Italian Ultras learn subtle art of football violence from British fans

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The Independent Online

Italian football hooligans, threatened by ever tougher rules and police tactics, are looking further afield to learn new tricks of the trade. Their teachers of choice: the hardened fans of England's toughest teams.

La Stampa newspaper reports that Ultras (as the violent Italian fans are known) from Turin, Verona and Rome are flying to London on budget airlines to watch the acknowledged masters of football hooliganism at work so they can import their skills and styles into their home grounds.

"Years back some of us moved to London for work," said Francesco, an Ultra from Turin. "While we were there the desire to go to the football ground was too strong to resist and we began following local teams."

Millwall and West Ham were the favoured teams. "At the start [the local fans] were suspicious of us, but once they got to know us they accepted us," he went on. They gained the London fans' respect by fighting in the front line.

They took the British rules back to Italy, where fans are subject to less rigorous police control. Italian football violence has long been fond of fireworks and melodramatic gestures. But the Italians have learnt a subtler approach from the British fans. Not wearing club colours to avoid police detection; moving in small groups; not attacking opponents spontaneously at the ground but fixing appointments for punch-ups by phone.