Football fan fights for his life after trouble in Rome

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

FANS groups called on the Italian authorities to give them protection last night after knife-wielding thugs left a football fan fighting for his life.

The call came after Tottenham Hotspur fans were ambushed by 50 thugs, some wearing balaclavas and crash helments, in Campo de Fiori, an area of Rome popular with visiting football fans.

One fan is fighting for his life after the members of notorious right-wing hooligans, known as the Ultras, stormed into the Drunken Ship pub at 1am this morning armed with knives and hammers.

This is not the first time that English fans have been attacked on the eve of a European game in the Italian capital.

In 2006, Middlesbrough supporters were targeted by 30 mask-wearing Lazio fans in the area of the city with three fans suffering knife injuries.

Rob Nichols, the editor of Middlesbrough FC fanzine Fly Me To The Moon, called on the Roman authorities to do more to protect visiting fans.

“Something needs to be done about this,” he said. “It is beyond belief that six years after our fans were attacked the exact same thing has happened again.

“The onus is on the authorities and police to sort this problem out – not the visiting football fans. People should be able to go to games and feel save and if the authorities can’t guarantee their safety there is something wrong.

“It has been proved that it is happening time and time again. It was us in 2006, Manchester United fans in 2009 and now Spurs fans – this has to be stopped.

“We launched a campaign to get something done after what happened to our fans but clearly nothing has changed.

“It’s a strong thing to say but if a country can’t be shown to be able protect fans maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to host games.”

Three Boro fans were stabbed and a further ten were injured when trouble flared in the city centre square.

A gang of organised masked youths, armed with knives, hand axes, bicycle chains and sticks, threw firecrackers and flares into the square before baton-wielding police moved in and allegedly rounded up the English.

This latest incident involving the Ultras has left five fans injured when trouble flared ahead of a Europa League match between the two clubs tonight.

Marco Manzi, who is the landlord of the Drunken Ship pub, said the fans had been well behaved before they were set upon in the pre-meditated attack.

He said: “The bar was full of about 30 English supporters at 1am. Most of them were aged between 40 and 50 and they were well behaved.

“Then arrived what I presume were Italian supporters wearing scooter helmets with their faces covered with scarves carrying stones and rocks.

“They arrived in the pub and they attacked the English supporters.

“Some of the English supporters tried to escape down Via dei Cappellari and it was in this street where one of them was hit by a knife.

“I think he was quite badly hurt but I dont know any more about him.”

Four of the injured have been named locally as Ashley Mills, Dave Lesley, Stephen Tierney and Christopher Allen.

Mr Mills is said to have been stabbed and was seriously ill in the city’s San Camillo Hospital.

Police said a Californian and a Bangladeshi were also injured.

Lifelong Spurs fan Colin McAteer, 59, from Harlow, Essex, said: “It’s devastating when people get hurt and stabbed up. It makes no sense.

“I am here on a walking stick because of the trouble we had when we were out in Slovenia (when Spurs played in Maribor) ... someone could die from this.”

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said security would be increased for tonight’s tie.

He said: “We are aware of a serious incident involving British nationals in Rome.

“We are in contact with the Italian authorities and the Italian police, who are investigating the incident and have confirmed there will be increased security measures for the game this evening.

“We have been in contact with one British national and have been updated by hospitals on the conditions of all the others, some of whom have already been released.”

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