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Italian soccer descends into 'pure madness'
by Paul Kennedy, November 13th, 2007 7AM



Italy has canceled all pro soccer games next week in the aftermath of the shooting death of a Lazio fan on Sunday.

There are no Serie A games because of Euro '08 qualifying commitments, but scheduled minor-league games in Serie B and Serie C were called off.

It's the second time this season the FIGC (Italy's pro league) has halted league action because of fan trouble.

Lazio fan Gabriele Sandri was shot and killed on Sunday when police arrived at a service station near the Tuscan city of Arezzo on Italy's A-1 freeway to stop a disturbance between traveling Lazio and Juventus fans. Police insisted the shooting was accidental.

"I didn't point it at anything, I didn't aim at anybody," the unnamed officer, who is under investigation for manslaughter and has been re-assigned to administrative duties, told Corriere della Sera. "The first shot I fired into the air and the second left me while I was running. Now I have destroyed two families, the man's and mine."

The shooting touched off rioting in Rome, where fans caused extensive damage to the Italian Olympic Committee headquarters next to the Olympic Stadium. At least 40 police were hurt in Rome alone. In Milan, fans clashed with police near the national television network RAI's headquarters.

The Serie A match between Atalanta and AC Milan in Bergamo was halted after only seven minutes when fans tried to invade the field. Milan star Clarence Seedorf described the scenes at the game "like a civil war."

"What happened in Bergamo and Rome is pure madness," said Italy national team coach Roberto Donadoni, whose team faces a critical Euro '08 qualifier at Scotland on Saturday.

Violence has become a huge problem in Italian soccer.

A policemen was killed in riots outside Catania's match with Palermo in Sicily earlier this year, and league play was suspended. Authorities have since instituted new security rules at stadiums across Italy.

In the aftermath of the latest rioting, Italy's anti-hooligan body wants to control the access visiting fans have to stadiums.


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