Blood, hate and football’s shame

Lazio fans show their support for Gaza during the Tottenham match (Photo: AP)

Lazio fans show their support for Gaza during the Tottenham match (Photo: AP)

n the aftermath of two severe incidents involving hate abuse and allegedly antisemitic violence, both directed at fans of Tottenham Hotspur, Giancarlo Abete, chairman of the Italian Football Association, has written to his English counterpart, David Bernstein, and the FA is to hold a meeting with Jewish organisations.

Following a violent attack on Tottenham fans in The Drunken Ship pub in Rome last week, Mr Abete wrote deploring the incident. “Soccer has become the excuse for a bunch of criminals to vent their own racist and antisemitic folly,” he said. The fans were in the Italian capital to play local club Lazio in a Europa Cup-tie.

Tottenham is regarded as a “Jewish” club, having a long history of association with the North London Jewish community, including at board and managerial level. An element of Lazio fans are notorious for aggressive far-right views.

Last weekend, only three days after the Rome attack, in which one English fan suffered serious injury as a result of being stabbed, a section of West Ham fans issued a stream of vicious antisemitic chants from the terraces in their team’s game at Tottenham.

An investigation has been launched by the FA into the incidents, during which some West Ham supporters sang in praise of Lazio fans and chanted, “Can we stab you every week?” as well as making hissing noises in imitation of the sound of the gas chambers and singing: “Adolf Hitler — he’s coming for you”.

One West Ham season ticket holder has been banned for life by the club after he was arrested at the game. The man and a second supporter were given police cautions after making Heil Hitler salutes at Sunday’s Premier League match.

Police are likely to launch their own criminal investigation after the Society of Black Lawyers reported the chants.

FA officials will meet representatives of the Board of Deputies, the Community Security Trust and the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism to discuss ways to tackle antisemitism and racism in football.

West Ham’s Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun did not play in the derby game against Spurs, but wrote on Twitter: “I have a great relationship with the West Ham United supporters… This is why I was very disappointed to hear some of the songs… it was embarrassing. But we need to remember that it was made by a minority group of fans and I’m sure the FA, together with West Ham, will do everything to find and punish them.”

West Ham officials said they would assist Tottenham in its investigation to identify those responsible for the chants and would “take the strongest possible action” against those found guilty.

David Gold, joint chairman of the east London club, said: “I am very proud of my Jewish heritage and have always been made to feel welcome at West Ham since I started watching them as a young boy in the 1950s.

“We have a clear stance towards any kind of discriminatory behaviour — it simply will not be tolerated.”

Lazio players wore anti-racism shirts in their match against Udinese on Tuesday evening. Two Italian men have been charged with attempted murder in relation to the Rome attack.

Last updated: 3:13pm, November 29 2012