Founder James Fletcher has more than 15 years worth of experience working for national newspapers, television and radio broadcasters

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Liverpool Fans Beware: There’s No Place Like Rome

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Rome wasn’t built in a day – and neither was the violent reputation of their fans.

And any Liverpool supporters considering the trip to Rome next week for the second leg of the European Cup Semi-Final must understand they are walking into a hornets nest.

Rome is not a nice place to visit for football fans. Forget the picture postcards, the romance and the culture.

Forget the picture postcards, the romance and the culture and forget the ‘safety’ measures promised by the Italian police and extra precautions pledged.

There will be no protection for any supporters who stray outside of the bubble of club organised trips. There never is. It is a not a nice place to watch football.

Liverpool Football Club have tried everything possible to protect their fans but requests for information have fallen on deaf ears.

Now, as Sean Cox remains in a critical condition the scandalous reporting of Roman newspaper II Tempo has made a very bad situation even worse.o ran a story about 1000 English Ultras allegedly set to join forces with Neo-Nazi thugs from Lazio has made a bad situation even worse.

Their story claims 1,000 English Ultras are set to join forces with Neo-Nazi thugs from Lazio ahead of the Semi-Final second leg. It is, of course, utter nonsense.

Ultras

But it will stir tensions, as if that were needed, ahead of Wednesday match as Liverpool fans begin to arrive in Rome over the next couple of days.

This is about being brave. It isn’t even about firm versus firm.

Put simply, there are sections of Rome that are ruled by the ‘Ultras’ – areas where the police simply turn a blind eye and let mob rule. Pockets where it is apparently ok to allow thugs to attack those unfortunates that stray into sight.

They aren’t looking to fight rival gangs. These thugs pick off those who appear isolated. Easy pickings.

Eleven years ago, I had the misfortune to witness first hand what that means for anyone caught in the ‘wrong’ part of town. A brutal assault on a set of ordinary, well-respected middle-aged football fans in Rome who were not looking for trouble, just looking forward to football.

They were a small group of Manchester United supporters who had flown to Rome from Ireland. Not yobs and certainly not disrespecting of their hosts or the culture of the wonderful city.

Back then, I was the Chief Northern Football Writer with The News of the World and I was in Rome to cover Manchester United’s Champions League Quarter Final with Roma in April 2007.

I was with my good friend Jonathan Northcroft, Chief Football Writer with The Sunday Times. We had traveled via the Metro beyond the famous Spanish Steps to an overland tram and then walked, with fans from both clubs towards the ground.

The mood was jovial and there had been no trouble. But it all changed as we walked onto Pontenani Bridge. The bridge was lined on both sides with hot dog sellers, souvenir stands and food outlets. It was a pinch point and I suddenly realised this was not a place to be.

I watched as a man, in his late 20s, dressed in jeans with a green ski-jacket with the hood up and a scarf wrapped around his face, take a bottle, push it up his sleeve, whilst two others did the same.

I told Jonathan ‘it was about to go’ but it was too late as a group of bottle-wielding thugs pounced on the group United fans. They didn’t have a chance and were subjected to a horrific attack. Down on the floor surrounded by the baying mob.

We had a choice. Stand and fight or flee? No question. We ran but had to drive straight through the middle of the mob to escape. As we did, I was punched in the face but managed to stay on my feet and kept running, chased by 15 or 20 people who threw bottles and a flare and across a busy street. before managing to blend

I managed to get away and, having regained my composure, was able to blend into the crowd and make my way to the safety of the press box.

Others weren’t so lucky. We learned two fans had been stabbed, others bottled and beaten and there was trouble inside the ground as Roma fans attempted to storm the United supporters.

The point is that this is not new. We know all about the so-called Ultras. And yet nothing changes

They call themselves fans, football supporters but they are not. They are criminals dressed in club colors. They cause mayhem under the banner that is Associazione Sportiva Roma.

The Giallorossi (The Yellow and Reds) are one of Italy’s top clubs, having enjoyed all but one of their 90-years in the country’s top flight, winning Serie A three times and nine Coppa Italia titles.

Morons

AS Roma President James Pallotta believes the brutal assault of Sean Cox must be the beginning of the end for these violent thugs he branded “f***ing morons.”

At the time of writing, Mr Cox, a 53-year-old father-of-three from Dunboyne in Co Meath, remains in a critical condition after being attacked ahead of the first leg of the Champions League Semi-Final at Anfield.

Two men were arrested and have been charged with his attack. Filippo Lombardi, 20, has been charged with violent disorder and wounding/inflict grievous bodily harm while Daniele Sciusco, 29 has been was charged with violent disorder.

Roma Present Pallotta, insists it is time for change.

He said: “What’s going on right now with Sean Cox in Liverpool, that’s life and death and it affects his family.We have a long history at Roma and what’s going on when you have a few stupid people is that they destroy our history and they attack our legacy and I’m tired of it.

“We have a long history at Roma and what’s going on when you have a few stupid people is that they destroy our history and they attack our legacy and I’m tired of it.

“It’s not just an issue for Rome. It’s an issue for Italy and it’s an issue for the authorities and it’s an issue for all of to band together and to finally wake so that we don’t have a reputation – that’s not deserved around the rest of the world – that our fans are not good fans because our fans are the best fans in the world – it’s just a couple of f***ing morons that the rest of us down.”

Actions Mr Pallotta, not words. That is what is needed. Recognising the existence of such a group of hooligans is a start and rounding them up should not be too difficult.

Call me a cynic, but I expect no action. No tough policing. And yes, unfortunately, I expect some poor unfortunate, undeserving, genuine Liverpool fans will find themselves at the mercy of the mob on Wednesday.

Il Tempo Front Page

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