Attacks lead Mancini to consider quitting Italy

April 10, 2006

MILAN, April 10 (Reuters) - Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini, whose players were attacked by fans at the weekend, said he would leave Italian soccer when his time at the Serie A club ends.

Inter's Argentine captain Javier Zanetti and Italian midfielder Cristiano Zanetti were punched and kicked by fans at Malpensa airport, near Milan, as they returned from Saturday's Serie A win at Ascoli.

'This matter has speeded up my plans to go abroad - when I finish with Inter I will leave Italy, that's a certainty,' Mancini said on Monday.

'Playing and enjoying yourself, which is what the game is all about, is no longer possible. You can't win or lose and think only about what happens on the field, unfortunately if you lose you have to think about other things as well,' he added.

Mancini, who has come under pressure following Inter's Champions League elimination by Spain's Villarreal last week, said he was not about to throw in the towel however.

'For my part, there is still the desire to carry on. I do it because I like this sport and enjoy being out on the field with the players - I don't do it for money as some have said. Passion is the motivation that pushes me,' he said.

Mancini's comments came after the president of the Italian Footballers' Association called for a change in the culture surrounding the country's favourite sport.

'This was an episode of barbarity, intolerance and stupid violence fuelled by the hysteria that surrounds football in Italy,' Sergio Campana told Radio Anch'io.

'We need a cultural revolution, we need to learn to lose gracefully. But I believe it will take a generation.'

The incident occurred in the early hours of Sunday as Inter players exited the terminal building at Malpensa airport, where they were met by about 50 fans, angry at last week's Champions League exit.

Most of the fans limited themselves to hurling insults, but the situation degenerated in the car park. Javier Zanetti and Cristiano Zanetti were punched and kicked by a smaller group before police intervened. Neither player was seriously injured.

'We're talking about it now because the victims are footballers at Inter, but the outbreaks of violence are frequent, above all in Serie C (Italy's third division) and, I'm sorry to say it, on the pitches in the centre-south of Italy,' Campana said.

'Attacks outside the stadiums, in the dressing rooms, buses stopped as they come back from away matches, cars vandalised, threatening telephone calls at home.

'And we shouldn't make the mistake of blaming it all on a minority of fans.'

Inter president Giacinto Facchetti condemned the violence.

'We cannot accept that disappointment degenerates into violence. Violence is unacceptable for anyone that declares himself an Inter fan,' he said in a statement on the club's website.

The police chief at Malpensa airport, Enzo Ricciardi, said he would be studying closed-circuit television footage of the incident.

'We have enough evidence to be able to identity some of the people that were involved,' he was quoted as saying in La Gazzetta dello Sport.

In recent years, Inter have built up a reputation as having one of the most violent fan-bases in Italian football, the outbreaks of aggression often coinciding with disappointing results.

In December 2000, they threw a Molotov cocktail at Inter's team bus as it entered the San Siro stadium before a Cup match against Parma.

Last season, they brought the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final against AC Milan to a halt by raining flares and fire-crackers down on the pitch.

The match, which Inter were losing, was abandoned and UEFA ordered the club to play their next four European matches behind closed doors.