Saturday, February 03, 2007

Ciao to Calcio? There are conflicting reports as to whether the Italian soccer federation has suspended all play in the national sport, following a riot that led to the death of an Italian policeman. Play was interrupted for a time, as police used tear gas to supress the reported riot. Apparently, the police were targeted by elements of the crowd. Of the 71 people injured, 61 were police -- making this a rather unusual incident. Tragically, one policeman was killed when an explosive device was thrown into his car.

The question remains as to how authorities should respond. NPR reported earlier that the decision to suspend play had been taken, but the AP is reporting at this hour that the federation is considering an indefinite suspension. Perhaps it's just a confusion of terms. All other games scheduled for this weekend have already been postponed. If the federation is still considering whether to suspend games indefinitely, I can only add my own small voice to say that this is necessary.

There is no question that fans' behavior in Italy is completely out of control. The violence surrounding games there has practically become routine. It seems to me that it is worse than the noted English hooliganism ever was in the 80s and 90s. Some sense of perspective needs to be forced upon the mobs. Calcio has become an excuse for violence, and the game needs to go away for a while. It's a great sport, and there is nothing like the fan participation that can make for an entertaining afternoon or evening, even when the game is a little underwhelming.

Obviously, something has gone terribly wrong when the violence reaches this level. A zero tolerance policy isn't sensible -- there is violence in our society writ large -- it shouldn't surprise anyone when there is the occasional fight among drunk fans. While it is unfair to penalize all fans (and players), for random acts of violence, that is not the situation in Italy today. When it becomes systematic and endemic to the culture, the sport's overlords need to respond. I think the federation should seriously consider whether it is appropriate to resume play this year, at all.

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