Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, has expressed “shock and dismay” at the latest display of anti-Semitism among supporters of the Italian club S.S. Lazio, which occurred during a Europa League match between Lazio and the English club Tottenham Hotspur in Rome on Thursday evening.
The match was marred by anti-Semitic chanting, with Lazio fans shouting “Juden Tottenham, Juden Tottenham” and unrolling a huge banner reading “Free Palestine”.
While Tottenham has a strong following from the Jewish community in North London, it, too, has been tainted by anti-Semitic allegations, with fans using the term “Yid Army” during their own sports chants.
Prior to Thursday night’s match, about 50 assailants-- armed with knives, knuckledusters and wrenches-- attacked Tottenham fans having drinks at the city’s pub.
Ten people were injured, one of whom suffered injuries to an artery and remains in serious condition.
It remains unclear whether the attackers were fans of Lazio or another Rome football club.
Lauder called on the European football governing body UEFA to take strong measures against Lazio if it fails to rein in its anti-Semitic supporters.
“It seems that all those expensive campaigns against racism that were run in recent years by UEFA, FIFA and others have not made a lasting impression, at least not on serial offenders such as certain supporters of Lazio,” said Lauder.
“The only way to overcome this ugly phenomenon is to threaten tough consequences for clubs who don’t take their obligation seriously to keep hatemongers and racist thugs out of stadiums,” Lauder added. “This problem of racist Lazio supporters is not new, and it ought to be taken more seriously by all people concerned. Imposing fines on the clubs whose fans misbehave in such a way is obviously completely ineffective.”
Italian football federation chief Giancarlo Abete wrote a letter saying: "Once again, unfortunately, football has been used as a vehicle by mindless thugs to express their racist and anti-Semitic views,” AFP reported.
"This was unquestionably the motive behind this attack, which has damaged the image of our football and does not reflect the real tradition of warmth and hospitality of the city of Rome," the letter added.