14 October ~ As well as scenes you would hope never to see at a football match, Tuesday's Italy-Serbia Euro 2012 qualifier in Genoa also gave viewers some moments of inadvertent comedy, courtesy of UEFA's obtuse reluctance to announce the match had been abandoned. This meant Italian state broadcaster RAI had reporters scrambling around seeking confirmation long after the stands had emptied, with Italy players changed out of their kit and on the way out of the ground with bags packed.
The Italian media expressed shock at the hooligans' ability to stop the match and seemingly hold Serbia hostage as part of far-right political scheming. The Beasts read La Gazzetta dello Sport's front page, while several writers said football was lucky not have another Heysel on its hands. La Repubblica's Gianni Mura said in an editorial entitled A Blow to the Heart of Sick Football that the incidents were a reflection of the growth of "ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi" groups in eastern Europe and predicted the Euro 2012 finals in Ukraine and Poland will be marred by violence.
Corriere della Sera's Mario Sconcerti went as far as to suggest the Serbs should get the same punishment English football was dealt after 39 were killed at 1985 European Cup final. "The Serbs must be cast out and fight their problems elsewhere," he wrote. "The English were out of European football for five years. It's time this happened to others. You cannot allow football grounds to become venues for revenge and vendetta." In the meantime, the home media also tried to make up its mind about how the trouble had been handled. The position of the RAI commentators changed during the live broadcast. At first there was outrage nothing was being done to stop the havoc, but when the police opted not to try to squash the trouble after squaring up to the Serbs seemingly intent on confrontation, they were praised for having learned their lesson and not steaming in as they had with Manchester United fans at that Champions League match at Roma in 2007.
Others, in contrast, said the fact that many known troublemakers were able to get into the ground, smuggling with them an arsenal of weapons that included metal bars, knives, flares and smoke bombs after an afternoon on the rampage in Genoa, showed police were unprepared and that Italy has learned little from its own long battle with hooliganism. "We have been complaining about this (sort of) short-circuit for decades," wrote La Gazzetta dello Sport's Andrea Monti. "That they managed to get to Italy and into the stadium undisturbed should prompt our security authorities to reflect a great deal. The Serb authorities did not warn us about the threat of trouble. That may well be true, but the danger was clearly underestimated too." Paul Virgo