Serie A - Night of violence shines ugly spotlight on Italian football

The problems caused by Italian football fans could drive players out of the country, Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella said on Saturday after three fans were shot near Rome's Olympic Stadium, forcing the Italian Cup final to kick off 45 minutes late.

Reuters
Serie A - Night of violence shines ugly spotlight on Italian football
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A firefighter (C) is injured after been hit by a flare before the TIM Cup final match between ACF Fiorentina and SSC Napoli

Napoli beat Fiorentina 3-1 to win their fifth Italian Cup thanks to a first-half brace from Lorenzo Insigne and a late strike from Dries Mertens but the match looked in danger of being cancelled as news of the shooting filtered through.

It is reported that a police officer was also injured after rioting in Rome. One Napoli fan is in critical condition.

A police statement read: "A 30-year-old injured in the torso was taken to the Villa San Pietro hospital along with a 43-year-old man struck on the right hand. A third person, aged 32, was taken to the Santo Spirito hospital with gunshot wounds to an arm and a hand."

"It's not the first time this has happened to me, I experienced it at Roma," said Montella, who was playing for Roma in 2004 when a derby match with Lazio was called off after both sets of fans demanded it be suspended following rumours that a boy had been killed by a police car just outside the stadium.

The rumour turned out to be false.

"Unfortunately Italian football is like this, and I think we'll lose a lot of players because of it. They'll choose to play elsewhere," added Montella.

"It's true even for the Italians. It's a shame because there was everything in place here tonight to offer people watching something better."

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As match organisers and Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik (above) moved towards the fans to talk with hardcore 'ultra' leaders about whether the game should go ahead on Saturday, they were pelted with flares and smoke bombs.

One firefighter was injured after being struck by a flare and had to be helped from the field.

A representative from Napoli's ultras was seen wearing a "Free Speziale" t-shirt, referring to Antonino Speziale, who was jailed for eight years following the death of police officer Filippo Raciti in February 2007.

Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis, however, praised the ultras groups for their cooperation and understanding in allowing the match to go ahead.

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"I was focused only on verifying with the authorities how we could ensure the game would go ahead, as otherwise it would've been a defeat for all of Italian football," he said after the match.

"We resolved the problem also with the help of the two ultras groups, who were very understanding and co-operative."

De Laurentiis then praised the fans' display of "civility" in the face of bad organisation on the part of the authorities.

"Why is it that the Ministry of the Interior still hasn't worked out how to organise a football match, which should be child's play, in a proper manner?" he said in the media conference following the match.

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"Fortunately the fans of Napoli and Fiorentina showed an outstanding civility.

"The fans give their hearts and passion to the shirt right to the end. So to talk with those groups without the police present seems to me a sign of responsibility both on the part of the organisers and the fans.

"Yes there were some smoke bombs thrown, but in this stadium an extremely civil event took place, because with the news that was flying around it could have been a riot waiting to happen."

Police believe the shootings were not directly related to the football but the work of opportunistic criminals.

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