Racism and Fascism in Football: Past, Present and Future

Fascism and racism in football

We all love football; our beautiful game. But it isn’t without its problems since it can be exploited in nasty ways. Racism and fascism are historic, deeply ingrained issues, staining society, politics and even football.

The Big Problem Killing our Beautiful Game

The History

Benito Mussolini was the dictator who caused fascism to linger around football for many years. Mussolini wanted to create an Italian empire, being an Italian prime minister and originally a revolutionary socialist. Nowadays, he is still the driving force for many hate crimes in Italian football by club ultras. Club “ultras” are fans who are part of predominantly organised groups. These kinds of fans are also often known as “football hooligans.” This culture has spread to other teams all over the world.

The fast-rising popularity of Calcio later caught the attention of the fascists. Football was then an instrument to extend power for the fascists. Dubious decisions, suspicious refereeing, and favouritism became prevalent in the Italian game. A new national league came to be in 1928-29 season, (nowadays the Serie A) after the fascist controlled FIGC (Italian Football Association) formed it. They could reach many people by exploiting the sport. The fascists utilised the league in order to create an image of national power.

Leandro Arpinati – an Italian politician, and Benito Mussolini’s friend once said; “for the physical improvement of the race, nothing is as useful as a sport that teaches everybody an amount of discipline and moulds muscles with character.” (Football and Fascism by Simon Martin, pg 32) Bologna, a team from Benito Mussolini’s area of birth began to go on a successful period between the years 1929 and 1941. Money was a big factor in this team’s success. The triumph of this team showed that the fascism was in full force during those years.

Fascism Today

Today, ultras often give Italian football teams a fascist representation, by conducting violent and racially aggravated behaviour. Italian football’s reputation is under threat by this. Football is harder to enjoy, due to politics and ideology. Two players of AC Milan suffered racial abuse during a game between them and S.S Lazio on the 24th April 2019. Lazio would go on to win the cup game 1-0.

A Europa league match outlined yet another incident. Celtic vs Lazio. Lazio fans made Nazi salutes and displayed anti-social behaviour whilst marching through Glasgow, Scotland. The return leg in Rome wasn’t going to go well. Lazio fans aren’t all fascists. This taints the Italian fans’ reputation, meaning hatred will be returned by other fans. Racism is also a big problem in other football teams’ fanbases. A game between Napoli and Inter Milan also saw a number of racist chants towards Kalidou Koulibaly. The defender later lost his cool and took his anger out on the ref. The ref sent him off. The racial chanting went out of control during this game. The Italian Football federation then sanctioned a ban upon the Inter Milan supporters, meaning Inter would play in an empty stadium for the next two Serie A matches.

Italy isn’t the only country to have experienced this. The recent international game of England vs Bulgaria was a mess. Monkey chants and Nazi salutes occurred during the match. As a result, play stopped twice and was almost abandoned entirely. England came out on top afterwards with a 6-0 win. A fine for Bulgaria’s national set up was imminent after the scandal.

Lazio Fan Questioned – Interview

Through an online interview with Lastwordonfootball.com, we spoke to Italian S.S Lazio fan Gielle on Twitter.

Lazio vs Celtic

Regarding the Lazio vs Celtic incident – “All the fans have a “marching” part and the real goal must be to isolate these “fans” who give us a bad reputation.”  It is clear to see Gielle is part of the Lazio fans that want a change to this horrible behaviour and have S.S Lazio maintain a better reputation as a club.

Gielle then adds – “It is not important how many fans commit a crime, UEFA is very strict about this and punishes an entire fan base for the fault of a few individuals. As I said before, these fans must be isolated, then the companies have the duty to identify and exclude them forever from the stadium.”

Lazio Supporters

How can S.S Lazio’s fanbase be defined as a whole? – “The Lazio supporters are defined as “racist” by those outsides? The truth is that only a small part of the fans is. Lots of supporters are healthy and try to fight this bad habit every day. We, Lazio, are the first to be angry with those fans because we have a bad reputation abroad because of them and every year we are penalized by UEFA for the same reason.”

Serie A and Champions League

Serie A league nowadays – “Today it is a beautiful league” Gielle starts it off. “The Italian championship is returning to the levels of the past. Juventus remains the strongest team of all, but there are excellent teams that are approaching them, such as Inter.”

Going on to comment on the Champions League race – “Then there is the fight for the Champions League which is very interesting, with teams like Atalanta, Lazio, Napoli, Roma and the surprise Cagliari. In general, Italian football is also growing a lot in terms of play, now the quality of the games is higher”

Solutions to the Horrible Problem

Campaigns aiming to combat fascism and racism across Europe have been launched. UEFA launched a campaign by the name of “No to racism”. Increasing awareness, the “No to racism” phrase appears in numerous places whilst European games are played. Captain’s armbands, team pennants all don the now-iconic phrase. Racism and fascism in football were and still are big issues.

As Gielle suggested, there must be attempts to estrange those kinds of fans who carry out, propagate and support fascism and racism in football. Indeed, it is flawed to punish a whole fanbase, rather than to target and oust the actual individuals responsible.

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