Roma brawl sparks diplomatic row

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The Independent Online

A brawl following the Champions' League match between Roma and Galatasaray on Wednesday has erupted into a diplomatic dispute, with the Turkish government accusing Italian police of fascist brutality.

The fighting occurred after a tense, foul-ridden match at Rome's Olympic stadium that ended in a draw. The protagonists were not supporters, but players and club officials battling with police. The sport's European governing body, Uefa, has opened an inquiry. The violence erupted shortly after the final whistle. The only certainty is that it centred around Roma's Brazilian midfielder, Lima, who has played for a Turkish club and knows the language well. Roma and Galatasaray players were soon at each other, punches flying.

Police in riot gear intervened to break up the scuffle and were themselves attacked as Galatasaray's coaching staff joined in the fray. Initially caught off guard, the Italian police, of whom 13 were injured, responded with batons. The crowd jeered and threw bottles and objects and the police had to form a cordon to escort both teams down to the dressing-rooms.

"The scenes of last night didn't make me think of Europe in 2002, but the attacks of the police in the fascist period of Mussolini," the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ismail Cem, said. "A police that attacks with truncheons so mercilessly, that goes into the changing-rooms and lays out our people, could only be Mussolini's police".

Benito Mussolini was the dictator of Italy for more than 20 years before being executed in 1945.

"We weren't facing police. They were practically Roma fans, a group of hooligans," a Galatasaray spokesman said.

In Ankara, the Italian ambassador, Vittorio Surdo, said. "We're talking about individuals who may have made mistakes. Individuals. So there is no need to refer to the Italian police as fascist police," he said. "We hope this description will never be repeated."

The police had wanted to detain the Galatasaray party for injuring public officials. They later backed down and the Istanbul club's contingent flew home yesterday morning.

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