Superfans of one of Italy’s biggest soccer teams demanded women sit in the back of the stadium

Lazio supporters at a 2000 game hold a banner that says “Ebola carriers,” targeted at black players on rival AC Roma’s team
Lazio supporters at a 2000 game hold a banner that says “Ebola carriers,” targeted at black players on rival AC Roma’s team
Image: EPA Photo Ansa/Claudio Onorati
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The “ultras” supporters of Lazio, an Italian Serie A soccer team that plays in Rome, are already infamous. Lazio ultra groups have pulled stunts like pasting stickers depicting Anne Frank with the t-shirt of their rivals, AS Roma, outside the stadium the two teams share, and have been known to sport swastikas, perform Fascist salutes, and gift new coaches with a fascio littorio, the bundle of wood that “Fascism” took its name from. Now they’re back in the news cycle, this time for attacking women.

A few hours before a match against SSC Napoli last week, a flyer was circulated among those sitting in the”curva nord“(literally, northern curve) section of the Olimpico stadium where the Lazio ultras sit. It demanded that women—including “wives and girlfriends”—move to the back of the stadium, leaving the curva nord to the men.

The flier, signed by the board of Diabolik and Pluto, two of the ultras groups, reads (Quartz’s translation):

The northern [curve] represents a sacred space.

An environment with a non-written code to respect.

We live the first rows since always as if they were trenches

Inside, we do not allow Women, Wives and Girlfriends, hence we invite them to position themselves behind the 10th row.

Those who choose the stadium as an alternative to a carefree, romantic day in Villa Borghese should go to other sectors [of the stadium]

The note was denounced by the women in the hard-core supporter groups. In a statement (link in Italian) said they “distance themselves from those supporters…who forget they were birthed by a woman.”

The team itself says the people behind the flier are a minority of supporters, and its management doesn’t plan to impose disciplinary measures (as it had been forced to do after the Anne Frank stickers stunt). Lazio has been fined in the past for its supporters’ behavior, and been asked to police it, but Arturo Diaconale, spokesperson for the club (link in Italian), said that “we [Lazio’s management] can’t always intervene to avoid politically incorrect expression such as this.”

As Diaconale involuntary suggests, such episodes are not rare, and in fact seem to be a systemic problem among Lazio’s fan base. For years, the team’s supporters have targeted players of color (link in Italian) with racially charged offenses, and hurled homophobic, anti-semitic, and racial slurs at their adversaries.

Roberto Fabbricini, a high executive of the Italian Football Federation, dismissed the flier as a “bad summer joke,” while other high-profile Lazio supporters have told media it seemed like “an exaggeration” to call the ultras sexist and argued it’s fair for men (link in Italian) to want a place without women around.

The government has not weighed in. Prime minister Giuseppe Conte has been characteristically silent on the matter, and so has vice-prime minister Matteo Salvini, who many consider to be the government official with the greatest influence on Italy’s political agenda at the moment. Salvini has ignored the Lazio scandal entirely, though he was quick to praise Switzerland’s decision not to grant citizenship to a Muslim couple who refused contact with members of the opposite sex, saying on the same day the decision was made that “you don’t deserve” citizenship “if you don’t respect that a man and a woman have the same value, the same rights, and the same duties.”

Sadly, this whole episode is likely to be forgotten in a matter of days, overshadowed by the repeated attacks against Italian people of color, the refusal of the government to take in migrants coming in from the sea, Salvini’s ongoing call for a separate census of Roma people living in Italy, and Italian minister of family and disability Lorenzo Fontana’s proposal to repeal laws banning racial and ethnic hate in the country.