Game in crisis: English cure demanded for Italian disease

Players' chief calls for one-year suspension to tackle ills
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The Independent Online

Follow the English lead to stamp out hooliganism was the call from the Italian players' association after the death of a policeman in rioting at the Sicilian Serie A derby between Palermo and Catania. Sergio Campana, the president of the FIGC, also said the game should stop for a year while it was cleaned up.

"If in England they've managed to beat every type of violence, I see no reason why we can't do the same," Campana said. "In England you see teams that have been relegated applauded by their fans, here our players are hit because they lose one game."

He wants the immediate suspension of the game announced by Luca Pancalli, the Italian football federation commissioner, to be extended to a full year. He said he told Pancalli in a telephone conversation that "I wanted my proposal taken seriously that football should stop for a year in order to reflect on the evils that exist".

This weekend's domestic matches were postponed, and the international friendly against Romania on Wednesday and the Under-21 game against Belgium on Tuesday have been cancelled.

The impact of the policeman's death was heightened by the fact that a minute's silence had been held before the match in Catania kicked off to mark the death of a club official from a lower league club, Sammartinese, who was kicked to death after he intervened in a brawl between players in a game last weekend.

"A one-day postponement is not enough," Campana said. "There have been two deaths in a week in Italian football. We must reflect. We cannot accept episodes of violence every single weekend just because someone plays badly. I've been in football for many years, but I've never experienced such a tragic week. The culture must change. This time we cannot allow it to go on. It's time to reflect, we cannot lose life for absurd reasons."

The game in Italy is blighted by violence that echoes the problems that existed in England and involving English teams abroad in the 1970s and 80s, culminating in the Heysel Stadium tragedy at the European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus. Wide-ranging measures were introduced to curtail hooliganism in Britain and they have proved to be largely successful in halting problems.

Michel Platini, the newly elected president of Uefa, the European governing body, gave his support to the Italian federation's decision to suspend play at all levels. "Violence of any sort is unacceptable and it has absolutely no place in the game of football ­ we do not condone it, we must not accept it and we must act to eradicate it," Platini said in a statement on the official Uefa website.

The former French international vowed that Uefa would help the Italian authorities and those of any other European country which needed assistance in order to eradicate violence from the game.

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