Milan (AFP) – Emotions were still running high in Italy, days after Lazio fans posted anti-semitic photos of Anne Frank in a Roma jersey in the stands of the Stadio Olimpico.
A wreath of flowers have since been flung into the Tiber, there was a potentially damaging telephone call for Lazio president Claudio Lotito and fans threatened to boycott their team’s match at Bologna on Wednesday.
Italian police identified 16 people, including three minors, believed to have been involved in posting anti-semitic graffiti and pictures of Frank during Sunday’s league game against Cagliari in Rome.
Lotito paid a visit to a Rome synagogue on Tuesday morning, bringing a floral wreath to remember all victims of anti-semitism.
But by early Wednesday the blue and white flowers — the colours of the Rome club — had disappeared from the synagogue entrance and were later found floating down the Tiber river.
It is believed they were flung into the water by youngsters from the Jewish community angered by Lotito’s note “you have Jewish brothers”, according to Corriere della Sera newspaper.
During his visit Lotito also announced that the club would take 200 young fans on an annual trip to Auschwitz — the Nazi concentration camp where Jewish teenager Frank was first deported before dying in Bergen-Belsen in 1945.
But a telephone recording made public on Wednesday cast doubt on the real intentions of the Lazio president.
Il Messaggero published a recording in which Lotito appeared to describe the reparatory visit to the synagogue as “theatrics we have to do”.
“There’s a vice-Rabbi? There is just the Rabbi? They are worthless. You see where we are? The Rabbi and vice-Rabbi in New York… Come on let’s do this theatrics,” a voice is heard saying.
Lotito said he would sue anyone who claimed that he had ever uttered such words and Democratic Party politician Dario Ginefra, seated beside Lotito on a Monday night flight from Milan to Rome where he was alleged to have made the call, backed the Lazio president.
– ’15 idiots’ –
Meanwhile the Lazio president insisted it “would be wrong” to punish the club for “the behaviour of 15 idiots”.
Lazio had already been given a two-match closure of the north end of the Stadio Olimpico for racist chanting.
“It would be wrong for the team to be docked points as we’d become hostage to these people going to the stadium just to create chaos,” he told Radio Capital.
“It’s necessary to suppress and sanction the perpetrators. I hope what’s happened doesn’t impact on the team psychologically.”
According to the Italian press, police examined video footage of Sunday night’s game and had identified 16 suspects, including three minors with one aged just 13.
Serie A football will continue on Wednesday evening with nine matches scheduled including Lazio at Bologna.
The Italian football federation announced that there will be a minute’s reflection on the Holocaust before every match and a passage read from “The Diary of Anne Frank”.
At the same time referees and captains will hand out copies of the diary and Italian Jewish writer Primo Levi’s memoir “If This Is A Man”.
Lazio players will also warm up wearing a jersey with an image of Frank before their game, which their fans said they will not attend because of the “media theatre”.
“The ‘Irriducibili Lazio’ are forced to renounce their trip to Bologna to avoid being complicit in this media theatre of recent hours,” the group wrote on Facebook.
“Our usual way of being supporters could today be misinterpreted by those who would then attack Lazio and its supporters.
“At this particular time we invite all the Lazio fans to try not to leave themselves open to new manipulations and to remember that for us the success of Lazio is a priority.”
The only team to have beaten reigning champions Juventus in the league this season, Lazio are fourth in Serie A just ahead of Roma, who they will meet in the Roman derby on November 18.