(CNN)It was an incident which led to widespread condemnation.
On Sunday, during a leading football match in Europe, fans of Italian club Lazio posted stickers around Rome’s Stadio Olimpico depicting Holocaust victim Anne Frank wearing the shirt of city rivals Roma alongside anti-Semitic slogans.
The head of Rome’s Jewish community, Ruth Dureghello, tweeted a picture of the stickers, writing: “This isn’t the terraces, this isn’t soccer, this isn’t sport. Kick anti-Semitism out of the stadiums.”
Italian President Sergio Mattarella was widely reported to have called the case “alarming for our country,” while Lazio players will wear an image of Frank on their shirts during the warm-up to Wednesday’s Serie A match against Bologna.
In a statement on the club website, Lazio president Claudio Lotito said the move showed the team’s commitment to fighting “all forms of racism and anti-Semitism.”
According to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, Lotito has also promised that the club would organize an annual trip for 200 young fans to Auschwitz, where more than one million people were murdered in a Nazi concentration camp.
Italian police is investigating Sunday’s incident, and using the stadium’s surveillance cameras, has identified 15 people, two of which are minors. All are possibly facing charges of incitement to racial hatred.
Passage of diary to be read out
Frank was a German-born Jewish teenager who kept a diary of her time in hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam before she was killed at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.
“We are shocked by these anti-Jewish expressions, which are extremely painful to those who have experienced the consequences of the persecution of the Jews,” said a statement published on the Anne Frank website.
“Fighting football-related anti-Semitism is part of our educational activities. We are pleased to see that others, including Italian football clubs, have expressed their indignation about this action.”
In response to Sunday’s incident in Rome, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has announced plans to hold a minute’s silence before all Serie A, B and C matches this week while a passage from Frank’s diary is read out over loudspeakers.
The excerpt that will be read out says: “I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too.
“I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”
In a statement, the FIGC said their move was part of their commitment “for a civil society so that young people in particular are brought up with the correct values.”
‘New low in Italian football’
Hardcore Lazio fans, called “ultras,” have a history of anti-Semitic behavior, while racism is still a problem in Italian football.
In April, Ghana midfielder Sulley Muntari left the pitch during a top-flight Italian game after being booked for complaining of being abused by a section of fans.
Academic Alberto Testa, who spent time with Lazio and Roma ultras for the book “Football, Fascism and Fandom: The UltraS of Italian Football,” described Sunday’s incident as a new low in the history of Italian football.
He also doubted that Lazio’s gesture would help eradicate racism and anti-Semitism in the country, questioning why it was only in September 2017 that Italy’s lower house of parliament approved a bill aimed at curbing fascist propaganda.
“It’s a big disease, racism in Italian society,” Testa told CNN Sport.
“They are cultural problems and they are problems connected with how society is structured. It is a very complex issue and when I speak about this I say that the stadium in Italy — and let’s not forget that this infiltration of the right is a problem in Europe — reflects what happens in society.
“If politicians don’t condemn racism, if the media continue to use the ‘N-word’ and treat this episode as banter then we will never resolve this problem.
“Yes, Lazio has reacted very strongly. It’s very good what they did. But we need to send a strong signal that this thing is not acceptable. They [the fans responsible] need to be banned for life from the stadium.
“Anne Frank is not only a symbol of the tragedy of the holocaust but also a kid. This is a new low in the history of Italian football and racism.”
According to a report published in April, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the US in the first three months of this year was 86% higher than the same period last year.
However, while cases of violence and harassment against Jews ticked up significantly in the US, they were down worldwide, according to a report by the Kantor Center.
Cases of violence against Jews worldwide dipped 12% last year, from 410 incidents in 2015 to 361 in 2016, the report says.
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