In the final Serie A game of 2013 before the league — like every other major league aside from England — takes its traditional winter break we will get to see the Derby Della Madonnina play out on Sunday as Inter play “host” to AC Milan in what is a game which normally means a lot. This latest edition comes at a critical time for both teams, yet as you the fan and neutral observer watch the game you will notice that something will be missing in the pre-game lead up to kickoff. Specifically, what will be missing is that the North Curva stand where Inter Ultras are stationed will be closed and empty.
The reason is because Inter were punished by the FIGC (Italian Federation) for discriminatory chants made by their fans at their game last weekend which was a 4-2 loss away to SSC Napoli. In particular, they are being punished for making discriminatory territorial chants about Napoli and the region around Napoli during the game. This is not the first time this season that a major Serie A club have had their curva where their ultras sit closed for a home game or two as Milan and Juventus have both been punished for the same infraction.
Coincidentally enough, the ultras of those two teams were also punished for making discriminatory territorial chants when their team was playing Napoli. In closing these sections for such chants, the FIGC is correct in doing so as UEFA regulations state that even chants that disparage ones territorial heritage and place is an act that is punishable under regulations regulating handling racist and abusive chants. Anyone that knows anything about Italy knows that jokes about certain territories and the south to be specific are very common.
Keeping all this in mind, it is commendable on the part of the FIGC that as a federation it is taking measures to finally begin to change certain behaviors and help bring Italy and Serie A into the modern reality of having to create an atmosphere at the stadiums which is conducive to families attending games. This will also improve the gameday experience which is something that has fallen off in Italy. There is no better example of this then what Juventus did for their game against Udinese as they turned a negative into a positive by inviting thousands of local children to attend and watch the game in that section as a move to educate the future fan.
Yet as has been mentioned by a few people prior to me writing what I am about to say in this article, what the FIGC is also doing in enforcing these closures because of chants is it is seeking to win a political game against ultra groups. The fact is that ultra groups in Italy still wield a certain amount of power and influence depending on the club, and in the recent year or so some clubs have tried to slowly strip them of their power and influence while also seeking to control their activities, just like Juventus have done now three seasons in at their new stadium.
Now the political game has been picked up by the FIGC, and with these closures the subsequent reaction from the ultras in the form of asking fellow ultra groups to show solidarity is the latest battleground in this complicated and unique fight is positive. It is clear that the FIGC are flexing their muscle or at least trying to flex their muscle to show a certain amount of strength while the ultras are trying to resist and hope to win the battle through a resistance campaign in hopes the FIGC and the clubs back down.