Football: DISGRACE OF ROME; MARK LAWRENSON EXCLUSIVE The Liverpool legend relives shocking night when English fans were first attacked in Italy 'The Italian police got away with beating up our fans in the1984 European Cup Final.. 23 years later they're still getting away with it'.
THE shocking scenes in Rome on Wednesday night proved that nothing has changed in 23 years.
I played in the Liverpool team which won the European Cup in the Olympic Stadium in Rome in 1984 and, amid all of the celebrations and parties afterwards, the fact that our fans were brutalised was somehow lost in the triumph.
Now after Manchester United fans suffered the same horrific treatment at the hands of the Italian police, it would seem as if the authorities have done nothing to solve the problem.
That is nothing short of a scandal and it should shame Italian police, the Italian government and UEFA into taking action.
After we beat Roma in their own stadium 23 years ago, our fans were shepherded out of the stadium and down a tunnel out of the ground.
It was there that they were beaten, pelted and attacked with all sorts of weapons and missiles. Many were injured and their celebrations were ruined.
It was like they were taken into a bomb alley and attacked. They complained of brutality and shameful treatment.
And from talking to some of those Liverpool fans, the most shocking thing of all was that it was done in view of the Italian police and almost with their blessing.
It was almost as if the Italian police willingly marched those Liverpool fans to their fate in the full knowledge of what they were doing.
You only need to look at the television pictures from the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday night to know that is no exaggeration.
No one is suggesting that United's fans are completely blameless. That would be rather naive. But the vast majority of blame lies with the Italian police and Roma fans.
Anyone watching the television could see that as soon as any United fans made a move they were battered and beaten with truncheons.
But they just stood off the Roma fans, let them run wild and that allowed them to get at the United fans.
It was quite scandalous and the pictures were incredibly frightening. It was almost as if the Italian police had a private agreement with the Roma fans to stand off them and let them wreak havoc.
It mirrored what happened in 1984. But back then it was away from the glare of television cameras and it was swept under the carpet because Liverpool had won the European Cup.
Liverpool fans complained about it and yet nothing has been done. There were warnings before Wednesday's game advising United fans of possible problems.
But for the Italian authorities not to have taken any further action, rather than just issue some lame warnings, is just pathetic.
There is a deep seated problem in Italian football and, in particular, Rome. And loyal English fans - be they Manchester United followers or whoever - do not deserve to be caught up in those riots.
I went to a Roma versus Lazio game a while ago and I was shocked by the level of violence. Absolutely shocked. So shocked that I have to admit I was scared for my own safety.
Italian football has a problem with the football violence that has long been associated with English fans, even though it has largely been eradicated from this country. Yes, there are problems from time to time and certain clubs still have problems surrounding certain fixtures. There were clashes between Tottenham and Chelsea fans, for example, at their FA Cup ties.
But it has been a long, long time since we have witnessed the sort of scenes inside a stadium which were seen in Rome on Wednesday night.
People who watched or played football in the 1970s or 1980s can all remember the bad old days and certain flashpoints.
A lot of clubs had bad reputations - Leeds, Birmingham, Chelsea, West Ham and so on. Riots, fighting and pitch invasions cut a shocking image of English football at that time.
But now in Italy it is like a step back in time. What happened in Rome on Wednesday night was a frightening return to the bad old days of the 1970s and 1980s.
Yet English football has largely cleaned up its act and really cut down on hooliganism.
Football and the police have the intelligence and knowledge of not just how to deal with flareups but how to prevent them happening in the first place.
It is a scandal that Italian police have done nothing while credit must go to the English authorities for taking action in trying to clean up football and its image in this country.
But Italy has the same old problems and nothing has been done. And that is something the whole country should be ashamed of. Rome is a beautiful, wonderful city but it clearly has an ugly side.
Manchester United have a loyal following at home and abroad and they enjoy watching some brilliant, world-class football which has brought them great success down the years, including an unprecedented Treble in 1999.
They do not deserve to be treated like that and it is time that football's authorities took action against the real villains and in this case it is Roma's fans, the Italian police and the Italian Football Federation.
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2007 TERROR ON THE TERRACES: United fans try to escape the baton-wielding charges of Rome's riot police on Wednesday; WRONG ARM OF THE LAW: An Italian cop goes on the attack; 1984 Violent Roma fans during Liverpool's Cup Final victory
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Apr 6, 2007|
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