Saturday, 3 February 2007


The death of policeman Filippo Raciti outside the Stadio Massimino after last nights Sicilian derby between Catania and Palermo has correctly resulted in football being terminated for the immediate future. The game had already been brought forward to early Friday evening as trouble was expected due to the current situation in Sicily.
Since Berlusconi was removed from his post, politics and society in Sicily have been in a state of flux. Once untouchable mafiosi have been arrested and there are power struggles at different strata across the island. This uproar had already impacted upon football when Rino Foschi, the Palermo Sports Director, received a goat's head through the post in protest against his team's poor run of form prior to xmas break (see:
The authorities were forced to act as last night's trouble followed a whole wave of violence at Italian matches last weekend and, today, Serie A programmed another potential flashpoint match between Reggina and Messina. Furthermore, next weekend would have seen another Sicilian derby between Messina and Catania.
The Gazzetta dello Sport lists the precedents to this dreadful death. Virtually all of the previous issues of violence have had two structures - the games were either local derbies in the rich northern half of Italy or games involving an Italian and an English club.
The centre-left government of Prodi has undertaken many positive micro-changes to Italian society since coming to power but the destabilising effect of policies towards Sicily have finally exploded onto the national stage. The first mafiosi arrest was the day after the new government was sworn in. This suggests an agenda.
The tit-for-tat nature of Italian politics is extremely foolhardy in volatile areas like Sicily, Napoli and Reggio di Calabria (and, indeed, across the Mezzogiorno) where the mafia provide an abusive but stable societal hierarchy.
Once it became apparent that the match was going to explode into violence, it should have been abandoned - Farina took the players off the pitch for 30 minutes to allow the tear gas to clear. Referees have favoured Palermo and undermined Catania throughout this season and, once Farina had decided to restart the game, it was an act of the utmost foolishness to allow the controversial winning goal that was scored by Di Michele's arm. What was the man thinking of?
The Catania ground authorities also need to explain why the visiting Palermo fans were kept outside the ground until the 55th minute of the game. Inevitably, they arrived in the ground with an attitude. For the Catania president, Antonio Pulvirenti, to put the blame solely on the Palermo fans is shameful.