1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Antisemitism: Italy to ban number 88 on football shirts

June 28, 2023

As part of an initiative to combat antisemitism in football stadiums, Italy's government has announced that it is banning players from wearing the number 88, popular in extreme-right circles, on their jerseys.

Adam Marusic wearing a T-shirt saying "no to anti-Semitism"
Italian football has been trying to rid its stadiums of antisemitic and other discriminatory behaviorImage: Marco Rosi/Getty Images

Italy is launching a new initiative to combat antisemitism in its football stadiums. The new plan, coordinated by the Italian government and the Italian Football Association (FIGC), involves introducing a code of ethics in accordance with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Among the concrete measures in the package is a call on referees to suspend any match in which antisemitic acts are observed. 

"It is an appropriate and effective response to an intolerable prejudice that still too often manifests itself in our stadiums," Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi said at Tuesday's ceremony to sign the letter of intent to implement the measures.

"The world of football is united in the fight against antisemitism and all forms of discrimination," added FIGC President Gabriele Gravina.

What is significant about the number 88?

The most high-profile measure is a plan to ban players from wearing the number 88 on their jerseys. In extreme-right, neo-Nazi circles, the number refers to the eighth letter of the alphabet, H, with HH standing for "Heil Hitler."

There have been a number of racist and antisemitic incidents in Italian football stadiums in recent years, including fans booing or shouting abuse at Black players, using the word "Jew" as an insult and displaying Nazi or fascist symbols.

One of the most prominent incidents came in March, during Lazio's 1-0 win over AS Roma in the Rome derby. A Lazio supporter wore a jersey with the name "Hitlerson" and the number 88 on the back, while two other fans performed "Roman salutes," which are associated with fascism. Lazio later announced that it had banned all three fans from its stadium for life.

There have been cases of Italian players wearing #88, including legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who did so for a short time with Parma during the 2000-2001 season. Following complaints from Italy's Jewish community, Buffon, who said he hadn't known the significance of the number, agreed to change it.

Most recently the number has been worn by Mario Pasalic of Atalanta and Toma Basic of Lazio. 

pfd/mf (AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters)