It seems that all I do is link to Spangly Princess, but that’s because her writing about the death of Lazio ultra Gabriele Sandri in Italy on Sunday and its aftermath surpasses anything I could do even if I lived in Italy as she does. Today she writes about attending Sandri’s funeral, and it’s a reminder both of the fact that a young man actually died (lest we forget) and of a remarkable solidarity amongst ultras.
Shortly after 13h renewed applause tells us that the service is over, and shortly thereafter the coffin emerges from the church. The massed ranks of ultras – black bomber jackets, baseball caps and sunglasses all round – break out into a chant of “Gabriele uno di noi” (one of us). Then a group start singing a tune I don’t recognise – la la la, they’re clearly doing the instrumental introduction – and it takes me a moment to realise that it is Vola Lazio Vola, their club song. (I’ve only ever heard it before from inside the Curva Sud, drowned out by the giallorossi around me).
The Lazio fans across the piazza begin to sing, loudly, and the woman in front of me with the ruined handkerchief starts to sing in a wavering voice, and it suddenly comes on to rain very hard. And everyone is holding their scarves over their heads and I find my eyes begin to water and the woman in front of me breaks down sobbing, and the chorus “Lazio sul prato verde vola, Lazio tu non sarai mai sola, Vola un’aquila nel cielo, piu in alto sempre volerà” seems to have been written with a funeral in mind. And I am glad I had the forethought to bring some tissues with me.
After the singing, there are a few more choruses of “Gabriele sempre con noi” and then one or two voices try to start up an anti-police chant. But it lasts only seconds before being hushed and quietly booed, if such a thing is possible, and then someone launches into the national anthem. The Irriducibili and the Banda Noantri next to me all make the Roman salute throughout, predictably, but that’s that. No political sloganeering at least.
And then gradually people start to file away, through what is now a downpour. The Lazio players pass in front of me to climb onto their coaches, and then sit in the heavy traffic waiting to move away. They wipe away the condensation on the windows, and stare out at us. Mudingayi (I think) practically presses his face up against the glass. We stare back. A small boy waves and claps. The crowds disperse almost as silently as they came, for the most part. But the group of Lazio ultras, a couple of hundred strong, set off towards the Olimpico. Up to a thousand ultras, apparently, gathered below the Curva Nord there to chant Lazio songs, before dispersing peacefully.
The mentalità ultra is many things, some good, some bad. But one of them is this. It is those ultras who travelled down from Milan, from Turin, from Udine; or up from Naples, Taranto, Palermo; who spent hours of their own time and who knows how much of their own money, to come on a Wednesday afternoon in November, to stand in the pouring rain in silence for nearly two hours, to pay their respects to a man they never knew. And after standing in the rain, and applauding the family and mourners, and chanting the name of a man they’d not even heard of this time last week, they departed peaceably. Now, you might find that barking mad. But it’s hard to see that you could find it objectionable or violent.