The send-off for long-standing club servant Paolo Maldini, by some sections of the Ultras, was extremely disappointing. The reasons why this reaction came about have been well documented on this site, however quite what the members of Brigate Rossonere hoped to gain is unclear. Another worry was that such media coverage was given to these dissenters, after the main leader, Giancarlo Capelli, talked live on the Controcampo, the Italian equivalent of Match of the Day, to explain their motives. Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani declared afterwards: “As you know I had to be escorted (by the police) two years ago due to the behaviour of those same people who chanted against you. I was the one who decided to stay silent, not just because I was advised to but mostly because I believed and still do that silence is the most efficient weapon to not giving any more publicity to their behaviour.” They would appear to be using this opportunity as more of a warning to current players, to alert them to the fact that one word out of place in their entire career, and they will be disowned by their own fans, no matter how many Champions Leagues or Scudetti the player wins for the Rossoneri. If Maldini is not safe, neither is Kaka, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo or even Filippo Inzaghi. Maldini’s comments about the lack of support given by Milan fans during times of difficulty are in this writer’s opinion at least, spot on. Only recently when I saw Milan versus Juventus was I disappointed at the lack of actual support when the team was not playing well – I had hoped this would differ from the time I had seen them last, as they were now on the end of a great run of form. However this was not the case – for instance Clarence Seedorf is habitually booed after his first mis-placed pass. Indeed the club would undoubtedly have performed better in the past couple of seasons had they received more favourable, or more vocal support from the fans. Their plan to rule the clubs’ players through fear risks back-firing, meanwhile, the reputation of all Rossoneri fans will be dragged through the mud, thanks to their short-sightedness.
This week Rome hosted the Champions League final, and as far as possible, controlled it in a commendable way. There were of course some injuries, some stabbings indeed, but none of the “Stab City” that The Times warned us about in their long-running campaign to get the final taken away from Italy. In fact it was quite refreshing to see The Guardian has suggested that such was the success of the event, that Rome should host the Champions League every year, like Wembley does the FA Cup. Quite a turn-around in the status of a city that has suffered more from the reputation of the violent Roma Ultra. But should they host it every year? Well why not? It is in the centre of Europe, has the right time-zone, right weather, is extremely well built to cope with the huge numbers, has proven itself to now be able to police effectively, and above all has the magical atmosphere that only Rome and the Stadio Olimpico are able to conjure.
On a solemn note, a 19-year-old Vicenza fan died at Parma’s Stadio Tardini when he slipped off the edge of one of the stands. He had been leaning on a side barrier, and subsequently fell six metres. Now there are two regrettable issues that bring themselves to attention after this. Firstly, in this day and age it should not be possible to simply “slip off” a stand. Whether or not it is a Serie B stadium, the barriers should be tall and solid enough to make it impossible to do so by accident. Secondly, some reports have it that the fan was sat on the barrier, shouting at the opposition fans. The problem with this is that he was not made to move off it by the police present – instead it was seen as normal, as regular Ultra behaviour. If we had by chance forgotten, this is yet another reminder of how serious an issue crowd control and stadium safety are in Italy, and shows an institutionalised laissez-faire attitude from all the authorities concerned. No doubt some will say it is just a cultural difference, but if that is so, it requires change in order to evolve with the rest of Europe’s top leagues. Until these stadiums are seen as places safe for the family, both in terms of stadium structure and law enforcement, then the Italian leagues and clubs will continue to suffer financially from the low attendances that arise as a direct consequence of these failings like the one on Saturday.
The last week of Serie A is upon us already, with some teams as good as on their holidays already, and others setting up for the most important game of the season. Milan and Juventus tussle over second place. The Rossoneri are away to a Fiorentina side that have guaranteed Champions League football and could leapfrog Carlo Ancelotti’s side into third with a win of two clear goals, whilst Juve host mid-table Lazio. At the bottom, it is going to be fascinating as one of Bologna and Torino will be relegated to Serie B. Bologna has the decidedly easier task of facing Catania at home, whereas Torino go into their tie at the Olimpico, Rome against the Giallorossi, needing to better Bologna’s result. A draw for both sides will see Torino relegated. Also, don’t forget to keep an eye on the Capocannoniere table as Zlatan Ibrahimovic (23 goals), Marco Di Vaio (23) and Diego Milito (22) fight it out for top scorer.