wednesday night that left one supporter in a serious condition. About 10 minutes into the match, before which former Spurs and Lazio star Paul Gascoigne greeted cheering supporters of both clubs, a section of 'ultra' fans started chanting "Juden Tottenham, Juden Tottenham". A few minutes later, a banner appeared in the same section of the ground saying "Free Palestine". 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. Wednesday night's attack occurred at the Drunken Ship pub in the central Campo de' Fiori square, one of the focal points of Rome's night life. Seven Spurs fans 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 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" during the assault. 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. Police detained several Italians suspected of taking part in the raid and searched the homes of around six of them. A supporter of AS Roma, Lazio's city rivals, was arrested later in the day. Lazio '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. MPs urged the Italian government to report to parliament on the assault. Raffaele Ranucci, a Senator for the centre-left Democratic Party, who made an unsuccessful appeal for the match to be postponed, said: "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". 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 because of Lotito's special invitation to former England midfielder Gascoigne. 'Gazza', who has been engaged in a long battle against alcoholism, is still highly popular among Lazio fans.