The Italian Football Association (FA) has banned players from wearing the number 88 as part of an initiative aimed at fighting anti-Semitism in football across the country. No. 88 is a numerical code for “Heil Hitler”; H is the eighth letter of the alphabet. Lazio’s Toma Basic, in a number 88 shirt, celebrates scoring a goal. Source: Getty The initiative, which is being coordinated between the Italian government and the Italian football federation (FIGC), includes the addition of a code of ethics in accordance with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The initiative also calls for games to be suspended in case of antisemitic chants or acts, similar to the way cases of racism are supposed to be handled. Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi who spoke at Tuesday’s ceremony where the letter of intent to implement the measures was signed said; “It is an adequate and effective response to an intolerable prejudice that still too often manifests itself in our stadiums. “Anti-Semitism must be strongly fought, together with everything that excludes, despises, and discriminates against every human being, every social group, every minority. “The declaration of intent signed is only the first step of a broader strategy that will result in a new document on preventing and combating all forms of racism and discrimination in sport.”
Atalanta’s Mario Pasalic celebrates a goal with his teammates. Source: Getty FIGC President Gabriele Gravina said; “The world of football is united in the fight against antisemitism and all forms of discrimination.” Following the ban on jerseys with number 88 by the Italian FA, two popular Serie A players will now need to look for a new number. Atalanta’s Mario Pasalic and Toma Basic of Lazio are the players in question. Each player will now be assigned a new shirt number for the upcoming season. There have been several 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 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 number 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 didn’t know the significance of the number, agreed to change it.