Italian Soccer Fans Force Players to Hand Over Their Uniforms in Violent Protest

There are no limits to what angry soccer fans will do. Take the Italian Serie A game between home team Genoa against Siena on Apr. 23 for example. The game had to be halted for 45 minutes in the second half after Genoa fans hurled flares onto the field and climbed on top of crowd barriers as police in riot gear tried to keep the situation from getting out of control.

by Ian Palmer

The flares were thrown onto the pitch because the home side was losing 4-0 and Genoa was ordered to play their last two home games in an empty stadium as punishment. However, Maurizio Beretta, the president of Serie A, said fan violence has now reached the point of no return in the country and banning fans from stadiums doesn’t appear to be having an effect on the hooligans

The hard-core fans demanded that the players take their shirts off because they were disgracing the uniform and weren’t worthy of representing the team and wearing them. The Italian Football Federation’s President Giancarlo Abete said the players shouldn’t have caved into the fans demands, but Genoa's owner Enrico Preziosi said if they didn’t then things might have turned a lot worse.

Massimo Mazza, Genoa’s police chief, also criticized the players for removing their shirts and told Genoa officials not to give into the fans’ demands. However, while players from Siena headed to their dressing room, Genoa captain Marco Rossi collected his players’ shirts while Giuseppe Sculli tried to calm things down by negotiating with the angry fans.

Preziosi said fans were throwing fireworks and small bombs onto the field even though the stadium was policed by officers in riot gear. Police have launched an investigation to try and identify those responsible and charges will be laid for various offences. After the dust had settled, Genoa fired their manager Alberto Malesani due to the team’s poor showing.

Malesani was also fired by the team earlier in the season, but was rehired and this was his third game in charge during his second stint. He’s now been replaced by Luigi De Canio. After the game resumed Genoa managed to score, but still lost 4-1. They’re now in 17th place in the 20-team league, just one point ahead of the league’s relegation zone with five games to go in the season. Genoa’s last win came on February 5 with the team earning just six points since then, all from tie games.

Local police said they haven’t made any arrests as of yet regarding the incident. Things don’t get any easier for the Genoa team as their next game is against reigning champion AC Milan on Apr. 25. Similar scenes took place at the same stadium in Genoa in 2010 during a game between Italy and Serbia when hooligans from Serbia started to riot. The game was called off after about seven minutes. Italy was then awarded with a 3-0 win.

The latest incident is another black mark on Italian soccer. There’s currently an investigation taking place concerning a game-fixing scandal involving the Bari club which is expected to escalate and implicate more teams. The problems in Italy and the condition of the nation’s crumbling soccer stadiums were major reasons why the country lost its bid to host the European Championships in 2016.