Foggia fan apologises over wheelchair use, denies faking a disability
A fan of Italian Serie B club Foggia has apologised after being caught on camera entering the stadium for the game against Cesena in a wheelchair and then walking up steps to take his place in the stand.
A video of the fan arriving in the wheelchair, with fans shouting "it's a miracle!" and "God exists!" after he climbed up the stairs, was published on Blitz TV's YouTube channel.
In response, Foggia said in a statement published on their website that "having seen with disgust and horror the video showing a person arriving in the disabled area of the Stadio Pino Zaccheria in a wheelchair and then getting out of it, further to utterly condemning the incident, which is extremely offensive to those people who live every day of their life with real disabilities, [we] will follow all roads possible to identify and charge the person who was the protagonist of this unacceptable gesture."
Foggia provide 40 free tickets for disabled fans and the people who accompany them, but the man told Telefoggia that he was not faking a disability to get into the ground for free and that he was only having a bit of fun with his friend's wheelchair having already accompanied him into the stadium.
"I'm not disabled, but I accompany a disabled person," he said. "For Foggia-Cesena, I helped my disabled friend to his usual place then, since the wheelchair was moving, I went down to move it to its place.
"Rather than pushing it, I just sat in it and moved it into position that way. Somebody filmed me and says that I was faking being disabled. I apologise to all disabled people throughout the world because I did not want to offend anybody. It was just a bit of fun. I've accompanied my disabled friend for two years and I don't offend disabled people.
"My disabled friend is alone -- he lives at home alone, without a mother and without a father -- and I offer to help him. People think I'm crazy, but I'm not. I've been helping my friend for two years -- I take him shopping, help him around the house.
"I decided to speak out because I am very ashamed."
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.