Italian anti-Mafia investigators have seized control of two fourth-division football teams that mobsters were using to boost support, it has emerged.
Other confiscated assets in a haul worth €190m (£167m) were 40 private companies, 44 homes and 164 vehicles.
But it was the Pesce clan's grip on local football in the southern Italian region of Calabria that struck investigators. Financial police seized the club premises and sport complexes attached to two Serie-D teams: Sapri Calcio near Salerno, and Rosarnese, in the Gioia Tauro-Rosarno heartland of the 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate. "They thought they could increase their popularity through the sport," investigators said.
All the goods and properties could be linked to the feared local boss Francesco Pesce, who remains at large along with other key members of the group.
Italy has stepped up its efforts to seize mafia assets over the last year. In the past few days a mafia trial involving 70 mobsters affiliated to the Pesce clan has begun. The Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said: "In recent weeks, the Italian state has inflicted a harsh blow on the organisational structure and finances of the Pesce clan."