The great-grandson of Italy's fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, right-back Romano Floriani Mussolini, officially signed for SS Lazio on Tuesday. The 18-year-old has been called up twice by the U-23 side and is currently completing his education at the St George British School in Rome. "He's a humble boy who has never complained, not even when he didn't play for two years. He's not a seasoned player yet, but he looks promising," Romano's youth academy coach Mauro Bianchessi told Repubblica.
"The burdensome surname? I've never spoken to his parents, and the only thing that matters is whether a player deserves to play. Nothing else," he added.
Despite his surname, Romano is not bothered about his links to Mussolini. "Here at Lazio I'm judged only for the way I play and not because my surname is Mussolini," he told Roman daily Il Messaggero. "I hope I can make my debut for the Primavera one day."
Italian media, however, has touted Romano's presence at Lazio as contentious because of the club's alleged ties to the far right and their fan group "ultras" being a part of a number of controversies in that regard. The ultras have previously rolled out racist banners, swastikas and fascist memorabilia.
In 2005, club icon Paolo Di Canio gave a fascist salute to Lazio fans after a derby win against AS Roma. After receiving a ban, Di Canio had said, "I am a fascist, not a racist". In 2017 some Lazio fans pasted anti-Semitic stickers of Anne Frank in a Roma shirt across the city.
"For SS Lazio, the name Mussolini is a heavy burden to bear", wrote Il Fatto Quotidiano. "The northern section of Rome's Olympic Stadium (known as the curva nord, the area traditionally occupied by SS Lazio fans), with its fascist salutes and racist chants, is wasting no time to assert its fascist character. It's just a matter of time before someone starts exalting the Duce."