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Anne Frank photo whips up storm in Italian football

Milan (AFP) – A minute’s silence will be held and a passage from Anne Frank’s diary will be read before games in Italy this week in response to acts of anti-semitism by Lazio fans, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) said.

The FIGC announced that a minute’s silence will be observed before Serie A, B and C matches during the week and amateur and youth games over the weekend.

A passage from Frank’s diary will also be read before games to keep alive memories of the Holocaust, while referees and captains will give a copy of the diary to child mascots accompanying players onto pitches.

In addition, an image of Frank will be put on Lazio’s shirts for Wednesday’s Serie A game at Bologna to show their fight against “all forms of racism and anti-semitism,” the club said.

During Sunday’s league game against Cagliari, Lazio fans defaced the Stadio Olimpico, which they share with rivals Roma, with anti-semitic slogans and stickers showing images of Frank.

The Jewish teenager, who died in Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen in 1945, was depicted wearing a jersey of their hated city rivals.

The images have whipped up a storm in Italian football with the Roman club announcing they also intend to take youngsters every year to visit the former Nazi camp at Auschwitz, in Poland.

“This is not football, this is not sport. Get anti-semitism out of stadiums,” responded Ruth Dureghello, president of the Jewish Community of Rome, on Twitter.

Italian president Sergio Mattarella on Tuesday personally called Interior Minister Marco Minniti to ensure that those responsible would be identified and “permanently banned from stadiums”.

– ‘Inhumane,alarming’ –

Mattarella said that using the image of Frank “as an insult and threat, as well as being inhumane, is alarming for our country which suffered 80 years ago from the cruelty of anti-semitism”.

“It is something incredible, unacceptable, not to be minimised and not to be underestimated,” said Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, while in Strasbourg, European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani stressed that anti-semitism belonged “in the last century”.

Lazio president Claudio Lotito paid a visit to the Rome Synagogue bringing a floral wreath to remember all victims of anti-semitism.

“Today we intend to reaffirm our position once again with this clear and unequivocal gesture — no one can use Lazio in this way,” said Lotito.

“Most of our fans are with us against anti-semitism,” stressed Lotito, adding that they would bring 200 young fans every year to Auschwitz, to where Frank was deported before dying in Bergen-Belsen.

He explained that Lazio would also be undertaking a series of initiatives such as visits by players to schools to educate on respecting rules and stamping out racism and social barriers.

Lazio’s ultras were housed in the south end of the ground normally reserved for Roma supporters for Sunday’s game, their own north end having been closed following racist chants during a match earlier this month.

But from Tuesday evening, it will be the words of Frank which will be heard in stadiums, the FIGC said.

At the same time referees and captains will give out a copy of “The Diary of Anne Frank” and Italian Jewish writer Primo Levi’s memoir “If This Is A Man”.

The photos and stickers of Frank were stuck on glass barriers during the 3-0 win over Cagliari and were discovered by staff after the game.

But Lazio’s ‘Irriducibili’ fan group refused to distance themselves, stating they were surprised by the furore.

“We don’t distance ourselves from what we’ve done, we simply wonder why nobody takes our side when we are the victims of these alleged incidents,” a statement read.

“We wonder why nobody talked about our initiatives to remember the victims of terrorism. We think these moves are oriented to block and boycott Lazio’s growth, as they’re one of the best Serie A teams.”

The only team to have beaten reigning champions Juventus in the league this season, Lazio are fourth in Serie A just ahead of Roma, who they will meet in the Roman derby on November 18.

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