Serie A falls silent

European football
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GIANLUCA VIALLI, the Juventus captain who is one of the leaders of this weekend's unprecedented Serie A strike, has criticised the head of the Italian federation for comparing him with Robin Hood.

"Some malicious things have been said and written about me because I am in the front line," the former international striker complained. He said of Antonio Matarrese - who compared him to Robin Hood for recent statements in which Vialli said the strike by millionaire footballers was to help their poorer colleagues - "I am not offended, but if I am Robin Hood, then he is the Sheriff of Nottingham."

Serie A players are supporting a strike called by the players' union which, among other demands, wants more say in the running of the Italian game.

They have also called for the League and federation to pay more into a fund to protect players from losing out financially if their clubs go bankrupt.

Sergio Campana, the head of the players' union, said this may be just the start of a prolonged stoppage if a series of demands are not met by the national federation.

Almost all Italy's leading newspapers have condemned the action and said the players' union, along with the affiliated coaches' union, was locked in a power struggle with the federation which could only damage the sport.

"The public have been made a mockery of, the principles of solidarity have been made a mockery of and the common good of football trampled over," said the Gazzetta dello Sport.

Matarrese offered the union a package of concessions during the week, which included admitting the leaders of the players' and coaches' unions to the sport's ruling body, as well as topping up the guarantee fund. However, in an unpopular move, the offers were dismissed by Campana.

La Repubblica, the only leading daily to have backed the strike, said the reasons for the stoppage now appeared less pressing. "The strike is unpopular because, on the face of it, Campana has got everything he asked for," it commented.

The players' union has said it is ready to return to the negotiating table tomorrow, but warned of a further strike on 21 April - the day of Italy's general election - if demands for a greater say in the running of the game are not met.

Juventus, who play Real Madrid in a European Cup quarter-final second- leg match on Wednesday, have organised a friendly against Third Division side Carrarese on Friday to keep the players match-fit.

Officials said this weekend's lost fixtures might be rescheduled for Wednesday 10 April.