Lazio suspends falconer for 'Roman' salute at Rome match.
Italian football club S.S. Lazio is at the centre of a controversy over a viral video showing the club's falconer giving a stiff-armed 'Roman' salute to fans chanting 'Duce Duce', the title of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
Noemi Di Segni, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI), called on Lazio and the Italian Football Federation to "intervene with the utmost urgency" to kick out "fascists and haters from the world of football", warning that "hatred spreads from the pitch to every square."
"There can be no ambiguity or hesitation over the display of gestures and symbols that evoke fascist ideals," said Di Segni, who added that the falconer's behaviour "leaves no room for doubt."
Lazio moved quickly to distance itself from the falconer, 53-year-old Spaniard Juan Bernabè, who for more than 10 years has handled Olympia, the club's eagle mascot, before matches.
The Serie A club said it had requested the "immediate suspension" of the falconer, underlining that he belongs to "an external company."
Lazio also said that it has issued everyone representing the club with a code of behaviour to follow, reports Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
The video was filmed by fans before the Lazio-Inter game on Saturday night in Rome's Olympic Stadium, which Lazio won 3-1.
It is not the first time that the club finds itself at the centre of a debate about fascism, amid a widely-held stereotype that Lazio supporters are right-wing.
(Many Lazio fans say this charge is both unfair and untrue, pointing to what they say is a small minority that gives the club's supporters a bad name.)
Over the summer Lazio management "strongly condemned a shameful banner" put on a bridge in Rome by the club's hardcore 'ultras' fans.
The banner sated that "Lazio is fascist" and called the club's newly-signed Albanian player Elseid Hysaj a "worm" for singing Bella Ciao, the anthem of the anti-fascist resistance by Italian partisans.
Lazio said in a statement: "We distance ourselves clearly from those who want to exploit this matter that damages the team, all Lazio fans and the club for political purposes."
Hysaj received widespread support on social media from Lazio fans tired of being accused of having fascist sympathies because of the club they support.
In 2005 Lazio striker Fabio Di Canio made international headlines when he gave a Roman salute after the club beat rivals AS Roma in the local derby, with his actions condemned by the world of football and politics.
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