ROME (AP) — Dozens of suspected Lazio fans wielding cobblestones, knives and metal rods attacked Tottenham supporters out drinking ahead of their Europa League match Thursday, stabbing at least one and sending seven of them to the hospital, police and witnesses said.
The brawl took on anti-Semitic overtones, with witnesses reporting that the Italian hooligans shouted "Jews" at the Tottenham fans.
Tottenham supporters are often called the "Yid Army" and the team is known to have a large Jewish fan base from north London. Lazio fans are traditionally right-wing and often use fascist salutes and slogans.
Rome police say they detained some of the 50 or so hoodlums responsible for assaulting the British fans and trashing "The Drunken Ship" pub in Rome's Campo de' Fiori square, a popular drinking spot. Fifteen people were identified and searches were under way Thursday at their homes, police said in a statement.
Blood stained the cobblestones outside the bar, windows and mirrors were smashed and stools and tables were overturned.
"They penned them in the back and they threw everything at them: cobblestones, metal rods, metal bolts, pieces of belts," bar owner Marco Manzi told The Associated Press after returning to survey the damage Thursday morning.
He said the attack seemed well organized, with groups of thugs converging on the pub from two directions, their faces covered with motorcycle helmets and scarves, and armed with "every possible thing."
Lazio fans were suspected, but club president Claudio Lotito said his club supporters "had nothing to do with it," according to the ANSA news agency. ANSA reported that at least one Roma fan had been identified by police as being involved.
The brawl began sometime after 1 a.m. and was over within 20 minutes, Manzi said. Police said those hospitalized were British men, aged 20-60. One emerged from the hospital Thursday afternoon with a black eye and a bandaged head and foot.
Manzi claimed police were virtually absent from the brawl, though police disputed that and officials noted that pubs have their own private security. Often a police van or two is stationed just a few meters (yards) from "The Drunken Ship," since fights regularly break out in the piazza frequented at night by American exchange students, tourists and young Italians.
"There was a total absence of law enforcement," Manzi said.
He said after the brawl ended inside the pub, the thugs escaped and knifed another victim about 20 meters (yards) away, down a small cobblestone street.
Police said in their statement that their patrol units on duty in Campo de' Fiori alerted headquarters as soon as the fight broke out and that "all available patrols," an ambulance and carabinieri reinforcements were quickly sent.
Associated Press writer Pietro di Cristofaro contributed to this report.