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Soccer: 17 indicted for'derby of shame'

Players feigned injuries to cause early end to Campania derby

27 December, 18:05
Soccer: 17 indicted for'derby of shame' (ANSA) - Salerno, December 27 - The Italian Soccer Federation (FIGC) on Friday indicted 17 members of third-tier club Nocerina near Naples for allegedly bringing the game into disrepute after a local derby was abandoned last month because of intimidation from fans. The unprecedented incident ahead of the game at Salernitana led to the match being dubbed the "derby of shame" and questions raised yet again at the highest level - including by Premier Enrico Letta - about the power of fans to influence Italian soccer.

A FIGC disciplinary court will now examine the cases of the 17 - six Nocerina officials including the chairman, deputy chairman, managing director and doctor, and 11 players.

The Campania derby between Salerno hosts Salernitana and Nocerina was abandoned after 21 minutes when the visiting side were reduced to six men - below the minimum needed to continue the game - after a raft of players feigned injuries.

The injured players could not be replaced as Nocerina made their three permitted substitutions in the first two minutes.

The Nocerina fans were angry about being banned from attending the game, which started 40 minutes late, due to concerns about crowd trouble.

Before the match around 200 of them went to their team's training camp and reportedly threatened the players not to play.

"The image of soccer was soiled," said Giancarlo Izzo, a prosecutor from Nocerina's home town of Nocera Inferiore who opened a criminal probe.

Nocerina fans denied reports they had threatened footballers with death if they played.

But the authorities said the footballers had been subject to extreme intimidation.

"The Nocerina players were the victims of wicked, hateful private violence," said Salerno Police Chief Antonio De Iesu.

"They were influenced by strong intimidation not to take the field. The fans beat their fists on the side of the team bus".

The incident was without precedent even in Italy's long battle with soccer hooliganism and it caused widespread dismay, voiced by officials as high up as Premier Letta and Italy coach Cesare Prandelli. "We witnessed very serious events on Sunday (November 10) and zero tolerance is needed against this," Letta said at the headquarters of the Italian Olympic Committee, the country's governing body for sport.

"Episodes like this have a dramatic effect on the values that sport transmits".

While ultras bring much of the colour and noise that make Italian football special, with their coordinated displays of banners, pictures and flags, they are also to blame for many of the episodes of violence, vandalism and racism that dog the game here.

Nocerina's disgrace was amplified by the media but it was by no means the only example of ultra power going too far.

In April last year Genoa fans managed to get a match suspended by throwing smoke bombs and intimidated their team to remove their shirts following a poor run of form because the players were supposedly unfit to wear them.

In March 2004 the Rome derby between AS Roma and Lazio was suspended when fans marched up to footballers to demand they stop playing following bogus rumours that a child had been killed by a police vehicle.

The interior ministry says that soccer-related violence has fallen significantly since anti-hooliganism measures were introduced after a policeman was killed during a riot at the Sicilian derby between Catania and Palermo in 2007.

The measures include greater use of video surveillance and the introduction of an ID card that fans need to travel to away games in order to make it easier to identify trouble-makers.

Nevertheless, the 'curva' end stands of Italian grounds, where the ultras gather, are still often 'no-go areas' where police and stewards do not intervene during matches for fear of causing clashes.

The extent of ultra power has been shown in some fans' defiance of new stricter punishments against regional discrimination and racism - another major problem that has marred the image of Italian soccer in recent years.

Indeed, Juventus fans chanted "we'll do what the f**k we want" after being warned to stop offensive anti-Naples abuse during their side's 3-0 win over Napoli in Turin last month.

The chants led to Serie A's sporting judge to order the closure of the Juventus Stadium's stands for two games - but did not stop the anti-Naples chants by fans of Juve and other northern Italian giants. Some club chairmen have warned the fans may use the new rules, which include points deductions for teams whose supporters are repeat offenders, to blackmail clubs into bending to their will.

According to some reports, the Nocerina players were cowed by their fans because some have links to the Campania mafia, the Camorra.

Italy coach Prandelli said the incident was a defeat for "everyone" and he was pessimistic about finding a solution.

"Up to a little while ago, they used to say there was too much pressure (in Italian soccer)," said Prandelli.

"Today I say there is too much obsession. If we don't act (world governing body) FIFA or (European governing body) UEFA could ask us to stop... I'm not very confident for the future".

Salernitana were awarded a 3-0 win for the match.

In the criminal case in Nocera Inferiore, up to now 22 people have been reported to prosectors for their alleged involvement and 23 have been issued with bans from attending sporting events.

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