sport

Mills: Ambush came from nowhere

The English football fan stabbed by Italian thugs in an apparently anti-semitic ambush said on Friday his attackers "came out of nowhere".

Ashley Mills, 25, was enjoying a drink with fellow Tottenham fans at a bar in Campo de Fiore, in central Rome, at 1am yesterday when up to 50 masked thugs launched what officials have called a targeted and planned assault.

Mills was stabbed in the leg and head and at least 10 other Spurs fans and bystanders were injured as the hooligans - known as Ultras - stormed the Drunken Ship pub.

A bystander stemmed the bleeding until paramedics arrived and helped save him.

Today, Mills, who is being treated at the Eternal City's San Camillo Hospital told London's Evening Standard: "They came out of nowhere.

"I didn't see the guy who stabbed me. There were too many of them."

The builder, from Hutton, Essex, said there was a good atmosphere in the bar, in which he and friends were enjoying a few drinks, but the situation changed quickly.

He added: "I was standing outside drinking and the next thing I knew there were loads of them.

"It happened very quickly, I don't remember much.

"I remember being pulled out, along the ground, after I had been stabbed."

The attack, which wrecked the pub, happened as Spurs fans prepared to watch their team play Lazio in the Europa League.

Initial reports suggested Lazio fans were exclusively to blame for the assault which was apparently launched with shouts of abuse about the English team's historical Jewish roots.

Before the match, Lazio club president Claudio Lotito denied his fans were responsible.

But shortly afterwards, as the game got under way, Lazio fans chanted "Juden Tottenham" - using the German word for Jew, and also unfurled a "Free Palestine" banner.

UEFA is expected to decide today if Lazio should answer for its alleged anti-semitism, after the chanting.

However, tonight, two fans from the city's other Serie A club, Roma, were charged with attempted murder.

Officers said Francesco Ianari, 26, and Mauro Pinnelli, 25, were in custody and would appear in court tomorrow.

A police spokeswoman said: "They have been charged with attempted murder for involvement in riots and causing serious injury with a knife and are due to appear in court soon."

Yesterday morning's bloodshed only ended when teams of Carabinieri descended on the popular square after calls for back-up from local police.

Arrests were made and tonight police continue to assess evidence as well as examine suspects' backgrounds for any possible previous association with football violence.

Italian teams have a well-documented problem with football hooliganism.

Stabbings at games, both domestic and European, are no surprise.

The thugs have their own modus operandi: stabbing victims in the buttocks.

Experts say the attack is chosen because it is humiliating but usually not life-threatening, and because it also has links to medieval duelling when slashing an opponent's buttocks was considered the most skilful move.

Football theorists believe Italy's fascist Ultras have wanted to identify themselves with English football hooligans of the 1980s when a skinhead, right-wing element regularly disgraced the game.

It is also not unknown for sets of fans from different clubs, who share a similar philosophy, to unite and launch joint attacks.

Roma and Lazio both have fascist elements.

Roma fans were responsible for a string of brutal attacks on international fans over the years.

In 2001, Liverpool FC fans were stabbed by Roma thugs as they arrived at the city's Olympic Stadium for a Uefa Cup game.

In 2007, a group of Manchester United fans were treated in hospital after Roma Ultras also launched an attack.