Alamy LimitedRoman agents stand by the cordoned off Barcaccia fountain
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 21:55
Tomorrow evening at 9 p.m. Feyenoord and AS Roma will meet in the Roman Stadio Olimpico for the second leg in the quarterfinals of the Europa League. The police in the Italian capital are already on edge for this. Fences have been placed around important monuments and extra plainclothes police patrol certain neighbourhoods.
After the 2015 riots, which damaged the ancient Barcaccia fountain in Piazza di Spagna, the Roman city council is playing it safe. Two weeks ago it was decided to ban all Dutch people from the stadium. Nevertheless, it is expected that a few hundred to a thousand Feyenoord fans will try to follow the match in Rome. The Italian media has been paying a lot of attention to this for days.
Friends from Naples
No Feyenoord scarves were seen in the center of Rome today, although anonymous videos of fans in the city are being shared on social media. The police cannot estimate how many Dutch people will travel to Rome today and tomorrow. “We only know what the Dutch authorities have told us, namely that, despite the stadium ban, up to 200 to 500 supporters will come to Rome,” said the head of the Roman police, Giuseppe Rubino.
Plainclothes agents are active in the stations and at the airport, trying to identify all arriving Feyenoord supporters. “We identify them, check them and try to find out which hotel they’re staying in,” Rubino outlines. “Well-meaning supporters who had already booked their trip and, despite the stadium ban, still want to experience Rome for a few days, are welcome. But those who intend violence will be dealt with severely.”
What worries the police is that in recent days photos have been circulating on social media of Feyenoord supporters visiting Naples, brotherly next to ultras from Napoli. “It concerned only twenty to forty Dutch people,” says Rubino. But it is possible that the Napoli supporters, also engaged in a bitter battle with the AS Roma fans, helped the Dutch get tickets. As a result, they could still enter the stadium. In addition, the police take into account that some Napoli ultras want to travel to Rome together with the Feyenoord fans and are out for a confrontation
Shopkeepers hold their breath in Via Condotti, the chic shopping street that leads to the Barcaccia fountain. “In 2015, we were totally surprised,” remembers Gianni Battistoni, president of the shopkeepers’ association. “No one expected that invasion in the center, our beautiful open-air museum.”
His memories of the Feyenoord fans are therefore anything but positive. And yet Battistoni does not think the stadium ban is a good idea. “Instead of allowing them into the center of Rome, you should allow the supporters into the stadium,” said Battistoni. “What can they do there? They can watch the match there and then you can quietly lead them away in groups, to different places. Neither Roma nor Feyenoord supporters should come to the center of Rome.
The images of the riots and the destroyed Barcaccia fountain are still fresh in the memory of many Romans:
February 2015: Feyenoord fans destroy fountain in Rome
And yet that is the consideration that the Roman police make: the stadium is off limits, the center is extra guarded. “We are not worried,” says police chief Rubino. “We are only alert and present.” Today and tomorrow there are a thousand police officers in the city and sports bars are closely guarded.
An additional reason for the Roman police to leave nothing to chance is the inconvenient timing of the match. Exactly this week, inspectors from the Expo 2030, which the city would like to organize, are visiting. The Roman beds have been raked extra, the streets have been cleaned. A safety riot can miss the city council like a toothache.
In the unlikely event that there are riots, with damage to monuments, the perpetrators can expect even harsher punishments than in 2015. Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliani recently submitted a bill to punish the defacement of monuments with fines of 10,000 to 60,000 euros, and even imprisonment.