Italian soccer team's 'ultra' fans call for women to be banned from 'sacred space' in stadium

Italian soccer team's 'ultra' fans call for women to be banned from 'sacred space' in stadium

A leader of an “ultra” fan group that supports Lazio, a Rome-based Serie A soccer club, sent fliers advocating that women be barred from a section of Stadio Olimpico during last Saturday’s home opener and urging women to avoid that “sacred space.”

The space, the Curva Nord, is the first 10 rows of the supporters’ section, and the flier — signed by a leader of the Irriducibili, the ultra group — argues that “in the trenches, we do not allow women, wives and girlfriends.”

“The Curva Nord represents for us a sacred space, an environment with an unwritten code to be respected,” reads the flier, as translated by the Associated Press. “The first few rows, as always, have been experienced like the trenches. In the trenches, we do not allow women, wives and girlfriends, so we invite them to position themselves from the 10th row back. Those who choose the stadium as an alternative to a carefree and romantic day in Villa Borghese [public gardens in Rome] should go to other sections.”

A spokesman for Lazio said Sunday that the initiative was the work of only a few fans and said the team “can’t always intervene.”

“It is not the position of the club; we are against any discrimination,” spokesman Arturo Diaconale told Ansa, the Italian news agency. “Moreover, there is an enormous number of Lazio fans; this instead is an initiative from a few fans. We can’t always intervene to avoid politically incorrect displays like this.”

A group of female fans pushed back, telling calcioweb.eu (via BBC.com) that “we distance ourselves from those Lazio fans whose inappropriate behavior lowers the Nord’s value. And we distance ourselves from those whose gestures and words show they have forgotten that it was a woman who gave birth to them.”

Lazio was fined $61,000 last season when fans wore anti-Semitic stickers that depicted Anne Frank wearing the shirt of rival Roma. It was the latest in a series of racist and anti-Semitic incidents, with Lazio previously having had its stadium fully or partly closed for European and domestic matches as punishment.

Carolina Morace, who coaches the AC Milan women’s first team, called for a ban on those who wanted to keep women from the Nord. “Sexism is also violence,” she told Il Messaggero (via the BBC). “The football world must help to overcome all forms of discrimination, not to exacerbate them, as happens all too often. I will always fight to ensure that stadiums are hospitable to everyone.”

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