CBC Sports Online's soccer expert, John Molinaro, takes you inside the world of soccer and offers his insights about the action on the pitch and in the front office.
Italian soccer is in serious trouble
Monday, February 5, 2007 | 12:36 AM ET
The Azzurri's triumph at last year's World Cup in Germany notwithstanding, Italian soccer is in serious trouble.
The Italian game is still reeling from the demotion of Juventus, the 27-time Italian league champions and the team with the largest fan base in Italy, who was booted from Serie A by a sports tribunal last summer for its involvement in a match-fixing scandal.
Attendance in Serie A is down this season – hardly surprising with Juventus playing in Serie B – and now Italian soccer’s credibility has suffered another staggering blow.
Riots broke outside Catania's Angelo Massimino stadium during a Catania-Palermo game on Friday. The riots took a macabre turn when a 38-year-old officer died after a homemade explosive device was thrown inside his vehicle as police tried to contain the violence.
As a result, the Italian soccer federation cancelled all of this past weekend's games and play in Serie A and Serie B has been suspended until further notice.
The death of Filippo Raciti sent shockwaves throughout Italy: the country’s top newspapers and leading political and cultural figures – including Prime Minister Romano Prodi and the Vatican – condemned the violence and called for Italian soccer officials to investigate the circumstances leading to Raciti’s death before starting up play again.
It would appear their pleas will not fall on deaf ears
“[Soccer] in Italy must stop and take stock. Enough is enough,” Italian soccer federation president Luca Pancalli said. “I cannot find the words to describe a 38-year-old man who lost his life in such a way. This is not sport.
“All the [soccer] authorities I spoke to immediately agreed that we had to stop everything. Words aren’t enough any more. Right now I am astonished by what has happened and this is completely unacceptable.”
The horrible incident in Catania was the latest to besmirch Italian soccer this season: two weeks ago, Ermanno Licursi, director of amateur team Sanmartinese, was killed in a fight with opposition players after the final whistle of a game against Cancellese.
Raciti’s death will no doubt end any chance Italy has of staging Euro 2012 – the country had tabled a bid to host the event, but that likely won’t happen now.
And nor should it.
Italian soccer has dragged its feet for years in dealing with hooliganism. It’s turned a blind eye to the racist banners unfurled by the ultras inside stadiums. And it’s failed to come down hard on fans who perpetrate acts of violence at games.
If any good comes of Raciti’s death, let it be that Italian soccer takes its head out of the stand and starts dealing with these issues in a serious manner.
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About the Author
John F. Molinaro is a reporter for CBC Sport Online whose chief love is international soccer. John served as senior editor of Sports Online's Euro 2004 website, which helped him win a CBC.ca Award of Excellence, and was the driving force behind our coverage of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He holds an honours BA in sociology from York University and a print journalism diploma from Sheridan College, and is also the author of The Top 100 Pro Wrestlers of All Time (Stewart House, 2002).
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