Saturday, February 03, 2007

Italian Soccer Suspended After Officer Killed

Soccer fans at a match between top-flight clubs fifth-place Catania and third-place Palermo rioted outside Stadio Massimino in Sicily last night. The disturbance began when visiting Palermo fans were told they would not be allowed to enter the stadium until the second half.

Tear gas used by police wafted onto the playing field inside the stadium and play was halted for thirty minutes.

When a small explosive device was tossed int the melee outside the stadium, it exploded in the face of a police officer. He was rushed to a hospital where he died of his wounds.

The Italian soccer federation has suspended all matches for at least one week, and possibly longer.

Story from BBC SPORT:

Italian league halted by violence
The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has suspended all matches indefinitely after a policeman was killed at a Serie A match between Catania and Palermo.
Officer Filippo Raciti died as violence flared during the Sicilian derby.

The FIGC has called off all this weekend's professional and amateur games, and also cancelled Italy's friendly with Romania on Wednesday.

Commissioner Luca Pancalli said: "What we're witnessing has nothing to do with soccer, so Italian soccer is stopping."

According to reports, 38-year-old Raciti was struck in the face by a small explosive while attempting to deal with fighting outside the stadium.

He was taken to hospital but died from his injuries.

Pancalli had warned earlier this week that more violence would bring a halt to league matches after clashes between supporters and police in several cities last Sunday.

"One day is not sufficient," Pancalli added after proceeding with his threat. "Without drastic measures, we cannot play again.

"We will immediately set up a commission to discuss the situation between sport and politics. It's not possible to carry on like this."

Catania, fifth in Serie A, against Palermo, who are third, was given an early kick-off time on Friday because of fears over public safety.

We need a strong and clear signal to avoid the degeneration of this sport
Italian prime minister Romano Prodi

Prior to the start, a minute's silence had been held following the death of a club official from lower league club Sammartinese last weekend.
But the match was suspended after an hour when tear gas, used by police to break up the fighting outside the ground, drifted onto the field.

The fighting, reported ANSA news agency, was because Palermo fans could not get into Catania's Stadio Massimino until the second half.

The two teams fled the pitch for the dressing-room, with the game suspended for 30 minutes.

After the match, fans continued to fight running battles with police on the streets outside the stadium and around a hundred people were treated for injuries, while dozens with lesser injuries were taken to local hospitals.

Another police officer is also believed to be in a critical condition.

Catania club executive Pietro Lo Monaco reacted to news of the officer's death by announcing he would leave football.

"I've heard that a policeman has died," he said. "To speak of football right now seems useless. For me this is the end. I will leave the football world.

"I don't recognise myself in this world anymore. I have loved football intensely but after this right now it seems absurd."

Palermo coach Francesco Guidolin was quick to blame Catania fans for the violence.

"We won the match, but we cannot enjoy this victory," said Guidolin. "Football cannot last for much longer like this. There will be no joy in it."

The Catania prosecutor's office has announced an investigation into the incident.

England head coach Steve McClaren reacted to the news by insisting the FIGC must now make the same harsh decisions made in Britain 20 years ago to eradicate football violence.

"They have got to learn a lot about the English game, how it has come on over the years," McClaren told BBC Radio Five Live.

"The safety at most grounds has improved. It is all very, very well controlled and is a great environment in which to take families, and we have to encourage that.

"A lot of other countries are looking at the way we built stadiums, our security, seating and ticketing arrangements and maybe after the drastic events in Italy something has to be done."

Italian prime minister Romano Prodi also issued a statement.

"After the serious incidents that occurred tonight in Catania, my first thought is for the people that have been affected and for their families," he said.

"I feel a duty to say that we need a strong and clear signal to avoid the degeneration of this sport which we are seeing more dramatically and more often."

Palermo had taken the lead through Andrea Caracciolo, but Catania equalised within 60 seconds of the teams coming back out thanks to Fabio Caserta.

Palermo won the game with a controversial David di Michele goal in the 83rd minute.

Published: 2007/02/02 21:55:27 GMT


And this from the Fox Soccer Network:

Serie A suspended after officer killed
Associated Press

CATANIA, Sicily (AP) - A police officer was killed Friday when fans rioted at a Serie A game between Sicilian sides Catania and Palermo, prompting the Italian soccer federation to postpone all league matches this weekend and cancel next week's friendlies involving the national teams.

Fans rioted outside Catania's Angelo Massimino stadium during the second half. Police fired tear gas, which wafted into the stadium and forced the match to be temporarily suspended in the 58th minute with Palermo leading 1-0. Television footage from Sky TG24 News showed players struggling to breathe and pouring bottled water on their faces.

Police said the officer died after an explosive device was thrown inside his vehicle.

The violence continued after the game, in which Palermo beat Catania 2-1, trapping hundreds of fans inside the stadium as authorities sought to avoid further violence and stop people from leaving.

The ANSA news agency reported that nine Catania fans had been detained, but none was suspected of killing the officer. Police in Catania could not confirm the report early Saturday as all top officials were in a meeting or out of their offices.

Federation (FIGC) commissioner Luca Pancalli called an emergency meeting in Rome late Friday, and announced he was canceling all games, the federation said.

"The decision to block the championships was immediate," Pancalli told a news conference after the meeting. "We cannot continue like this. What we're witnessing has nothing to do with soccer, therefore Italian soccer is stopping."

Italy's premier, president and other top officials quickly condemned the violence.

"I feel it is my duty to say that we unfortunately need a loud and clear signal to avoid the degeneration of the sport that we, unfortunately and dramatically, are witnessing," Prime Minister Romano Prodi was quoted as saying by Italian news agencies.

Prodi and President Giorgio Napolitano also said their thoughts were with the family of the officer, who was identified as Chief Inspector Filippo Raciti.

Napolitano released a statement urging authorities to take a firm stand "against degenerations that demean the values of the sport and offend the country's civic conscience."

Pancalli added that the decision to postpone the weekend's remaining games was not enough, and said there would be more meetings Monday "to identify those drastic measures that will allow us to restart. Otherwise, we're not restarting the games."

The FIGC also canceled Wednesday's friendly between Italy and Romania and an under-21 friendly scheduled for Tuesday against Belgium.

The federation said that another police officer was in critical condition, and police said dozens of people with lesser injuries had been taken to local hospitals.

Police defended security measures at the game.

"We're talking about incidents that happened outside the stadium and after the game had already started," police Cmdr. Piero Gambuzza told Sky TG24 News. "Police did not allow anyone with explosives to enter the stadium."

The violence follows last month's death of a fourth-division team manager from injuries he received when he tried to stop a brawl during a game.

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