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Fascism is thriving again in Italy – and finding its home on the terraces | Tobias Jones

The kind of racist abuse aimed at Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly is commonplace in Italian football – and points to a wider malaise

This week has shown, once again, that Italian football has a deep-seated problem with racism and fascism. At the Boxing Day game at the San Siro stadium in Milan, the black Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly was booed for the entire match. Then, the next day, it was revealed that the fan who had died in a fight before the game between rival “ultras” (the hardcore fans) was a neo-Nazi member of a gang called Blood and Honour.

No country is free of racism, as the banana skin thrown at the recent north London derby and the abuse of Raheem Sterling, made clear. But in Italy, the problem isn’t a result of individual idiocy, but of widespread group planning. The incidents aren’t isolated, but incessant. Anne Frank stickers are used by Lazio ultras to invoke death to their Roma rivals. “Jew” is a common taunt on stadium banners, and fascist and Nazi symbols – swastikas, celtic crosses, the Wehrmacht eagle and straight-arm salutes – appear every Sunday. Players even celebrate goals by giving the Roman salute back to their fans (Paolo Di Canio’s repeated use of the gesture was simply the most famous example of it).

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