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Ghost Games

DW staff (sms)February 5, 2007

Italy's interior minister announced Monday that soccer clubs playing in stadiums with security problems will have to do so without an audience following the death of a police officer after an attack by hooligans.

Officials want to prevent scenes like this one in the futureImage: AP

A majority of clubs are likely to be affected by the new rules, as only five stadiums, including those in Rome, Turino and Milan, currently meet safety standards. Elswhere, teams will now have to play behind closed doors.

The block sale of tickets to away fans will also be stopped and police officers will be able to arrest people without a warrant in cases of soccer violence for up to 48 hours following a crime.

Italian Interior Minister Guilano Amato announced the decision on Monday shortly after the funeral of a Sicilian police officer killed after a soccer match on Friday.

Italien Fußball Gewalt Beerdigung des Polizisten Filippo Raciti in Catania Sarg
Police officers carrying Raciti's coffin on MondayImage: AP

Filippo Raciti's coffin, carried by policemen and draped in an Italian flag, was greeted by a long applause as it entered Catania's main cathedral, which was packed with officials, relatives, soccer players and scores of ordinary people.

Raciti's death had prompted sports officials to suspend all league soccer matches over the weekend.

The 38-year-old policeman was killed outside the Angelo Massimino stadium Friday during clashes between fans and police following a match between Sicilian rivals Catania and Palermo.

An autopsy revealed that he sustained lethal injuries to his abdomen, possibly resulting from being kicked or being hit by a stone, minutes before being targeted by an explosive device.

Italy "shocked and moved"

Prime Minister Romano Prodi told Raciti's widow and two children that his death had "shocked and moved Italy."

Police have since arrested about 30 people, including four Senegalese accused of stashing firecrackers and explosives on behalf of Catania's hard-core fans.

The officer's death followed that of Ermanno Licursi, the 41-year-old manager of an amateur team who was killed a week earlier in the southern region of Calabria as he tried to pacify an after-game clash. A total of 15 people have died inside or near stadiums during Italian football games since 1962.

Death a part of soccer?

Tote bei Fußballspiel in Sizilien
Italian soccer matches have been put off for an indefinite amount of timeImage: AP

While the indefinite ban on professional matches has met with general approval from the European press as well as Michel Platini, the new president of European soccer's governing body UEFA, others are unhappy with the Italian league's decision.

Antonio Matarrese, president of Italy's Professional Soccer League Clubs association, said matches should be allowed to start again. Domestic soccer brings teams an estimated six billion euros ($7.81 billion) per year.

"Deaths unfortunately form part of this huge movement which is soccer and which the forces of order are not always able to control," Matarrese said in an interview with La Repubblica newspaper published Monday. "Soccer should never be stopped. It's the number one rule.

"We are touched, but the show must go on," he told the paper.