Italian football bosses have offered an apology for the violent anti-Semitic incidents which greeted Tottenham fans in Rome, leaving several supporters in hospital and causing an uproar in the Jewish community.
The incidents marred Spurs’ visit to the Italian capital for a Europa League game against Lazio on Thursday, prior to which fans of the London club were attacked in a pub by a group of around 40 thugs.
During the match some sections of the Lazio support brandished a banner which read “Free Palestine” and sang “Juden Tottenham” [“Tottenham Jews” in German] at the visiting fans, whose club have a historical Jewish connection.
Police have since arrested two of the assailants and charged them with attempted murder.
Reports on Friday said the pair are known to have connections with Rome’s other Serie A club, AS Roma.
Giancarlo Abete, Italian football federation chief, said the gravity of the affair warranted an apology to Tottenham and the victims.
In a letter addressed to David Bernstein, English Football Association chairman, Abete wrote: “I have already had the opportunity to publicly express my condemnation and outrage at what has happened.
Tottenham has long had an association with the Jewish community in London and eyewitnesses reported hearing anti-Semitic insults during the attack.
Newspaper reports on Friday said police had arrested 26-year-old Francesco Ianari and 27-year-old Mauro Pinnelli – identified as having connections to Roma – and charged both with attempted murder.
Both were arrested thanks to the telesurveillance cameras installed in Rome’s Campo Fiori area.
One of the injured men, identified as Ashley Mills, had suffered cuts to the head which left him in a serious condition in hospital although he is now reported to be out of danger.
Gazzetta dello Sport said Ianari’s telephone was a “precious” piece of evidence which showed him helping to plan the attack with an ultra from Lazio.
He was identified as the assailant who jumped on a bus and started boasting to passengers of the role he played in the incident.
“They managed to isolate the English and started hitting them with bars, chairs and tables”
Pub owner Marco Manzi
The English fans were drinking in the Drunken Ship pub when up to 40 people charged into the pub, blocked exits and started the assault using tables, chairs, iron bars and monkey wrenches.
Marco Manzi, the pub owner, told Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper Thursday: “Everything looked planned, they were extremely organised. They blocked the second exit and were even armed with tear gas.
“They managed to isolate the English and started hitting them with bars, chairs and tables.”
Claudio Lotito, Lazio president, immediately condemned the attacks but said he would make no further comment until the facts had been established.
“These kinds of acts must always be condemned but from the information we currently have it is not clear this assault is the work of Lazio fans,” the report quoted him as saying.
It is not the first time English fans have fallen victim to violence in Rome.
Liverpool supporters were stabbed after a European Cup final win against AS Roma in 1984. Fans from Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Manchester United have since been attacked by hardcore “ultras” from Rome’s two Serie A clubs AS Roma and Lazio.