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HomeSportsA Politically Charged Showdown: Celtic vs Lazio in the Champions League

A Politically Charged Showdown: Celtic vs Lazio in the Champions League

In April 1945, towards the end of World War II in Europe, Benito Mussolini, the leader of Italy, was captured by Italian partisans near Lake Como. He was then executed and his body was hung upside down in Milan at the same location where 15 local Resistance fighters had been displayed a year earlier by Mussolini’s Fascists. Two days later, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in Berlin.

Tonight, as Celtic hosts Lazio in a Champions League match, the image and name of Benito Mussolini will once again be prominent. This match has become more than just a game or a Group E qualifier; it is a clash between two fanbase cultures. When the two clubs met four years ago in the Europa League, Lazio ultras marched through Glasgow and made Fascist salutes. However, they were surprised and mortified to see a local banner at Celtic’s ground, Parkhead, depicting Mussolini upside down with the words “Follow Your Leader”. Celtic fans celebrated this display as it aligned with their anti-fascist beliefs.

Celtic and Lazio represent opposite ends of the political spectrum when it comes to football fan cultures in Europe. While there are individuals with varied opinions in between, the voices of extremists tend to dominate the scene when large groups of passionate fans gather in foreign cities. This phenomenon, known as “ultra culture,” originated in Italy in the 1960s and has since become a significant cultural and economic force. It holds deeper meaning in Italy compared to other countries.

Lazio’s ultras, known as Irriducibili, have a strong right-wing, neo-fascist identity. However, it’s important to note that not all Lazio fans share this attitude. In the beginning, Lazio remained independent during Mussolini’s political control of football in Rome. Although the club’s major figure, Giorgio Vaccaro, was a senior Fascist, Lazio has had a diverse history. Nevertheless, the presence of Mussolini’s great-grandson signing for Lazio in 2018 and the march of Lazio ultras in Glasgow in 2019 demonstrate that the club’s ultra culture is still alive.

On the other hand, Celtic has a unique fan culture in Britain. They are considered the exception when it comes to ultras, as their organization, numbers, power, and choreography are highly regarded. The club’s identity is deeply rooted in its Irish heritage.

Overall, the clash between Celtic and Lazio represents more than just a football match. It symbolizes the clash between two fanbase cultures, one associated with anti-fascism and the other with right-wing ideologies.

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