Footballers in Italy were banned on Tuesday from wearing the number 88 on their shirts as part of an anti-Semitism initiative coordinated by Italy’s government and football federation (FIGC).
The country’s Interior and Sport Ministers, as well as the coordinator in combatting anti-Semitism, signed an agreement with FIGC chief Gabriele Gravina to battle the phenomenon in Italian stadiums.
The agreement also provides for matches being interrupted “in the event of anti-Semitic chanting or behaviour”.
The number 88 is a reference to the Nazi Germany slogan “Heil Hitler” as the letter ‘h’ is the eighth letter of the alphabet.
One Lazio fan was pictured wearing a replica top with the name “Hitlerson” and the number 88 on the back during March’s local derby with Roma.
He was a German supporter and one of three people banned for life from attending matches by Lazio.
That match which was also marred by mass anti-Semitic chants by Lazio fans, an offence which led to a suspended one-match stand closure.
A fortnight before a group of around 100 of Lazio fans were filmed proudly calling themselves racist in a chant which insulted Roma supporters by saying their fathers were deported to Nazi concentration camps.
The incident was one of a litany involving Lazio’s hardcore fans, some of the most right wing in a country where fascist fan groups are a widespread phenomenon.
Last season the handler of Lazio’s eagle mascot praised dictators Benito Mussolini and Francisco Franco after being suspended by the club for performing a fascist salute at the end of a match.
Two players in Serie A — Atalanta midfielder Mario Pasalic and Lazio’s Toma Basic, both Croatia internationals — wore the number 88 on their shirts in the season just finished.
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