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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Lazio/Roma: Anne Frank takes the field at Olympic Stadium

In a recent post about an afternoon spent in Val Melaina and Serpentara, I included the above photograph, of a piece of graffiti by a supporter of the Lazio soccer team linking Roma fans with Jews.  At the time, I thought it was just another example--and a simplistic one at that--of the anti-Semitism that appears regularly on Rome's walls.  I was wrong--wrong to see it as simple.

The posting coincided with a widely-reported story (featured in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, and of course in the Italian and European press): During a recent soccer game in Olympic Stadium--where the Roma and Lazio teams play on alternate Sundays--Lazio fans left
postcard-size stickers displaying an iconic image of Anne Frank, but  wearing a Roma jersey (above right).  Like the Serpentara graffiti I published, the idea behind the stickers was to associate the Roma club and its fans with Jews, suggesting a mutual insult.
From there things get more complex.  It seems that the city's Jewish community has historically leaned toward support of the A.S. Roma team.  In fact, as a Roman friend wrote us about the Val Malaina post, "Roman wealthy Jews in 1927 were part of the founders and initial supporters of the new team."  But it is also true that A.S. Roma's fans have at times taken an anti-Semitic stance, writing "Anne Frank roots for Lazio" on city walls, according to the New York Times.  Even so, that's a false equivalency.  In one infamous display at a game against Roma 2001, Lazio fans displayed a banner reading, "Auschwitz is your homeland/The Ovens are Your Homes." 

It didn't take long for soccer officialdom to speak out against the Anne Frank postcards.  The Lazio

club president, Claudio Lotito, laid a wreath of white and blue flowers (the team's colors) at the Rome synagogue on the Tiber (the city's chief Rabbi called it a "publicity stunt"; the wreath was soon seen
floating in the river).  Lazio players (above) showed up for practice wearing shirts with Anne Frank's picture and below, the words "No all' antisemitismo."  New Anna Frank stickers appeared, this time with the words "Siamo Tutti Anna Frank" (we are all Anne Frank). Around the league, team captains held copies of Primo Levi's holocaust memoir while others listened to readings from Frank's diary. 

There are all sorts of conclusions to be drawn.  I have only two thoughts.  First, this won't be the last time that Anne Frank plays a part in a soccer drama.  Second, a simple piece of graffiti may have a complex context.


Links to RST posts dealing with anti-Semitism--in soccer and on the walls of Rome:
WWII writer Czeslaw Milosz.
On the "myth of the good Italian."
Rome walls and neo-Fascist iconography.
Death of Gabriele Sandri, a Lazio fan.

1 comment:

jsam said...

Tottenham Hotspur is proud to be England's Jewish football club.