Italian police hold men on suspicion of attempted murder as English FA prepares to report antisemitic chanting by Lazio fans
Italian police have arrested two men on suspicion of attempted murder after masked assailants injured 10 people in an attack on Tottenham Hotspur fans in a Rome pub. One person was stabbed in the groin.
Up to 50 people armed with sticks, knives and iron bars laid waste to the pub, the Drunken Ship in the Campo de Fiori piazza, before fleeing down side streets.
A lawyer representing one of the men arrested told the Guardian the pair would go before a judge on Sunday who would decide whether they should be held in custody as investigations continue.
The arrests came as the English FA prepared to report antisemitic chanting by Lazio fans during Tottenham's goalless draw with Lazio in the Europa League in Rome on Thursday. The World Jewish Congress on Friday called for Lazio to be ejected from European football if the chanting continued.
The attack, just after 1am on Thursday, was initially blamed on hardcore Lazio fans known for their racism and far-right politics, but the two suspects are fans of Roma, Lazio's city rivals. "It is possible the Roma 'Ultra' fans wanted this to be blamed on Lazio fans," said one police source.
The suspects were named as Francesco Ianari, 27, and Mauro Pinnelli, 26. Ianari was arrested after a bus driver noted he was behaving oddly after he boarded a bus on the night of the attack, his laywer Lorenzo Contucci said.
Once considered leftwing, Roma fans have veered to the far right in recent years. In 2001 they stabbed Liverpool fans visiting Rome for a Uefa cup game and they attacked Manchester United fans in 2007. The Lazio chairman, Claudio Lotito, denied Lazio fans were involved in the pub attack, although a motorbike helmet dropped at the scene bore a slogan used by Lazio fans. In October, Lazio were fined £32,500 by Uefa after fans targeted Tottenham players with racist abuse at their side's Europa League match in London.
The Italian daily Corriere della Sera suggested the masked assailants could have included fans of both Roma and Lazio who had overcome their traditional rivalry.
While witnesses said the assailants had hurled antisemitic abuse during the raid, Corriere della Sera reported that none had confirmed their initial statements in formal interviews with police. Ashley Mills, 25, a Spurs fan from Brentwood, Essex, who was hit over the head and stabbed in the groin, lost two litres of blood. He was in a stable condition after a two-hour operation on Friday.
He said on Thursday that the Spurs fans at the Drunken Ship had no idea an attack was coming. "There was a good atmosphere in the bar," he said. "Everyone from back home having a few drinks. We were having fun. And then the atmosphere changed really quickly. I was standing outside the bar drinking and the next thing I know there are loads of them. It happened very quickly. I don't remember much. I remember being pulled out along the ground after I had been stabbed," he said. Mills said the trip was his first overseas to watch Tottenham. "It's a one-off, and now I want to get out of here as soon as possible."
The president of the Italian football association, Giancarlo Abete,apologised for the violence to FA chairman David Bernstein on behalf of the "whole Italian football family", adding: "Once again unfortunately, football gave a handful of delinquents the excuse to take out their racist and antisemitic anger." "I beg you to apologise on our behalf to all Tottenham fans and to those families directly involved," he wrote.