United got an away goal and are a goal behind after playing for 60 minutes with 10 men, but the biggest talking points of the game will be the ball-boys, Roma’s gamesmanship and the incident at half-time that ended with the police beating up Manchester United fans.
I wonder how this will be dealt with by Uefa, Manchester United and Roma.
If you remember the last time Manchester United were involved with police in a Champions League game, it was the away leg of the Lille-vs-Manchester United second round tie this year. At that time too, Manchester United fans were beaten up and the club was subsequently fined after a review of the video evidence.
This time the decision needs to be made a lot quicker by Uefa. Were the Roma fans responsible for provoking Manchester United fans? Did the Manchester United fans throw items at the Roma fans over the glass walls dividing the two sections? Did the Manchester United fans clash with the police? Did the police use batons to beat the fans? Did the police beat fans that had fallen down?
I think the answers to all 5 questions are yes.
Did the police do anything about the Roma fans?
I’m going to quote directly from the Guardian minute-by-minute (who got to see the half time incident on Sky while I was cursing the lack of electricity in my area – which caused me to miss everything after the Roma goal to the 6th minute of the second half (51st minute of the game)):
As if things weren’t bad enough on the pitch, in the terraces a few of the United fans have been taking a bit of a battering from the Roman police. The Sky cameras didn’t show much, just a couple of supporters with split heads and blood flowing on their faces. Ah, now they’re showing more. We don’t see what initiated the fracas, but we certainly see the police ending it with some brutal truncheon-wielding. As the United fans were retreating, several fell over and then were ruthlessly attacked while on the ground. There will definitely be repercussions from that incident.
More on that fight:
Sky have just broadcast a replay of what caused the fighting. When Roma scored, their fans charged at the glass wall separating them from their opposite numbers, the United supporters took the bait and charged back, causing the police to step in and dish out their beatings. The United fans were stupid to react to the taunting, yet why should the police only enforce the law on the English fans, not the Italians?
One of the readers mailed this piece in to the MBM:
“I am watching the game at home in Italy and listening to the commentary and the English fans are getting all the blame. The commentators are saying that the English fans started throwing things into the home end after Rome scored. After MU’s advice about places to avoid, the Italians are already miffed that anyone would suggest that Rome is a dangerous place for foreign football fans and this incident is being used to prove the point that it is the English fans causing all the trouble. Funnily enough, we only go to see the beatings not what caused them.”
The Sun had this to say:
“RIOT police baton-charged Manchester United fans during the 2-1 defeat in Roma tonight.
Supporters were beaten back as they reacted angrily to being taunted by rival fans.
One man was left nursing a bloodied head at Italian side Roma’s Olympic Stadium.
United followers were barracked after Rodrigo Taddei fired Roma ahead 44 minutes into the Champions League quarter-final first-leg match.
Italian fans ran at a plastic partition separating them from the United terrace. In response, some of the United crowd breached the line of stewards and hurled objects over the partition.
Before the game, seven United fans had been injured in clashes with Roma supporters outside the stadium.”
“After the hosts took a 1-0 lead, both sets of fans threw missiles at each other.
Police moved in using their batons on United supporters and TV pictures showed one dazed fan with blood pouring from his face, with others trying to help him back to his feet.
Meanwhile, announcements were made over the public address system threatening to halt the game.”
We’ll find more video footage in the coming days, but here’s what I think:
1) United fans were partly responsible.
2) The police over-reacted.
3) Uefa will fine Roma but do little else.
It’s the third bit that I find the most troubling. I don’t want Roma to be suspended or thrown out of the competition (even though their gamesmanship and the ball-boy thing does tarnish their image for me quite a lot), but something has to be done to protect fans from police.
That’s what we’ve come to – the police, who are there to protect, are now there to keep order at whatever cost.
That’s a scary thought for fans, isn’t it?
For more coverage of the game itself (including the goals), see the earlier post, Roma 2-1 Manchester United.
The BBC has a detailed account of the incident as well.