Italy match abandoned after riot

Italy match abandoned after riot
By Reuters

13/10/2010 at 17:02

Italy's Euro qualifier with Serbia was abandoned after away fans threw flares on the pitch and at Italian supporters having hurled one into their own team's bus in a new bout of Serbian football violence.

Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic had pulled out of the Group C match in Genoa before kick-off after he was abused by his own fans during the bus incident in what reports said was violence connected to domestic club rivalry.

UEFA will now decide on what action to take over the coming days with an awarded 3-0 win to group leaders Italy the most likely scenario and further punishments possible for Serbia.

"We will not ask for anything. It's up to the UEFA delegate to talk with UEFA to decide what to do," Italian football federation vice president and former Italy midfielder Demetrio Albertini told Reuters.

The kick-off had been delayed for 35 minutes due to crowd trouble and only six minutes had been played when two flares were thrown on to the pitch and the match was suspended.

One flare was aimed towards Italy goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano before Serbian fans then threw another flare into the Italian end which hit some supporters without causing serious injury.

Scottish referee Craig Thomson took the players off the pitch and the game was eventually abandoned after discussions between all parties.

"It's a great disappointment, there's great bitterness," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said.

"The ground was full of children with so much enthusiasm."

Prandelli said a perplexed Stojkovic had been inside Italy's dressing room before kick-off to explain his withdrawal and seek sanctuary.

"According to the Serbians we have spoken to, the aim of the Serbian fans was to stop the match," he said.

Stadium officials confirmed a flare had been thrown inside the Serbian team bus before kick-off while there was anger at how away fans had been able to bring so many flares into the ground despite heavy checks from stewards for a tense encounter.

The sides are the two most high-profile in the group while both nations have suffered severe hooligan problems in recent years, with Italian football recently managing to control their violence problem better than in Serbia.

The Serbia team left the stadium without holding a news conference.

The match had kicked off late after Serbian fans launched flares and a few climbed to the top of a fence enclosing them, ripping a hole in netting designed to prevent objects being thrown on to the field or at Italian supporters.

Firefighters used a hose on an area of Italian seats where flares had landed.

The players came out on to the pitch for the kick-off but quickly returned to the dressing rooms after police and stewards tried to calm the Serbia fans in one corner as Italian supporters chanted obscenities at them.

Serbia players returned to the pitch after half an hour and talked to their fans with captain and Internazionale midfielder Dejan Stankovic visibly annoyed, knocking away a microphone as a reporter tried to talk to him.

The game finally kicked off after Italian fans had booed the Serbian anthem and the referee presided over an extremely short "minute" of applause for four Italian soldiers recently killed in Afghanistan.

The presence of some 30 police in riot gear on the touchline and the netted cage surrounding the Serbia fans looked exaggerated to Italy supporters who queried whether it might inflame the situation although they did not know what had gone on before kick-off.

The first hint that Stojkovic was not playing was when Zeljko Brkic was named on the official team sheet as the goalkeeper.

Serbia surprisingly lost 3-1 at home to Estonia on Friday to hurt their qualification hopes but local media said the abuse was more connected to Stojkovic now turning out for Partizan Belgrade having once played for rivals Red Star Belgrade.