Don’t shoot the messenger.
Liverpool fans were furious with us – we were even trending in Liverpool on Twitter at one stage – for publishing a story that was in Il Tempo newspaper and very reputable news agency ANSA. It claimed 1,000 of the 5,000 fans flying in from England for the second leg of the Champions League semi-final with Roma were “at risk of committing violence” and “police operations will aim to prevent reprisals” after Roma ultras left Sean Cox in an induced coma.
This is not some gutter press or unreliable website known for sharing unsubstantiated rumours. This is ANSA, the Italian equivalent of Reuters. If they cite police sources, it means someone from within the police told them. That is what you should be concerned about, rather than us translating said story into English and passing it on.
Consider this a warning. The narrative being spun in the Italian media, and within the local authorities at the highest level, is that the focus on policing the second leg in Rome will be “preventing trouble.” This translates as herding the Liverpool fans like cattle and not being afraid to use a cattle prod. Trust me when I say a baton charge will do far more damage than a belt being swung and the police in Italy are pretty much untouchable when wearing riot gear. They hit first, ask questions later.
Italians also have a very different view of what ‘drunk and disorderly’ looks like. An average Saturday night on the streets of London, Liverpool or Newcastle would be reason enough for a curfew and tanks rolling down the street in Italy. Singing loudly, taking a dip in a fountain, smashing a glass bottle – accidentally or not – and being generally obnoxious will get you clobbered. Stand anywhere near someone being a bit lairy inside the stadium and you’re likely to get whacked in the general baton charge up and down the stands or crushed as everyone flees.
Wandering outside of the prescribed zones for Liverpool fans to gather will get you called a troublemaker and eventually blamed for being an easy target. Steer well clear of Ponte Milvio and Ponte della Musica, those are the hunting grounds of stabbers. People ask why Roma ultras can be unpunished when they have such a long history of stabbings. The answer is: location, location, location. A club is only responsible for the actions of their supporters near the ground, which is why the bridges represent such hotspots for clashes.
Do we believe there are 1,000 violent Liverpool hooligans on their way to Rome? No. Do the Italian police and authorities want that to be the story ahead of the match? Probably. That is what should concern you, not whether we inform you of what is being said about Liverpool fans in Italy.
We don’t want to see anyone hurt. We don’t hate anybody. We have no agenda in favour or against anyone. Consider this a form of Tripadvisor review and be aware of the situation you are walking in to.