The spectre of football violence in Italy resurfaced on Sunday after the shooting dead of a fan by a policeman sparked nationwide disturbances which forced the suspension of three first division matches.
The victim, named as 26-year-old Gabriele Sandri, was killed by a police officer at a motorway service station in Arezzo in what was a “tragic error”, authorities in the central Tuscany region said.
The death comes just nine months after a police officer was killed outside the Catania Stadium in Sicily, leading the government to reinforce measures against violence in stadia. The Catania tragedy in February led to a suspension of Italian football, with numerous stadia forced to make improvements to ensure improved security, but nothing major happened.
According to witness reports, Sandri was travelling to Milan by car with other fans to attend the match against Inter Milan when they clashed with Juventus fans at a service station.
A police officer who was in the area intervened and Sandri, who was sitting in his car, was fatally hit in the neck by gunfire.
The Italian Football Federation later announced that the match between Lazio and Inter Milan had been postponed.
As a mark of respect seven other Serie A matches scheduled Sunday started 10 minutes late with the players and referees wearing black armbands.
Outside the stadium in Rome, where the game between AS Roma and Cagliari had also been cancelled, at least three people and six policeman were injured in clashes.
In Bergamo, Atalanta fans clashed with police before their home game against AC Milan, forcing the referee to halt play seven minutes after kick-off. The Atalanta ‘ultras’ charged the protection glass separating fans from the pitch, breaking it in two places.
After several minutes referee Massimiliano Saccani sent both teams back into the locker room. The game was later suspended.
Italian officials meet
Milan: Italian soccer authorities were meeting on Monday to discuss measures aimed at tackling widespread fan violence.
At least 40 police were hurt in Rome alone, officials said.