by Daniel Roodt
The Irriducibili (Irreducibles), the ultras of Società Sportiva Lazio commonly known as Lazio, used to be one of Europe’s most influential and violent supporters groups. Founded in 1987, they were regularly involved in violence and drug trafficking and frequently clashed with the police.
At their peak, under Fabrizio Piscitelli known as Diabolik, the Irriducibili were amongst the most feared ultra gangs in Europe. They were a group that worshipped former Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, who was a fascist and Nazi supporter. The group used to regularly give Nazi salutes as a form of greeting.
Even certain Lazio players like Paolo Di Canio who were aligned with the group used to celebrate scoring goals with the Nazi salute. Di Canio, in his autobiography, described Mussolini as “basically a very principled, ethical individual” who was “deeply misunderstood.”.
However, on 7 August 2019 Piscitelli was murdered in what appeared to be a professional hit. According to Tobias Jones in The Guardian, “shortly before 7 pm, a man dressed as a jogger – wearing a cap and neck-scarf – ran past the bench and fired a 7.65 calibre pistol into Piscitelli’s left ear.” This marked the beginning of the end for the group.
Piscitelli is perhaps one of the most infamous figures in Italian football history, yet he wasn’t entirely interested in the game. First and foremost, he was a street fighter, and football fandom provided a medium and a community to express this. He once said, “We were looking to injure people on the other side, we wanted to go onto the terraces and kill them.” He also stated that fighting made him “feel alive in a world of the dead”. Piscitelli regularly bemoaned the lack of willingness by younger generations to fight and challenge the traditional structures through violence.
At his peak, he was also one of the most powerful men in Italian football. He could get whoever he wanted into the stadium. And despite receiving numerous stadium bans, he could get himself into stadiums with ease. A fellow ultra said, “Piscitelli could do whatever he wanted.” Members of the police force also complained about his enormous influence in certain sectors of law enforcement.
Under Piscitelli’s guidance, the Irriducibili organised protests to stop tax debts being imposed on Lazio and they tried to buy the club at one point.
He was even able to meet with players, and there are two examples of this that stand out. During a particularly poor period of form, the Irriducibili flocked to Lazio’s training ground in response to poor on-field performances. After a while, the team’s captain Alessandro Nesta emerged from the building and Piscitelli was called in for a meeting with the team, where a truce was agreed.
The second is when Parma defender Lillian Thuram refused to join Lazio due to the racist chanting of the fans, Piscitelli managed to organize an in-person meeting with Thuram. Thuram said, “It was very strange,” and he went to remark on the incredible power of Italian football fans.
However, Piscitelli was more than just a violent gangster. He was also a businessman and a successful one too. In 2016, an estate of €2.3m was confiscated from him. At the start of his stint as the leader of the Irriducibili, he opened 12 successful merchandising stores, however he quickly moved into drug dealing due to his powerful connections.
Piscitelli was arrested in 2015 after being accused of dealing hundreds of kilograms of narcotics. According to The Guardian, his hideout “contained axes, swords, truncheons, a pistol and phone-jammers.”
The Irriducibili were always in the news for the wrong reasons. Beyond the violence and drug dealing, they were known for singing the Italian National Anthem during moments of silence for drowned migrants, bearing swastikas and using stickers of Anne Frank as insults. They were extremely anti-semitic, and completely open about it, with Piscitelli telling journalist, James Montague, “We are a bunch of f***ing bastards, basically.”.
However, the group officially disbanded in February 2020 citing “too much blood, too many banning orders, and too many arrests”. They were also still reeling after the assassination of their leader Piscitelli only a few months prior.
They will now be known as Ultras Lazio. They said, “From today, there will be a new dawn for the Curva Nord. For the first time, only one banner will be present in the stands, behind which all the Lazio supporters will be gathered: Ultras Lazio. We have the same desire as ever, the same enthusiasm and adrenaline.”. It is unclear as to whether the original members of the Irriducibili are still actively involved with the new group.
The Irriducibili have left a long-lasting mark on Italian football, and on Lazio in particular. Many Lazio fans have complained that they tainted the reputation of Lazio supporters. One lifelong Lazio supporter summed it up saying, “Piscitelli ruined the image of Lazio in the world. Lazio now implies racism, fascism and collusion with the Camorra. His was a rabble of criminals. Diabolik, it’s clear, took fandom far beyond the football.”.
Gentleman's Quarterly (GQ)