Polizia question teenager over calcio death

February 8, 2007

PALERMO, Italy, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Italian police are questioning a 17-year-old boy over the death of a policeman in soccer riots in Sicily last week which led to the suspension of matches all over the country, they said on Thursday.

The policeman died after being hit and having a homemade explosive thrown into his car as rival fans went on a rampage at a Serie A derby in Catania last Friday. Police in Sicily would only identify the suspect as a teenager from Catania.

About 41 people were arrested after the incident, many of them charged with resisting police offers and causing injuries. Police have been studying video surveillance tapes at Massimino stadium in Catania to ascertain who killed their colleague.

All Italian soccer, even youth matches, was suspended after the policeman's death pending a security review and the government announced that only six major stadiums would be open to fans when matches resume this weekend.

Only the Rome, Genoa, Siena, Cagliari, Turin (Olimpico) and Palermo stadiums will be allowed to operate normally. All others - including Milan's San Siro - will remain closed to fans pending security improvements, the interior ministry ruled.

AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani said the club was examining its options.

'We're free to decide to play behind closed doors. Some other cities have offered us their stadiums, like Geneva (Stade de Geneve) and Newcastle (St James' Park). But our inclination is to play at San Siro and let in season ticket holders.'

More stadiums may be opened in coming days if checks show they have installed security measures such as closed-circuit TV surveillance, numbered seating and electronic turnstiles.

Sports Minister Giovanna Melandri said the new measures were essential to rid Italian soccer of violence.

'My hope is that in a reasonable amount of time we will able to say we are not only world champions but we have deeply, profoundly changed the system of the football scene in this country,' she told Reuters in an interview.

Other new security measures include a ban on the block sale of tickets to away fans, a beefing-up of stadium bans for those involved in violence, including under 18s, tougher jail terms and a ban on financial links between clubs and fan associations.

Firecrackers will no longer be allowed inside stadiums and, at least initially, there will be no late-night matches.

Clubs say the government is overreacting to an isolated incident -- though officer Filippo Raciti's death was the second in a week in Italian soccer, after an amateur league official was kicked to death while trying to stop a fight at a match.

But some fans think Italian soccer needs an even tougher lesson to stop the violence, much of it generated by hardcore fans known as 'Ultras'.

'They should stop soccer not just for one day but a whole year - it's the only way these people will understand,' Rome soccer fan Marco Turchi told Reuters television.

'Until we begin to touch the interests of the clubs nothing will change,' said another, Giuseppe Martini.