Police officer killed in Sicilian soccer riot

February 2, 2007

CATANIA, Sicily -- A police officer was killed Friday when fans rioted at a Serie A game between Sicilian sides Catania and Palermo, prompting the Italian soccer federation to postpone all league matches this weekend and cancel next week's national team exhibition game against Romania.

Fans rioted outside Catania's Angelo Massimino Stadium during the second half of Palermo's 2-1 win. Police fired tear gas, which wafted into the stadium and forced the match to be stopped in the 58th minute with Palermo leading 1-0. Television footage from Sky TG24 News showed players struggling to breathe and pouring bottled water on their faces.

Police said the officer died after an explosive device was thrown inside his vehicle. The violence continued after the game, and hundreds of fans were trapped inside the stadium as authorities sought to avoid further violence. The ANSA news agency reported that nine fans had been detained, but none was suspected of killing the officer.

The governing body of Italian soccer, Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio, said another police officer was in critical condition, and police said dozens of injured people had been taken to hospitals.

FIGC commissioner Luca Pancalli announced weekend league games had been called off.

"We cannot continue like this," he said. "What we're witnessing has nothing to do with soccer. Therefore, Italian soccer is stopping."

He said there would be more meetings Monday "to identify those drastic measures that will allow us to restart. Otherwise, we're not restarting the games."

"I feel it is my duty to say that we unfortunately need a loud and clear signal to avoid the degeneration of the sport that we, unfortunately and dramatically, are witnessing," Prime Minister Romano Prodi was quoted as saying by Italian news agencies.

The FIGC canceled the national team's exhibition on Wednesday in Siena and called off the Under-21 team's game Tuesday against Belgium in Chieti.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press