Lazio forward Paolo Di Canio could face disciplinary action after appearing to give a fascist salute to his fans during a Serie A match for the second time this season.
Italian papers ran photos Monday showing Di Canio with his arm outstretched as he was being substituted during the second half of Sunday's Livorno-Lazio match. Livorno won 2-1.
"Politics must remain out of soccer stadiums," the Italian soccer federation's deputy president, Giancarlo Abete, was quoted as saying Monday by the ANSA news agency.
The arm gesture is associated in Italy with the salute used under the rule of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
"I will always salute as I did yesterday because it gives me a sense of belonging to my people," Di Canio was quoted by ANSA as saying Monday.
Di Canio's gesture came during a match made tense by the rival political allegiances of the teams' supporters: Livorno has a traditionally left-wing following, while Lazio's hard-core supporters are known for being far-right.
Lazio supporters waved swastika flags, while Livorno fans had red Communist flags. Clashes between Livorno fans and police were reported outside the stadium before the match, with one policeman suffering minor injuries.
Livorno goalkeeper Marco Amelia called for disciplinary action against Di Canio.
"It is a stupid gesture, and it's not the first time he's made it," ANSA quoted Amelia as saying after the match. "I think the federation should take measures."
A leading right-wing politician tried to play down the significance of the gesture.
"Let everybody salute as they like," said Ignazio La Russa of the National Alliance, a government party that has neo-fascist roots but is now mainstream conservative. "It doesn't seem to me a violent gesture. There's nothing dramatic about it."
In January, Di Canio was photographed making the salute after his team's 3-1 victory over crosstown rival AS Roma, a gesture that drew widespread condemnation.
He was eventually fined Euro10,000 (then US$13,400) by the soccer federation, but maintained his gesture had no political significance.Reuse content