Fresh controversies overshadow Anne Frank soccer tributes in Italy

Emotions were still running high in Italy, days after Lazio fans posted anti-Semitic photos of Anne Frank in a Roma jersey as new incidents during Wednesday’s Serie A action overshadowed planned tributes.

As Lazio’s ultras ‘Irriducibili’ fans announced they would not travel to Bologna for the team’s game, isolated supporters who had made the journey sang the fascist song “Me ne frego” (“I Don’t Care”) in the stands of the Dall’Ara Stadium.

Lazio players, as planned, warmed up prior to the game, which they won 2-1, wearing a jersey with an image of Frank alongside the words “No to anti-Semitism.”

On all pitches on Wednesday, rival captains and referees handed children copies of Italian Jewish writer Primo Levi’s memoir of deportation “If This Is A Man.”

Extracts were read from “The Diary of Anne Frank” before a minute of reflection on the Holocaust as requested by the Italian football federation, which quickly turned into a minute of applause in most stadiums.

But in Turin, where champions Juventus were playing SPAL, a section of the crowd turned their backs on the pitch and sang the Italian national anthem, while at Rome, where AS Roma met Crotone, some fans drowned out the reading with chants in favour of their team.

Earlier Wednesday a wreath of flowers which Lazio president Claudio Lotito had presented to the Rome synagogue was found floating down the Tiber river which runs through the capital.

But by early Wednesday the blue and white flowers — the colours of the Rome club — had disappeared from the synagogue entrance.

It is believed they were flung into the river by youngsters from the Jewish community angered by Lotito’s note “you have Jewish brothers,” according to Corriere della Sera newspaper.

During his visit Lotito also announced that the club would take 200 young fans on an annual trip to Auschwitz — the Nazi concentration camp where Jewish teenager Frank was first deported before dying in Bergen-Belsen in 1945.

But a telephone recording made public on Wednesday cast doubt on the real intentions of the Lazio president.

Il Messaggero published a recording in which Lotito appeared to describe the visit to the synagogue as “theatrics we have to do.”

“There’s a vice-Rabbi? There is just the Rabbi? They are worthless. You see where we are? The Rabbi and vice-Rabbi in New York… Come on let’s do this theatrics,” a voice is heard saying.

Lotito denied uttering such words and Democratic Party politician Dario Ginefra, seated beside Lotito on a Monday night flight from Milan to Rome where he was alleged to have made the call, backed the Lazio president.

’15 idiots’

Meanwhile the Lazio president insisted it “would be wrong” to punish the club for “the behaviour of 15 idiots.”

Lazio — who are fourth in the table just three points behind leaders Napoli — had already been given a two-match closure of the north end of the Stadio Olimpico for racist chanting.

“It would be wrong for the team to be docked points as we’d become hostage to these people going to the stadium just to create chaos,” he told Radio Capital.

“It’s necessary to suppress and sanction the perpetrators. I hope what’s happened doesn’t impact on the team psychologically.”

According to the Italian press, police examined video footage of Sunday night’s game and had identified 16 suspects, including three minors with one aged just 13.

Israel’s sports minister, meanwhile, called on her Italian counterpart to deal with racism in sports.

In a Tuesday letter to Luca Lotti, Miri Regev expressed her “horror” over the “despicable use” by Lazio football fans of Frank’s picture.

“It is not new that Lazio fans have for many years been acting as a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli organisation and among the many fans, there are thousands who openly bear neo-Nazi symbols,” Regev said.

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