A year and a half ago, before the first leg of the Champions League semifinal showdown with Roma, Irish Liverpool supporter Sean Cox was viciously attacked by Roma ultras. He was beaten within an inch of his life. He was in a coma, and didn’t regain consciousness for months. He still hasn’t fully recovered, and likely never will.
Sadly, another Champions League match against another Italian side has ended with yet another Liverpool supporter ending up in the hospital.
The supporter, believed to be 26-year-old Steven Allen, was reportedly ganged up on by Napoli ultras on scooters outside of a bar in Napoli around 2 PM local time. He managed to make it to the match, only to collapse later inside the stadium around halftime.
Amazingly, Liverpool CEO Peter Moore was on hand, delivering the best performance by a Red on the night, keeping Allen company and making sure he got the treatment he needed.
“I’m at the hospital with Steven right now,” Moore tweeted, “We will not leave him until we are comfortable that he’s fine, so can everyone stop worrying for now.
“Trying to get him seen by a doctor, but there’s a distinct lack of urgency here from the police and medical staff.”
Moore’s initial tweet seemed to elicit a response from the nurses, doctors, and police at Ospedale Cardarelli Hospital.
“Update to this,” Moore tweeted later, “The hospital staff and the police have now helped Stephen and been very cooperative.
“He’s been seen and will be monitored throughout the night. He asked me to thank everyone for their concern.”
Allen was reportedly discharged this morning, and appears to be fine, all things considered. Still, it’s another incident marring what should have been a celebration of football with two great sides.
Of course, we are a long way from the “bad old days” of rampant violence and hooliganism, but that did not change until authorities and football associations—up to and including UEFA—intervened. English football, and Liverpool in particular, paid a heavy price after the horrific scenes at Heysel, resulting in the deaths of 39 supporters.
And yet, the threat of deadly violence still remains. And that threat is not coming from English, or Scouse, or German, or Spanish, or Dutch clubs. But it’s consistently coming from Italian ones.
As in the highly publicized case of Romelu Lukaku and the racist abuse he has been receiving since his move to Inter Milan, the incidents of violence should not be taken in isolation. And like the case of consistent racism, some will try to frame ultra violence as “cultural.”
In both cases, the culture must change. If England can largely root out the “hooligan” culture of the 80’s, so too can Italy put an end to this culture of racism and violence. Clubs, local authorities, and football’s governing bodies must all make the concerted and consistent efforts to ensure safety for fans and players. At some point, that may have to entail hefty fines, supporter bans, empty stadiums, or maybe even banishment from European competition. It has happened before. Perhaps it should happen again.
The point is, without serious consequences for clubs and supporters, nothing will change. Sadly, I have little hope of UEFA doing anything this time, or for any similar incidents which will surely follow.
Must we really wait until someone loses their life before a real change is made? Again? It seems likely.