Dutch football hooligans wreak havoc in Rome

Rioting Feyenoord fans vandalise 17th-century fountain

Fans of Dutch football team Feyenoord rioted in Rome's Piazza di Spagna during the late afternoon on 19 February, ahead of a Europa League match against AS Roma which ended in a 1-1 draw.

During the clashes the rioting hooligans smashed glass bottles against the 17th-century Barcaccia fountain, damaging the central part of the baroque monument which was unveiled in September following a year-long restoration.

The chipped fragments of the fountain, which is accredited to Pietro Bernini with the possible contribution of his famous son Gian Lorenzo, were visible in the waters along with bobbing glass bottles and rubbish dumped by the hooligans.

13 police were injured after the drunken Feyenoord fans pelted them with bottles and flares, leaving the entire Piazza di Spagna littered with broken glass and debris. A running battle ensued after police engaged in baton charges to move the Dutch fans towards Villa Borghese.

Once they reached the park, the hooligans vandalised 15 city buses acquisitioned by the police to take them to the Olympic stadium which opened three hours early, before kick-off at 19.00. Bus provider ATAC said later that the buses were damaged so badly that they are now unusable for public transport.

Despite the closure of bars and a temporary alcohol ban in place in the city centre, the Feyenoord fans still managed to get their hands on booze. Criticising the loss in trade to the city, Italian business association Confesercenti claimed the ban was being defied openly by "illegal vendors selling beer bottles around the crowds of fans, but no one says anything."

There were up to 7,000 Feyenoord fans in Rome for the game and many of them were already involved in unruly behaviour in Campo de' Fiori on the night of 18 February. Throughout the next day they caused mayhem in the centre, vandalising property and vehicles, intimidating shopkeepers, urinating against apartment doors and jumping on cars.

Police arrested 28 fans on charges of resistance, damage and violence, with an Italian court handing down fines of €45,000 each to several defendants, while others received jail terms of between eight and 16 months. They were among the 600 Feyenoord fans escorted to Fiumicino airport to board chartered planes back to Holland. Following the game, police escorted the Dutch fans en masse from the stadium in the Flaminio district to Termini station.

Italian premier Matteo Renzi referred to the football hooligans as “barbarians” who were "full of beer", saying that their behaviour was “a total insult to civility.” The prime minister said that he is awaiting an apology from Feyenoord, adding that the hooligans would be punished with “much severity and harshness.”

The capital's "furious" mayor Ignazio Marino tweeted: "Rome devastated and wounded. In contact with the prefect, police chief and Dutch ambassador. It won't end here". The mayor said he is ordering an investigation into why the Barcaccia fountain was not guarded by police, while Rome's cultural heritage superintendent Claudio Parisi Presicce said the city would sue for damages once the culprits were identified. Marino also said he told Rome's Dutch embassy: “Chi rompe paga” (Whoever breaks, pays).

The Dutch embassy agreed that the damage to the historic fountain was a "disgrace" even though "only a few chips came off." In a statement agreed with the foreign ministry of the Netherlands, the embassy said that Italian authorities "can count on the complete collaboration and commitment of the Netherlands to see the culprits are punished.”

Andy Devane