Napoli beat Fiorentina 3-1 in a frantic, fast-paced, attack-focused Coppa Italia final on Saturday night – but the play on the pitch has been overshadowed by the violence that broke out amongst fans in Rome prior to kickoff. A member of the Roma ultras has been accused of attempted murder after allegedly shooting a Napoli fan in town for the Coppa Italia final.
Fans who tuned in to watch the game were met not with a soccer match, but with scenes of agitated fans, whispering officials, and police ensuring the situation remained under control. For a half-hour, confusion reigned, rumors abounded. Some media outlets reported that a Napoli fan was murdered prior to kickoff. Others reported that fan violence inside the stadium was what was delaying the match.
The delay was caused by Napoli supporters wanting confirmation that a fellow fan, known to be taken to the hospital with a gunshot wound, had not been killed. Without such confirmation, the ultras, who hold much influence in calcio, did not want the game to be played. Napoli captain Marek Hamšík negotiated with both officials and the visiting ultras, and in the end the match kicked off 45 minutes late.
But while it may be some time before we have a clear picture of what actually happened prior to the Final – if we ever get that clear of a picture – some details have emerged. Although it was originally reported that the shooting was not connected to fan violence, but was rather the act of an opportunist preying on visiting fans, the worst of the violence did occur between two rival fan groups.
The shooting was not a result of clashes between fans of the two teams in the final, but rather between visiting Napoli supporters and the Roma ultras. Some reports suggest that Napoli fans first assaulted Daniele De Santis, a well-known member of the Roma ultras. Others allege that De Santis, along with others, ambushed the Napoli supporters, and when they fought back, he pulled out a gun and started shooting.
It remains to be seen which version is true. What we know, however, is that a bullet went through the lung of Napoli fan Ciro Esposito, lodging in his spine. De Santis, too, is in the hospital, suffering from serious head injuries. In total, three supporters were taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds. Five police, two stewards and a firefighter were also reported injured, in separate clashes, often involving fights between Napoli and Fiorentina supporters.
This was meant to be a fantastic night for Napoli, who lifted their second Coppa Italia in three years. Instead the match was marred by ugly violence, a painful reminder that Italy still has a long way to go when it comes to cracking down on the influence and sway held by the ultras – and above all, the methods they apply to remind others of their place in the calcio hierarchy.