Serb violence shows soccer still struggling to stop flares
Italian police and stewards knew Tuesday’s Euro qualifier with Serbia could be a tense affair given the two countries’ problems with hooliganism and the high-profile nature of the match.
Why then were so many Serbian fans able to smuggle in flares and cause an abandonment?
Fans are meant to be searched as they enter a ground but this obviously did not happen sufficiently.
In almost every Serie A league game, at least one fan invariably manages to bring a flare or firecracker into the stadium.
They are not partypoppers, they are highly dangerous weapons which can cause serious injury. Italy goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano narrowly avoided a flare hitting him while another was hurled straight into a group of Italy fans, who luckily escaped harm.
Speaking to people in Genoa last night after all the chaos had calmed down (although it later started again with Serbs fighting police as they were cooped up in the stadium car park), I was informed of some of the devious ways fans get flares through turnstile checks.
Certain flares can be broken up into little pieces and then put back together again with special glue while some fans have been caught with flares hidden inside baguette sandwiches or in the inner lining of trousers where the sewn crease should be.
At least the stadium managers in Genoa had some forethought and put netting around the Serbian end to try to prevent objects being thrown onto the pitch or at rival supporters.
Unfortunately a few Serbian fans somehow managed to scale their perspex fence and start cutting away at the netting, allowing flares to get through.
It was a surreal feeling inside the stadium, especially when an elegant lady with high heel shoes was spotted on the pitch wearing a police riot mask.
No one was really sure what was going on after the players left the field for the second time and Italian fans exited before the official abandonment announcement was made almost an hour later.
The Genoa stadium is English-style, the stands are very close to the pitch unlike several grounds in Italy which have running tracks. The tight-knit feel of the Luigi Ferraris often makes for a great atmosphere, but not when violence is ensuing.
In any case, given the vitriol of the Serbian fans, they probably could have launched flares over a running track and onto the pitch if a different venue had been chosen.
PHOTO: A supporter of Serbia’s soccer team holds a lit flare before the team’s Euro 2012 qualifying soccer match against Italy at the Luigi Ferraris stadium in Genoa October 12, 2010. The match was abandoned on Tuesday after away fans threw flares onto the pitch and at Italian fans. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo