Sunday, 11 November 2007

Roma-Cagliari called off amidst high tension

This evening's game between Roma and Cagliari has been officially called off as tension is sky-high after police accidentally shot dead a Lazio fan earlier today.

There were reports this game would be cancelled after Inter-Lazio was postponed earlier and Atalanta-Milan was abandoned just seven minutes in due to crowd trouble.

The supporters at the Stadio Azzurri d’Italia demanded that the match be halted in mourning for 26-year-old Lazio fan Gabriele Sandri.

He was struck by a stray bullet from a police officer’s gun during scuffles with Juventus supporters in a motorway service station near the Tuscan city of Arezzo.

As Lazio Ultras had contacted their Roma counterparts to discuss a joint protest march to halt the game this evening, the authorities opted to cancel kick-off to avoid risks of retaliation attacks on the police.

Meanwhile, there is currently a march of a different kind in the capital in Piazza Euclide, where around 200 Lazio supporters are carrying candles to mark the tragic death of Sandri.

Following the incident, Italian Football Federation (FIGC) President Giancarlo Abete insisted the death of Mr Sandri had nothing to do with football-related violence.

"It is a decision the football world took along with the Lega Calcio and the Presidents of the two clubs involved in an event that had lost all meaning," said Abete.

"The dynamics of the incident are still being ascertained and none of us know exactly what happened. The game could not go ahead, everyone agreed on that, but we tried to keep the other matches going to prevent further problems.

"This incident was very different to other football violence, as it seemed to be a fight between a small number of people and a shot went off accidentally – from what I have been told, from quite far away – and unfortunately proved fatal.

"It is well known there are problems between a certain section of the fans and the police, but this is not the point. Here we had a fight between two groups of fans who were not going to play each other."

Nonetheless, the tension between police and Ultras is escalating and there have already been riots outside the Stadio Azzurri d’Italia with both Milan and Atalanta fans attacking the authorities. "This is the saddest thing. A tragic and entirely accidental event should not create further violence against the police authorities. It was an accident that unfortunately caused the loss of a life," added Abete.

"Everyone must have the intellectual honesty to recognise this has little to do with the football world and was a tragic accident that could have happened in any other situation."

In previous years when a fan or police officer was killed, the Serie A round was immediately called off, but the FIGC President explained why this was not repeated this time.

"We also considered calling off all the games, but believe we made the right decision. It is sad to say it, but we cannot put this incident in with the events of Catania, where there was effectively pre-planned warfare between Ultras and the police.

"Here was a fight that broke out in a motorway service station – we’re not even sure the fight had anything to do with sporting affiliation – and a tragic accident where a human life was lost."

Source: C4 Football Italia

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