Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti believes the lengthy absence of fans from stadia due to the coronavirus pandemic has made football “another sport”.
Supporters have been locked out of most grounds for over a year now due to Covid-19 restrictions, but after recent test events for small crowds at an FA Cup semi-final and the Carabao Cup final, the hope is next month could see a return for larger numbers on a wider basis.
Ancelotti said the absence of fans had made him, and sport in general, more appreciative of what effect they have.
“Now with the pandemic we understand the supporters are really important at the stadium because football without supporters is another sport,” said the Italian, speaking at the University of Liverpool’s annual Lucrezia Zaina Lecture on its 10th anniversary.
“The environment in an English stadium is completely different to one in other countries.
“I’ve never been insulted in an English stadium – and I was insulted at least every day in an Italian stadium.
“In Italy there is a lot of passion but the passion goes over into an insult, with a fight, with violence. I can compare the Italian passion like Spanish passion.
“In other countries like Germany and England there is a passion around the club, the players and the shirt but it never goes over into violence and insults.”
Ancelotti also addressed this weekend’s social media boycott in protest at the way racism and abuse is handled by the companies who own online platforms.
“I managed a player like (Cristiano) Ronaldo who has at least 70million followers so you have a social responsibility,” he said.
“In football there is a big problem with racism and this is not acceptable regarding online abuse.
“We are going to fight to cut this problem because it is a really big problem for society, not only for football.”
On the pitch, Ancelotti said he believed in the project at Everton and called for patience as he sought to turn around their fortunes through evolution.
“I’m not used to going into a club and making a revolution. I look what they have and if there are some changes to do I try to do it,” said the three-time Champions League winning-manager, who has been in his post at Goodison for 16 months.
“I enjoy being at Everton because it is a family club and, secondly of all, what I like is it is a club that wants to invest.
“They have a fantastic history and it is a club that has the ambition to be there again, to try to win. I like the project.
“The time we have spent there we have improved and we are going to improve – there is a clear project.
“There will be a new stadium in 2024, another great achievement of the club, and we need only to be patient and follow our dream.
“We have to follow our idea. We have improved the team, we have better knowledge and next season we have to step up and try to do better than this season.
“There are four teams in the semi-finals of European competition – and there may be four in the finals – so that means English football is really competitive and it will not be easy to compete with the top teams.
“But this season we competed really well and we want to do better next season.”
As part of the lecture Ancelotti took questions from the public, with one asking for his standout moment from a playing and management career spanning 45 years.
“My first achievement was to bring Reggiana, my first team (in management) and my home team, to Serie A,” he said.
“It was my first achievement but I have a great memory of that period.”
But, playing to his audience, Ancelotti added: “Also to win at Anfield as an Evertonian is a fantastic moment” – referencing the ending of the club’s 22-year wait for a league victory at neighbours Liverpool, which he oversaw in February.