ROME (AP) — About 30 supporters of the southern club Nocerina have been identified for allegedly issuing death threats to players, which prompted a third-division derby to be abandoned in the latest case of fan violence to mar Italian football.
A local prosecutor opened an inquiry Monday into the events surrounding Sunday's Salernitana-Nocerina match. Considering the historical tension between the two clubs, supporters for Nocerina were banned from the stadium and they responded by making sure the match was suspended.
The hard-core "ultra" fans were seen surrounding Nocerina's bus and allegedly threatening to kill players if they played. Nocerina responded by using all three of its substitutions after two minutes and five players then appeared to fake injuries, leaving the club with only six men and forcing the referee to stop the match after 21 minutes.
Fans even hired an airplane to fly over the stadium with a banner that said, "Respect for Nocera and the ultras." Nocerina's "ultra" fans issued a statement Monday saying that they did not issue any death threats. Rather, they said they only wanted to issue an "unmistakable message" and "give voice to an unfair act imposed on the fans."
Nearly 9,000 fans attended the match and some asked for their money back. The area near Naples where the two clubs are from is infested by the Camorra crime syndicate. There have been calls for Nocerina to be kicked out of the league, which is known as Lega Pro.
Italian football has been marred by racism, territorial chants and fan violence for years. Already this season, a handful of Serie A clubs have had portions of their stadiums closed due to fan misbehavior.
"We're the laughing stock of the entire world," Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago said, adding that the neighboring clubs should not have been placed in the same division. Italian football federation president Giancarlo Abete added that the incident should prompt "serious reflection on how to prevent these situations."