Soccer players in Italy will no longer be permitted to wear the number 88, which has a secret antisemitic meaning among neo-Nazis, thanks to a joint initiative announced Tuesday between Italy’s government and the Italian soccer federation.
The number 88 has been used by neo-Nazis as a coded antisemitic symbol meaning “Heil Hitler,” as “h” is the eighth letter in the alphabet. In March, a fan of the Roman club S.S. Lazio was banned from the team’s games for life after wearing a jersey with the number 88 and the name “Hitlerson.”
As part of the new policy, officials are able to stop gameplay if they hear antisemitic chants or are made aware of antisemitic acts in the stands. Such behavior is somewhat commonplace at soccer stadiums across Europe, and other teams and leagues in Germany and England have recently taken steps to stem antisemitism and protect Jewish fans.
The new initiative also includes a code of ethics in accordance with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the global coalition based in Sweden that works to advance Holocaust awareness and education.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi called the new rule “an adequate and efficient response to intolerable prejudice that too often arises in our stadiums,” according to the Associated Press.
According to Sports Illustrated, two players in Italy’s top league, Serie A, currently wear No. 88: Lazio’s Toma Bašić and Atalanta’s Mario Pašalić.