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Monday April 23 2012
Madness at Marassi

Another weekend of Serie A action will be remembered for actions not related to the sport itself, reflects Rob Paton.

With 78 minutes on the clock, a strange scene was unfolding in the centre circle at Marassi. Genoa’s Marco Rossi took his shirt off before, one by one, most of his teammates followed suit. Play had been stopped for some time and Siena’s players were nowhere to be seen, as the likes of Davide Biondini, Alberto Gilardino and a tearful Giandomenico Mesto were among those to remove their jerseys and hand them to their captain, before he made his way over to the players’ tunnel that had become besieged by Genoa ultras.

Angry at what had unfolded in front of them, supporters had forced the abandonment of play some 25 minutes earlier by throwing flares and firecrackers on to the pitch, and entering the playing area themselves before preventing their own footballers from leaving the field by surging towards the canopy that surrounded the tunnel.

Four-nil down to Siena at the same time that Lecce were closing in on a hard-fought point away at Lazio – eventually achieved through a dramatic last-minute equaliser – the Grifoni were about to extend their winless run to 12 matches and have the gap to the relegation zone shortened to a single point. More than the fact Genoa’s top-flight status was coming under threat was the manner in which they were looking like losing it in.

Where Rossi had tried to negotiate with the ultras’ ringleader to allow the game to continue to its seemingly inevitable conclusion, with the promise that the players were trying their best, he had been sent back to the huddle of upset teammates to retrieve their shirts. The ultras had deemed them unworthy to wear them.

Giuseppe Sculli, whose replacement on 53 by Kakha Kaladze had seemingly prompted the transition of insults to violence, refused to hand his shirt over, and after an emotional five-minute negotiation with the head ultra, he amazingly ensured that the game was able to restart – players shirted and all – some 40 minutes after it had been abandoned.

However, from Mesto having to wipe away tears, Sebastien Frey arguing with fans behind his goal, Siena returning from the dressing room to applause from the home crowd and the supporters then singing with their backs turned to the game for the remainder of its duration, this was not a normal atmosphere for Serie A. That the game finished 4-1 to the Robur was almost an incidental side-note at the final whistle.

“Sixty people, from the 20,000 that were present, held the stadium hostage,” stormed President Enrico Preziosi, who a number of protests have been aimed at in recent weeks. “It is sad that they have the impunity to say and do whatever they like and we are without the control to send them home.”

Preziosi declared that he would be happy for the club to be banned from its stadium as punishment, so as to at least find some peace of mind for the players to work in. There was slight confusion over who told Rossi to follow the ultras’ demands for the shirts – Preziosi suggested the police told the player to placate the demand, the police angrily said it was Preziosi’s influence and they were against ‘surrendering to blackmail’ – but it was clear that few outside the stadium supported the decision.

“What happened in Genoa once again represents the worst side of Italian football,” reflected an equally angry Gianni Petrucci, CONI President. “The TV images that led directly to the homes of millions of Italians is a further sign of the moral degradation of the sport that it should be moving away from. The shirt is the untouchable symbol of a team, it can neither be offensive nor vilified or even less, subject to negotiation.”

“The jersey ransom is unacceptable,” reflected Players’ Association President Damiano Tommasi. “Perhaps these are the same fans, if one can call them that, who forced [Omar] Milanetto to leave or a few weeks ago broke into the dressing room to ‘talk’ to the players. Handing over the shirts was a bad gesture.”

That focus from the game’s most prominent and authoritative men was on a criminal act and how a group of young footballers responded to it says it all about what happened in Week 34.

Indeed, the events at Genoa pulled focus from what was otherwise another interesting week for on-the-pitch action too. Milan needed a last-minute goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to save a point at home to Bologna in a result that allowed Juventus to pull away by a further two at the top. The Bianconeri scored twice as many goals as the Rossoneri in Week 34 in a 10th of the time, through Arturo Vidal, before Maarten Stekelenburg’s red put an end to any hopes of a comeback for a poor Giallorossi, who eventually conceded twice more on the night.

At the other end of the table, Cesena avoided the drop for at least another few days after earning a draw with Palermo at the Dino Manuzzi. However, sat 14 points adrift of safety and with just 15 points to play for, it is only a matter of time before Serie A loses its first team of the season. Meanwhile, goal of the weekend belongs to Catania’s Alejandro Gomez, for his 30-yard effort that arrowed into the Atalanta top corner on Saturday night.

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Have your say...
Jeremy has a valid point, Derek calls Ultras Thugs which is wrong and probably never watched or seen a live game in Italy, these are the die heart fans that keeps the team and stadium full and alive, and they need to see their team at least try to play and win some games instead of giving up after 20 mins. I think instead of calling ultras thugs we should ask Genoa Players and management that supporters at least deserve some sign that they care.
on the 24th April, 2012 at 2:40am
its good to see bans handed out today and many more to come. the 'ultras' are NOT an authority. nor do they have the authoritative power to do what they did on sunday in genoa. anything that disrupts the match and gives someone the feeling of threat or fear, it's deemed as 'violent'. its fear and intimidation that these thugs use to disrupt and cause trouble. their explanation and justification is unacceptable. if they are angry, then they can vent in another way. find another way to protest!
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 8:27pm
If you are losing 4-0 at home to Siena when you are free falling to relegation and you need a win after 12 weeks with no wins, you dont deserve to wear the Genoa shirts. Its not like Genoa lacks talent and is overmatched. Plus it is Siena. The players have been bad for way too long and I applaud the Ultras for doing what they did without any real violence. The players knew how badly they have been playing and did not hesitate to take off their shirts. The fact the captain allowed them to do it shows there is no leadership on that team or he knew their performance was not worthy of the shirt any longer. I think this behavior is actually a strength of Italian culture in that the fans have a voice and the players might even listen. Could you imagine a group of fans getting in the face of an NFL or NBA team who cant win? The players would beat the crap out of the fans. Sports is culture and this event showed us that loyalty to clubs in Italian football is higher then most countries where band wagon fans buy jerseys of the latest winning team and dont even know a majority of the players on the team they claim to support. Genoa ultras should be applauded.
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 8:13pm
To call these people football fans is embarrassing. They are thugs and should be treated as criminals. Yet, they are cowardly hypocrites. Where were they when the Serbian thugs trashed Marrasi? Cowering in the stands, thats where. They are brave when there is no threat, yet absent when there is a risk. The Italian authorities should make an example out of these idiots and stamp out this stupidity, before they ruin Italian football. Prison sentences and lifetime bans.
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 2:15pm
Genoa have been shocking! Ultra's well we all know what they do thinking they own he place maybe they should start training the team lol, Genoa have some good players too wierd they are doing so bad...Palacio will have to leave.
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 1:29pm

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