Riots by Frankfurt Ultras: damage limitation in Naples

Riots by Frankfurt Ultras: damage limitation in Naples

BThere is no other topic in which the Italian press tends to use metaphors more than football – with a view both to the sporting event and to everything that surrounds it. After the riot of ultras by Eintracht Frankfurt and SSC Naples on Wednesday, everything was on offer on the front pages of the daily and sports newspapers, from “guerrilla warfare” to “wounded city”, from “state of siege” to “barbarian invasion”.

Matthias Rub

Political correspondent for Italy, the Vatican, Albania and Malta based in Rome.

At the joint press conference on Thursday morning, Mayor Gaetano Manfredi, Prefect Claudio Palomba and the President of the SSC Naples, Aurelio De Laurentiis. At that time, the city cleaning of Naples had long been in action. Most traces of the riots were gone by midday. Mayor Manfredi castigated the destruction in the old town as “unacceptable” and demanded that all rioters, on whatever side, be held accountable. Prefect Palomba defended the deployment tactics of the security forces, who had accompanied and observed the compact block of hundreds of Frankfurt fans on their “walk” through the old town before the game.

It was initially peaceful, only later did the situation get out of control because the ultras on both sides attacked each other in small groups, said Palomba. Club president De Laurentiis recalled that there was no peace in the Diego Maradona stadium either, the riots happened far from the Fuorigrotta district, where the stadium is located. The right-wing prime minister Giorgia Meloni asked De Laurentiis to emulate former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: The Iron Lady even knew how to put the notorious hooligans on the island in their place.

Left-wing media and representatives of the opposition blamed Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi for not having prevented the riot with an announcement. The right-wing nationalist Lega party, which is part of the centre-right coalition led by Meloni, demanded that the German government pay for the damage caused. The German Ambassador Viktor Elbling and Naples Mayor Manfredi tried to smooth the political waves on the spot on Wednesday. In the Palazzo San Giacomo, the port city’s town hall, they jointly reaffirmed the “friendship of our two countries”.

Meanwhile, Italian and German Ultras were celebrating their enmity outside. The Frankfurters were supported by Ultras from the friendly club Atalanta Bergamo from Lombardy, who in turn are enemies with the Naples supporters. In general, transnational alliances of Ultras have been formed for years, in which loyalty to the respective home club is far more important than alleged loyalty to the nation.

Who is to blame for the riots?

According to the authorities, six police officers were injured in the riots, especially after the game. Five ultras from Naples and three from Frankfurt were arrested late in the evening and early in the morning on the Lungomare promenade and in the Piazza del Gesù in the old town. Before the Frankfurters, who had come to Naples despite the ban on selling tickets to the visiting team imposed days ago, could start their journey home, the authorities took them by bus to the police headquarters in the cities of Salerno and Frosinone on Thursday morning to record their personal details. Again, Naples Ultras attacked the Frankfurters in their buses with stones and sticks.

Which side and which decision-makers bear the main responsibility for the announced riots will be the subject of debate for a long time to come. According to media reports, the escalation was triggered on Wednesday afternoon by attacks by the Naples ultras on the Frankfurters, who then fired firecrackers. Most observers also blamed the Naples ultras for the clashes late in the evening not far from the Hotel Royal Continental, where the Frankfurters were quartered, because they had tightened their “siege ring” around the hotel.

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