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Violence leads to Italian soul-searching

Rome: Italian football was plunged into a new bout of soul-searching on Monday after violence on and off the pitch marred several weekend games in Series A and B.

Most commentators were united in ascribing the trouble to the culture of blame that sets clubs against each other, and everyone against the referee.

The president of the Italian Footballers’ Association (AIC), Sergio Campana, even suggested banning soccer for six-months to take stock of the situation.

“If this is football, maybe it would be worth stopping it, at least for six months, to reflect on what is happening and what should be done to avoid it,” he said in a statement on AIC’s official website.

In the weekend’s worst incident, a Serie B match between Cagliari and Messina on Sunday had to be suspended after Messina’s goalkeeper, Emanuele Manitta, was beaten unconscious by a fan.

“This episode is the latest in a long series of acts of aggression towards footballers,” said Campana. “Most happen in the minor — and therefore less well-known — professional leagues. They reveal the grave lapses in security on the part of clubs and the consequent serious risks to footballers.”

But the attack on Manitta was only the tip of the iceberg.

On Saturday night, verbal abuse nearly turned physical as AS Roma and Inter Milan players squared up to each other at the end of a bad-tempered 2-2 draw at Rome’s Olympic Stadium. Afterwards, Roma coach Fabio Capello angrily blamed the referee for the fact his side didn’t win and threatened to quit Italian football. (Reuters)

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