Supporters of Roma football club distributed flyers with an anti-Israeli slur around Italy’s capital city in what authorities say is the latest act of xenophobia by local fans.
The flyers read “Lazio, Napoli, and Israel: same colours, same flags, sh*ts”, referring to two other clubs who play in colours similar to the Israeli flag.
They were distributed in central Rome as Lazio fans were celebrating their club’s 119th anniversary on Tuesday. Some were plastered on the city’s walls.
Italian media immediately described the flyers as antisemitic, with an editorial in Corriere della Sera speaking of an ongoing “normalisation of and trivialisation of antisemitism and racism” in the country.
“These flyers are yet another piece of evidence that the problem of racism and antisemitism in football is not limited to single clubs, and everyone should be involved in fighting it,” said Ruth Dureghello, president of the Rome Jewish community .
Commentators compared the incident to another episode in October 2017, where Lazio fans went around Rome’s Olimpico stadium affixing stickers illustrating Anne Frank wearing a Roma shirt — intended as an insult.
Roma and Lazio are arch rivals and both have neo-fascist among their hooligan supporters.
Antisemitic slogans are regularly chanted by certain circles in Italy and usually go ignored by the general public, media or authorities.
The incidents come amid a backdrop of rising hooliganism in Italian football. One recent match between Inter Milan and Napoli saw violent clashes between fans and racist chants directed at Kalidou Koulibaly, a black defender for Napoli.
Inter Milan’s stadium was closed to fans for a fortnight as a result.
Italy’s Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, himself a supporter of AC Milan, has been accused on taking a soft line on the hooligans by saying he opposes halting matches, closing stadiums or prohibiting fans in response to violence and racism.
“Violent supporters are a minority and responsibility is always personal,” wrote Mr Salvini in a letter to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy’s sports newspaper.
“I’m not convinced the match between Inter Milan and Naples should have been stopped. How do you draw the line between a racist insult and a normal insult?”