Tuesday, 6 February 2007

surprise surprise...

... police investigations into the events of last friday have led them not only to raid local ultra groups' headquarters, from which a variety of material has been confiscated, but also to investigate the local activities of Forza Nuova, Italy's largest or at least most active neo-Fascist party, which is specially dedicated to recruiting teenagers and young men and which has a record of infiltrating ultras groups. Amato, making one of the few comments I wholeheartedly agreed with, said to parliament today "Violence is not born inside the stadia, it's connected to political extremism." Well indeed. Fascists involved in murderous street violence against agents of the state? who'd a thunk it. More on this political angle as it comes in. (I bet Jim loves this one...)

The police have also uncovered an enormous stash of weaponry, baseball bats, metal objects etc which Catania ultras were storing INSIDE THE STADIUM with the connivance of, at the very least, the stadium caretaker, even if the club itself knew nothing about it. When police came to investigate, the caretaker sensibly tried to set his dogs on them and was promptly arrested. Smart chap. They're also viewing hours of video footage from all the TV companies and as filmed on mobile phones, where they can get hold of it, and investigating numerous internet sites, blogs etc. They claim to be confident of identifying the culprit(s) though whether that's true or just keeping spirits up is hard to say.

More on the possible mafia element, to which more than one person has already alluded. Left-wing senator Enzo Bianchi, who has formerly served as Minister of the Interior and also as elected mayor of Catania, commented today that "Within the stadium of Catania there are groups who very certainly have connections with Mafia criminality." Oh goody.

In other news, Amato says that the match should have been played during the day, perhaps at 3pm on friday, and that this is the way forward for future high risk fixtures. I look forward to heading off to Roma-Lazio at 11am on a Tuesday, yeah. Amato's statements to Parliament more or less confirm the reports of what happened which we already had, stressing the (rare!) innocence of the Palermitani in all this and more importantly displaying how RIGHT I WAS in my post below. Er. Where was I.

Basically, political war has broken out between the government and CONI, who want radical and thorough reform, and the clubs and the league, who want to pretend nothing's really happened and get back to normal asap. As I explained below the stadium regulations are the key issue right now, with clubs loath to accpet playing behind closed doors, chiefly for financial reasons. Cue mass revolt. Statements from directors, chairmen etc of Inter, Atalanta, Sampdoria, Torino, Lazio, Roma, Livorno, Palermo, Napoli (here the president declared Amato's proposals to be "like fascism, like something from 80 years ago).... you get the picture. All declaring the unacceptability of playing behind closed doors, as is the League. Matarrese charmingly points out that football is a business and the profit motive must be served. Amato, Melandri and the government are currently standing firm, however, whilst Pancalli & FIGC are sort of loitering in the middle at the moment. Expect a statement from them tomorrow.

As well as the full implementation of the Pisanu decree, apparently without any exemptions, other new measures being introduced are: banning orders now can be given to under-18s, and are to last up to 7 years; automatic penalties for possession of any kind of explosive material (flares etc); minimum sentence increased to 5 years for armed violence against a public official. I'll post up Amato's complete plan for reforming Italian football tomorrow and then we can all pick holes in it.

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