Saturday, February 3, 2007

Italy cancels football after policeman dies

A policeman died during rioting at a football match between two Sicilian teams last night, prompting the cancellation of all professional games in Italy this weekend and friendlies next week.

Chief Inspector Filippo Raciti, 38, was hit in the face by a small explosive device while dealing with clashes between Catania and Palermo fans outside the Angelo Massimino Stadium, in Catania. He later died in hospital. Another officer was in a critical condition.

Police fired teargas, which wafted into the stadium and forced the match to be temporarily suspended, in the 58th minute. Nine Catania fans were detained, it was reported.

Romano Prodi, the Italian Prime Minister, said last night: “We unfortunately need a loud and clear signal to avoid the degeneration of the sport that we, unfortunately and dramatically, are witnessing.” Luca Pancalli, the commissioner of the Italian football federation, said: “What we’re witnessing has nothing to do with soccer, therefore Italian soccer is stopping.” About a hundred people were injured, some seriously, after fighting broke out before the fiercely contested derby.

Palermo won the match 2-1.

The players and hundreds of fans were kept in the stadium after the final whistle as the police attempted to regain control of the situation.

Pietro Lo Monaco, the Catania director, said that he would quit football following the policeman’s death. “I have loved football my whole life and I no longer recognise myself in this sport. With this news, I will leave football — it’s not for me any more.”

Francesco Guidolin, the Palermo coach, said that he was extremely disappointed by last night’s events. “If we cannot get into our heads that football is a sport, we cannot live in the world of football. What has happened tonight offends sport.”