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Chaos at the Marassi as Genoa crisis spreads to the stands

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By Charles Ducksbury

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Siena’s fourth goal against Genoa proved too much for the Rossoblu ultras. Flares soon rained down onto the pitch, before a group climbed onto the tunnel ‘forbidding’ the players to leave the pitch. The game was held up for 45 minutes before the match re-started. But what led to these extra-ordinary events unfolding?

Heading into Sunday’s battle with Siena, Genoa were on a run of 11 games without a win, onto their ‘third’ coach of the season (Alberto Malesani was into his second spell as coach, sandwiching Pasquale Marino’s 15 game spell) and playing terribly. Fans had already paid a visit to the training ground to ask for more passion but to no avail. Games at Marassi had become tense affairs, the legendary Gradinata Nord, the home of the Genoa Ultra normally so loud was ringing with jeers and whistles. Genovese are passionate folk and Genoa are historically a top side. The fans couldn’t bear what they were witnessing. After a shambolic performance the Rossoblu were three down by half-time and conceded a fourth straight after half-time. And so began an amazing sequence of events.

Flares rained down onto the pitch which led to an inevitable break in play (not an unusual event in Italy) but the atmosphere was more edgy than normal. Before long fans had scaled the security fences with some Ultra sitting on top of the tunnel, stopping any players from making an exit. Discussions were held between Ultra’s and captain Marco Rossi before it became clear what was happening. The fans wanted the players to remove their shirts, seemingly stating they didn’t deserve to wear the colours. Shockingly the players agreed, Rossi collecting and then carrying them for the fans. Giuseppe Sculli then spoke with the fans. Soon the situation had calmed and the game was allowed to continue. Siena perhaps apologetically netted an own goal but the Ultra spent the rest of the game with their backs turned on the team. The Robur ran out 4-1 winners (Ironically, as Siena left the pitch they were applauded by the Genoa support.)

No doubt there will be a lengthy inquest into the events in Genoa. The Marassi is a stadium with questionable safety issues. From the recent Italy-Serbia match that was abandoned to Sampdoria’s flare-orientated choreography for derby games, safety doesn’t seem to be too high on the agenda. How did the Ultra’s stop the game without being stopped themselves by police? Well, stopping the Ultra’s would have resulted in a lot of violence from the Genoa support, perhaps it was safer to allow the discussions to take place. Ultra’s have incredible power in Italy, stopping them would simply mean more resistence and more problems for the police. That is why police and stewards very rarely venture into Curva’s, it would be met with violence. Unless you have experienced ‘Ultra culture’ first hand, it is difficult to understand just what it is like.

Their behaviour was shameful but, but their frustration has been boiling over from previous weeks, not just the Siena match. A derby against Sampdoria in Serie B would be too much to bear for many Grifoni fans, never mind a game against fellow Liguarians, minnows Spezia (possibly being promoted from Serie C.) There has been an onslaught of sympathy for players, including Mesto who was seen crying. One Genoa fan wrote on a club message board ‘The players showed more passion in their tears than we’ve seen on the pitch all season.’ Anyone who has witnessed Genoa’s performances can surely relate to the supporters who feel they haven’t put everything into the cause. The Ultra’s pay to travel all over Italy to support their club and colours, if they feel the players aren’t giving everything then they will let them know about it. Today is an extreme example, but this is just how Calcio is. The players, coaches and presidents all know this.

In reaction to the defeat, Genoa patron Enrico Preziosi fired Alberto Malesani for a second time this season and brought in Gigi De Canio, the fourth coach of the campaign. But the problems run deeper than simply the coach. Perhaps Preziosi should consider his recent erratic spending spree’s, giving the team no consistency and packing it with foreign players of a standard not befitting a club of Genoa’s standing. Crisis is certainly an over-used word within football, but it is the perfect way to describe the situation Genoa currently find themselves in.

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