Viva Roma

I’m not usually a big fan of police brutality, but occasionally one must make an exception:

ITALIAN riot police showed no mercy last night as they battered Manchester United fans in Rome. Officers used truncheons and tear gas on the Brits — in some of the most shocking football riot scenes in recent years. Cops wearing helmets and protective armour rained down blow after blow on fallen fans.

Of course, this was partially payback for the deaths at Heysel during the 1985 European Cup championships. The Italian police are not exactly what you’d call big fans of English football supporters at the best of times, and they’re definitely not inclined to genteel relations after the death of that policeman at the Catania-Palermo match earlier this year.

I suppose I should be appalled, really, but there’s something so inherently compelling about the notion of Manchester United thugs being violently beaten by all and sundry. It’s just too bad the police couldn’t beat on Cristiano Ronaldo while they were at it. That would be real value for your pay-per-view money.

I wasn’t watching, however, as I was at an important soccer match last night. Unfortunately, our prima squadra got knocked out of the quarterfinals of the cup competition on a very late goal that featured some very careless goaltending by our keeper. It was a respectable showing against a team two leagues up, however, so the guys did very well. We even had our own ultras beating drums and setting off flares, but they aren’t quite as intimidating as the Roman ultras since the oldest one is only ten years old.

I had to give my Dutch friend a hard time, as it was his son who was leading the kids in all the various cheers, chants and songs. “Did you teach him that one?” I asked him after one particularly rabble-rousing chant. “I don’t even understand what he is shouting,” he answered.