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Football Suspended in Italy Following Policeman's Death


The Italian football federation has postponed all league matches, after a police officer was killed and more than 150 people injured when fans rioted at a match in the Sicilian city of Catania. Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Rome.

Rioting by angry fans broke out late Friday outside the Sicilian stadium where the Catania-Palermo match was played. The policeman was killed, when a rioter threw a homemade bomb that exploded in his face. Another policeman was seriously injured.

The game was first suspended at the Catania stadium when rival fans attacked each other. Police fired tear gas, and players were seen struggling to breathe and pouring bottled water on their faces. But violence continued after the end of the game, and injured fans were taken to hospitals.

The violence and policeman's death prompted a wave of outrage from Italian politicians and officials, and calls for zero-tolerance measures against football-related violence.

The Italian football federation commissioner, Luca Pancalli, called an emergency meeting in Rome late Friday night.

Pancalli immediately announced he was canceling all games. He said the situation could not go on like this, adding that, "What we're witnessing has nothing to do with football, therefore Italian football is stopping."

The football federation has threatened to suspend games indefinitely. Italy's international friendly against Romania, scheduled in Siena next Wednesday, has been canceled.

Commissioner Pancalli said the federation would hold a meeting Monday to identify drastic measures that, "will allow us to restart the games, or not."

Prime Minister Romano Prodi condemned the violence, saying a loud and clear signal is needed to avoid this degeneration of the sport. Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said he would no longer send his police into football stadiums in these conditions. A debate on the issue is to be held Tuesday in the lower house of parliament.

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