The news spread through the Curva Nord (north end) of the Giuseppe Meazza stadium in Milan and the crowd fell silent. Some fans started to gather together the banners and other paraphernalia used to cheer on the home side, Inter Milan, who were playing a league game against Sampdoria. People ran up and down the stands, speaking nervously into their cellphones. When the referee blew the whistle for half time, a group of 10 or 12 ultras – the most fanatical of a soccer club’s supporters – started to push and shove thousands of people who were seated in the Curva Nord towards the exits. Vittorio Boiocchi, the leader of the Inter ultras, a criminal who had spent 26 years in prison, had been assassinated by two hitmen who shot him five times an hour before the game. The boss was dead, so the right thing to do was mourn, his followers decided. The dozen or so ultras started to empty the stands, forcing families with children who had paid for their tickets and had nothing to do with the world of soccer fanaticism out of the stadium. Nobody connected to Inter Milan did anything to stop them and the police, to prevent the situation from escalating, also stepped aside.
It was a horrible scene. There was violence, faces frozen in fear and screaming. The security guards in the stadium simply watched. But many put two and two together when news of the execution of Boiocchi – a convicted criminal with links to the ‘Ndrangheta and Cosa Nostra mafia organizations, who are becoming increasingly interested in the business dealings of Italian soccer ultras – appeared on their cellphones. The police have launched an investigation to find out who carried out the assassination, and who ordered it, but it seems inevitable it was a settling of accounts. It was also the third killing of a leading ultra in the past five years, further evidence of the infiltration of organized crime into Italy’s soccer stadiums.
Boiocchi’s death follows those of Fabrizio Piscitelli, founder of the Irriducibili ultra group connected to Serie A side Lazio, who was known by his alias Diabolik and assassinated in broad daylight in a Rome park in August 2020. Piscitelli had risen to prominence under the protection of the Camorra criminal organization and made his way as a drug trafficker operating with the help of Albanian crime families. Until someone, as is probably the case with Boiocchi, decided enough was enough.
Raffaello Bucci, a prominent Juventus ultra, was found dead under Turin’s so-called “suicide bridge” in July, 2017. When he was discovered, his white Jeep Renegade was on the top of the 43-meter-high viaduct, with the keys in the ignition and the engine running. A witness saw him approaching the railing just before midnight, a common enough sight at that location. Edoardo Agnelli, the only son of the former head of automobile giant Fiat, Gianni Agnelli, and a cousin of current Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, killed himself in the same place in 2000.
Bucci, who went on to be employed by Juventus as a “collaborator” to serve as a liaison between the stands and the boardroom, did not have similar plans to Agnelli. However, in the months before his death he had become an informant for the Italian secret services, who recruited him to provide information on the links between organized crime and the ultras, particularly in regard to the Calabrian mafia, against which he had testified in a recent trial. “I’m dead,” Bucci stated several times in the months before he was found in Turin, according to wiretaps. The case even affected Andrea Agnelli, who testified at the request of the mafia bosses.
Bucci was collateral damage in a growing phenomenon, in which the stands of Italian soccer stadiums have been converted into huge meeting rooms for the organized crime organizations of every city in the country. “The main business for the mafias, particularly for the ‘Ndrangheta, continues to be drugs. And the stadiums provide the muscle for many of those activities, including extortion,” says an anti-mafia magistrate “But there comes a moment when the leaders of the ultras think they are up to the task and that’s when the problems arise.”
Boiocchi spent almost three decades behind bars, serving sentences for 10 convictions and was released in 2018. While inside, he made many contacts. But the world had changed in his absence. The Milanese underworld to which he belonged had become more refined, quieter and less violent. He returned like a bull in a china shop, reclaiming his throne on the back of beatings and causing a schism within the Inter ultras. On one side were the new generation, who were unhappy that business had come to overshadow the soccer itself, and the old guard on the other.
The business interest of the ultras, aside from drug trafficking and extortion, is based around the resale of tickets for the games and parking tickets outside the stadiums. Boiocchi claimed to make $80,000 a month through these activities, at $10,000 per game. But he wanted more. “How is it possible that we own the Curva and yet eat so little?” he is heard asking in a police wiretap, as reported by the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera. As such, he began to extort food vendors near the Giuseppe Meazza and other individuals who provided illegal parking services. “They work thanks to us,” he said. But the real enterprise of the ultras lies in drugs. And that is their link to the mafias, in general the ‘Ndrangheta, Italy most powerful crime organization and the principal importer of cocaine from Latin America.
Italy’s Minister of Sport Andrea Abodi said he was saddened by the scenes last Saturday at the Giuseppe Meazza. “I will avail myself of the details of what happened,” he said. Inter Milan stated that the club is not responsible for the incident and condemned it in a statement issued on Monday. Meanwhile, the police and the anti-mafia prosecutor’s office will look into the matter separately. Once again, the price for the influence of the ultras will be paid by Italian soccer fans.