Italian football fan faces three years in jail for slapping backside of TV host

·3-min read
Greta Beccaglia on reporting duties
Greta Beccaglia on reporting duties

An Italian football fan risks a prison sentence of up to three years after slapping a female reporter on the backside on live television.

The 45-year-old man was leaving the stadium in the town of Empoli in Tuscany when he walked behind Greta Beccaglia as she was speaking live on television and smacked her hard on the bottom.

Other fans made sexist remarks towards the 27-year-old journalist, whose experience ended up on the front pages of most Italian newspapers on Monday.

She made an official complaint to police, who managed to identify the fan from CCTV footage.

The man, believed to be a supporter of Fiorentina, who lost the Serie A match to Empoli, now faces charges of sexual violence, a crime which can range from molestation to rape.

Even if convicted, he would not go to prison – sentences of three years or less rarely carry a custodial sentence in Italy.

“He slapped me really hard on my backside. It was really scary. Then two other fans came along. One was talking about the game while the other stared at me and kept saying ‘you’re so beautiful, you’re gorgeous.’ I told him to stop it,” Ms Beccaglia said.

“But then he returned and he started to molest me. All this was caught on camera because I was live on TV, but unfortunately many women have to endure this sort of thing and no one gets to hear about it.”

The fan who allegedly slapped her spoke for the first time on Monday, offering his apologies.

“It was absolutely not a sexist act. We had lost the game and it was something I did in a moment of irritation. I would never have imagined that all this would happen. My lawyer is trying to contact her lawyer so I can make an official apology," he told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

But the treatment of the journalist, who works for a local network called Toscana TV, was condemned across the political spectrum.

Greta Beccaglia in the studio
Greta Beccaglia in the studio

“What happened is not acceptable,” said Roberto Fico, the leader of the lower house of parliament.

Elisabetta Casellati, the leader of the upper house of parliament, said the fan responsible should be “prosecuted without hesitation.”

The molestation of Ms Beccaglia came just days after events were held around Italy to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Compounding the indignation was the fact that the male presenter in the studio to whom Ms Beccaglia was speaking appeared to brush off the incident.

“Don’t let them get to you,” said Giorgio Micheletti, the presenter, before adding: “These experiences help you grow.”

Giorgia Rossi, another television journalist, described the man who smacked Ms Beccaglia as “an animal” and said she would have hit him with her microphone.

Some Italian football fans were still stuck in the Middle Ages, commented La Repubblica newspaper.

Sandro Bennucci, the president of the Tuscany Press Association, said: “It is intolerable that sexual molestation of this nature should happen to someone who was just doing their job at a sporting event.”

Although progress has been made in recent decades, Italy remains in many ways a macho society.

Women experience cat-calling and harassment in the street and the country has an alarming number of femicides - murders of women, usually by jealous husbands or boyfriends.

Nearly a third of Italian women say they have experienced sexual or physical violence.

As a media tycoon and three-times prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi promoted the objectification of young models and showgirls.

Images of scantily-clad women are still used to sell everything from pasta to DIY supplies.

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