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Roma – Napoli: Settling Political Scores and Lessons from Celtic

Recently, Napoli returned to the Stadio Olimpico for the first time since Ciro Esposito was shot and killed in the Copa Italia Final last May. Unfortunately, the extreme fringes of the Giallorossi faithful tarnished a match that many hoped would be an opportunity for reconciliation.

Throughout the clash between Serie A heavyweights, a series of banners emerged in the Curva Sud against Ciro’s mother, Antonella Leardi, and in support of her son’s killer Daniele De Sanctis.  The first banner read “How sad, you profit off of a funeral with books and interviews”, in response to a book that Mrs. Leardi released about her son two day prior (the proceeds of which will go to a foundation aimed at reducing violence in the game). Throughout the game, Roma’s ultras chanted “Vesuvius wash them with fire”, ending their disgraceful message with the banner “Daniele is with us” in solidarity with Ciro’s Murderer. The match ended 1-0 on in favour of AS Roma, but with it we saw the ugliest face of Italian football.

Fortunately, the world of supporters is tightly knit and cannot be understood from a single fan stand.  The following day, messages of support for Napoli from Celtic supporters who posted the following message on the “I am a Celtic Supporter” Facebook page:

“Full support and heart goes out to Antonella Leardi the mother of 30 year old Napoli fan Ciro Esposito who was shot dead by a Roma Ultra nearly a year ago. At the Napoli Roma tie yesterday she was subjected to vile taunts through banners some which read 'First the book next the Film', … Money or not I'd like to think the poor woman is preserving her son's memory and trying to make sure it doesn't happen again. It must be understood this is not an attack on Roma or any Italian Club we all have our morons us included but the more knowledge I gain of Napoli the more unnecessary racism I see in Italian football. Like I said before if ever a time comes the Celtic family can help this needless oppression we will”.

Celtic and Napoli supporters have been building up a relationship since earlier this year.  It is imperative that Napoli fans have the support of such a respected fan group as the issues they face go beyond football.  We hope that this show solidarity can serve as a lesson to the extreme fringes of Rome’s Curva Sud that there are some lines that you just don’t cross. This being said, Rome will now have to play their next home match without the support of the Curva, which has been shut down by the authorities.  The fear is that this form of collective punishment in the stadium will take the attention away from the wider social issue of territorial discrimination.

This past weekend, as Napoli took on Fiorentina, the home-team faithful unveiled a banner responding to the Roma’s provocation. It read, “The suspect belongs to the world of crime… and wasn’t even born in our town, you really are surprising… since for sometime you have been their first friend and confidant!”.  The Napoli fans are calling out the hypocrisy of Romans, who often stereotype their deviance, yet defend a supporter of their own who is notorious for his connections to organised crime. This is a greater statement on the relationship between Rome and Naples as cities. While Naples has always been seen as the capital of organised crime in Italy, Rome is the home of the federal government, which is complicit in allowing these dark circles to exist.

This is the nature of Italian football. Football is a greater metaphor for the territorialism that is still endemic throughout the Mediterranean peninsula. The fans are not just speaking about Daniele De Sanctis, (Ciro’s killer), rather they are making a statement on the legacy of corrupt politicians in Rome and the institutional repression of the southern territory. This is the consequence of trying to resolve deep social and cultural tensions in the footballing courts. After years of reducing these greater issues into football violence, Italian stadia have become the theatre in which political scores are settled.