Italian soccer game off after fans' death threats

The Associated Press

ROME (AP) -- About 30 soccer fans of a third-division Italian team allegedly issued death threats to players, forcing a game against a rival to be called off.

In the latest case of fan violence in Italian soccer, a prosecutor opened an inquiry Monday into the events surrounding Sunday's Salernitana-Nocerina match.

Because of the tension between these clubs, Nocerina fans were banned from the stadium and they responded by making sure the match was suspended. The hard-core ''ultra'' fans were seen surrounding Nocerina's bus and allegedly threatening to kill players if they played. Fans even hired an airplane to fly over the stadium with a banner that said, ''Respect for Nocera and the ultras.''

Nocerina responded by using all three of its substitutions after two minutes then five players appeared to fake injuries. That left the club with only six men and forcing the referee to stop the match after 21 minutes.

Nearly 9,000 fans attended the match and some asked for their money back.

Nocerina's ''ultra'' fans issued a statement Monday saying they did not issue any death threats. Rather, they said they only wanted to send an ''unmistakable message'' and ''give voice to an unfair act imposed on the fans.''

The area near Naples where the two clubs are from is home to the Camorra crime syndicate. There have been calls for Nocerina to be kicked out of the league, which is known as Lega Pro.

Italian soccer has been marred by racism, territorial chants and fan violence for years. Already this season, a handful of Serie A clubs have had portions of their stadiums closed because of fan misconduct.

''We're the laughingstock of the entire world,'' Italian Olympic Committee President Giovanni Malago said, adding that the neighboring clubs should not have been placed in the same division.

Giancarlo Abete, president of the Italian soccer federation, said this episode should prompt ''serious reflection on how to prevent these situations.''

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