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Rampaging Football Hooligans and Mafia

Last weekend rampaging football hooligans caused some half a million Euros worth of damage to a Rome bound Italian train.

Some Italians, when they find out you are English, joking mention that you must be a football hooligan, such is the infamy of English football fans.

Sadly though, Italian fans have taken to hooliganism too, and several incidents have occured, including one in which a police officer died after a Catania-Palermo match.  Hard core football fans are known as ‘ultra’ in Italy, by the way.  More recently though, Italy’s hooligans have been at it again.

This time the match was between Naples and Rome, and it was fans of the Napoli team who caused around 500 thousand Euros worth of damage to a train.

For an Englishman who grew up at a time when football hooliganism was a regular occurrence in the UK, and more than a few trains bore the brunt of the mindless assaults, hearing of such damage does not come as much of a surprise.  However in Italy, the incident has led to national outrage.

Apparently, the body of fans responsible for damaging the train contained a considerable number of holders of criminal records.  Indeed, some 200 of the thousand or so who took the ill-fated train, had at some time or other been in trouble with the Italian authorities.

The police chief from Palermo, one Antonio Manganelli stated that organised crime is often behind  hooliganism.  This comment has led to Italian newspapers fielding headlines associating the football related violence with the Neapolitan flavour of mafia, known as the Camorra.  It is understood that Naples trash problems arose in great part as a result of Camorra style waste management, which also led to the poisoning of Italy’s famous buffalo mozzeralla cheese.

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Italys’ minister of defence, Ignazio La Russa, was dismissive of the Palermo police chief’s insinuations, saying that the influence of the Camorra was merely being used as an excuse.  La Russa basically told the police chief that he did not know what he was talking about.

La Russa was forced to back down though, after other senior Italian police officers stated that they too strongly suspected that organised crime was organising hooliganism.

As to why the Neapolitan Camorra has been using supposed football fans to cause trouble is not all that clear.  One could venture to hypothesise that by sponsoring hooliganism, the Camorra can be certain that police resources will be thoroughly tied up, meaning that certain criminal operations could proceed unhindered.

As to why Italy’s defence minister should be sticking his oar in, well there are two reasons.  Firstly, it was La Russa, the defence minister, who put troops on Italy’s streets to help maintain law and order, so he obviously feels as though he has a right to comment on civil law and order issues.

Secondly, the gravelly voiced Mr La Russa appears to like the sound of his own voice, especially when accompanied by a good dose of limelight, and this was a golden opportunity for him to stick his nose in, erroneously, as it turned out.

What is more curious though, aside from defence minsters pretending to be justice minsters, is that the Berlusconi government has actually been cutting Italy’s law enforcement bodies’ resources.  Very odd, what with all the recent noise about spiralling crime rates.

Does this mean that the Italian government places more trust in the army than it does in its police forces?  And isn’t this the style of many dictatorships?

Next stop martial law?

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