I am heartbroken to hear this terrible news about Papero.
Andrea, Carlo and Danieli took me under their wing in the Forever Ultras section of the curve when Bologna played Udinese in 1998. It was an unforgettable experience, even though my team, Sheffield United, were losing to Newcastle United at that same moment in the FA Cup semi-final.
That night we drove to a restaurant high up in the hills above Modena, and Andrea and his fellow Ultras were wonderfully kind to me, knowing how disappointed I was that my team had lost that day. To my hosts the fans were more important than the team – “the players and coaches come and go – we’re here for life,” Andrea and Danieli told me.
Later that year we would all meet up again at the Mondiali in Montefiorino when FURD brought teams of Pakistani and Somali young people to this wonderful event. Andrea was one of the volunteer workers, one of a small band of Ultras who were passionate about the good that football could do in fighting discrimination by bringing people together to play, eat, drink and dance.
We would meet up every summer as FURD brought over 200 different young people from Sheffield, until our own tragedy in 2009 when dear Ahmed Hassan died in a motorway accident on his way back from the Mondiali. The solidarity FURD and the Hassan family received through the many messages of condolence from people like Papero who had been at the Mondiali that year, was uplifting and heartwarming.
Those were important days in building an anti-discrimination agenda across Europe, the issues we all faced were relatively simple and the solutions came from a small band of activists. The movement is much bigger now but not without the work and support of people like Andrea Papero.
My love and condolences to friends and family. Papero was truly one of the good guys.