Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Italy says goodbye to Gabriele

Italy's interior minister Giuliano Amato admitted on Wednesday there are still unanswered questions about the shooting incident that claimed the life of a Lazio fan as the priest who conducted the funeral service called for justice to be done.

The priest, Father Paolo Tammi, drew applause in the Church of San Pio X as he called for the truth to be revealed about the incident on Sunday that saw 26-year-old Gabriele Sandri shot by a police bullet at a motorway service station during skirmishes between rival supporters.

Tammi told the congregation: "We ask for justice, the truth. Soon. And we ask it of the institutions that are present here.

"We ask for it soon because then, softly softly, forgiveness can come."

The priest's remarks drew applause and tears in the church at a service attended by many football fans of different persuasions while, as well as the Lazio squad, the club's bitter rivals Roma were represented by coach Luciano Spalletti and club skipper, Francesco Totti.

The police officer who fired the shots is currently under investigation for the incident and Amato earlier admitted that the inquiries so far had not yielded all the answers.

"We still have to find out why the officer didn't put his gun back in his holster after firing the first shot in the air, as they are supposed to do," Amato said.

"It's obvious that that man would not have died had the police officer not used the gun and that is unforgivable but he wouldn't have died either if the two groups of fans instead of fighting at a motorway service station drank a coffee together."

The death of the Lazio fan led to riots on Sunday in the cities of Bergamo and Rome, while there were protests elsewhere in the country.

In the Italian capital, a police station came under attack from an angry group of supporters while the headquarters of Italy's Olympic Committee (CONI) suffered 100,000 euros worth of damage after being raided.

Locals described the scenes witnessed in the vicinity of the Stadio Olimpico as "guerrilla warfare" and many felt let down by the police. With cars being vandalised, some locals were forced to leave their homes in order to protect their vehicles from being burnt.

However, Amato believes the police had the situation under control. "The police paid a high price in terms of injuries in order to protect their headquarters," he said.

"They didn't abandon that part of the city to violence, because it was a violence directed at them, against them. With their behaviour, they avoided a true massacre, as the head of police said."

Amato nevertheless admits that the increased hooliganism needs to be tackled immediately. "It is my responsibility and I assume it entirely," he said. "We must be firm against violence.

"But it's a responsibility of all of us. We need to deal with this seriously, the government but not only the government."

Thousands of people lined the streets around the church in the Balduina district of the Eternal City, as Sandri's body was carried inside.

Football fans from across Italy made their way to the Church to pay tribute to Sandri. Spalletti and Totti exchanged warm embraces with members of the dead man's family.

Banners were upheld outside the church bearing the words "Ciao Gabriele, from now on you'll always be an angel in the sky", "The Balduina mourns a son. Ciao Gabri", and "Justice for Gabri".

Football scarves from several clubs were displayed while among the floral tributes was one from the Chief of Police and the Rome Commune.

Source: C4 Football Italia / PA

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