Soccer-Italian derby abandoned after team reduced to six

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Nov 10 (Reuters) - A third division Italian derby was called off on Sunday after visiting side Nocerina, having allegedly received death threats from their own fans, were reduced to six men by injuries after only 21 minutes.

The southern derby match at Salernitana had begun 40 minutes late as officials tried to persuade Nocerina to start the game.

They eventually did so, but made their three permitted substitutions in the first two minutes. Over the next 20 minutes, five players went off injured, leaving the team with six players, below the minimum needed to continue the game.

Video pictures showed that Nocerina's team bus had been surrounded by dozens of their own fans as it left their hotel for the stadium to play arch-rivals Salernitana in Lega Pro group B.

The incident was the latest blow to the lower tiers of Italian football which are still reeling from the Calcioscommesse match-fixing scandal.

Around 50 players were banned and more than one dozen clubs had points deducted over the manipulation of lower league matches during the 2010/11 season.

"This has caused enormous damage, it's an extremely grave matter," Lega Pro director general Francesco Ghirelli told RAI television. "We have to reflect on how to prevent these indecent spectacles. It's a disgrace.

"We will wait for the sporting tribunal to judge this episode which has done huge damage to the Lega Pro."

Nocerina fans had been banned from the match to avoid potential crowd trouble. Italian media said that, incensed by the ban, the supporters demanded that the team refuse to play and reportedly made death threats.

A video on the website of local newspaper Citta di Salerno showed dozens of fans, many of them hooded, outside the team hotel. They surrounded the team bus, gesticulated angrily as it drove away and let off fireworks.

On hearing that the match had been abandoned, the fans were reported to have celebrated in a public square.

After the game, the entire Nocerina board of directors resigned and the players imposed a media silence.

"I'm just here to announce that all the directors of Nocerina have resigned and that the players will not be speaking to the media," sporting director Luigi Pavarese told the media. Asked about the injuries, he replied: "The lads went onto the pitch without warming up, which caused the injuries."

"The key point of this story was terror, fear of the consequences and the threats in this demeaning episode," said Italian Football Federation president Giancarlo Abete. (Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Ed Osmond and Justin Palmer)

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