Enough is enough.
Last month, in the wake of the John Terry suspension, I wrote an article about racism in Italian soccer. I made particular mention of S.S. Lazio, a club that was at the time under investigation for making racist chants during their Europa League match against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Lazio was eventually fined €40,000, a paltry sum that obviously did not send much of a message to the fans of the Roman club.
During Lazio's return match against Tottenham at the Stadio Olimpico this past Thursday, Lazio fans reportedly started making anti-Semitic chants of "Juden Tottenham"—a reference to the club's deep ties with the Jewish community in their North London base. Some fans went so far as to wave Palestinian flags and chant "Free Palestine" in an effort to taunt Spurs fans, who often refer to themselves as the "Yid Army."
Even more distressing, a group of Tottenham fans were assaulted at a Rome bar before the match. The attackers once again were heard shouting anti-Semitic comments as they attacked the visiting fans. Seven were sent to the hospital, including one with stab wounds.
Now, much is still to be determined about the incident in Campo de' Fiori. Italian police have made arrests in the case, including two known Roma fans. This throws doubt as to whether Lazio fans are responsible, or at least entirely responsible.
While the events of the attack are far from certain, much less so is the conduct of Lazio fans inside the Stadio Olimpico. It's the second time this year that Lazio fans have been accused of racist acts, and it's time for some real punishment to be doled out.
When Juventus fans racially abused Mario Balotelli several years ago while he was still an Inter player, the Bianconeri were almost immediately forced by FIGC to play their next home game behind closed doors.
Why Lazio has not been punished similarly despite being a repeat offender is beyond comprehension.
The Roman club's fans have been given the impression that this sort of behavior is acceptable for far too long. It's time to take the toys away from the children. Lazio should be forced to play their next home matches in both the Europa League and Serie A behind closed doors.
Maybe then the fans in Italy will begin to pull themselves out of the Dark Ages and start behaving in an acceptable manner during games.
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