Salernitana and Nocerina abandonment a new low for Italian football
With Nocerina team reduced to six players, referee Juan Sacchi had no option but to abandon game
Italian football Federation President Giancarlo Abete has called the whole affair a “humiliating spectacle”.
Italian football last weekend registered a new low when a Lega Pro (Third Division) derby between two Campania teams, Salernitana and Nocerina, had to be abandoned after the Nocerina team had, apparently deliberately, reduced itself to just six players.
Lower division football in southern Italy has always been a passionate affair, dominated by fierce local rivalries. In this case, such is the bad blood between Salernitana and Nocerina fans that police authorities banned the Nocerina fans from travelling to Salerno for Sunday’s game.
The Nocerina “ultras” (diehard fans), however, decided otherwise. If we cannot go to the match, then we will stop it being played, seems to have been their reasoning. Thus a delegation of Nocerina “fans” paid a visit to the team hotel some hours before Sunday’s derby to deliver a threatening message of the “If You Play, We’ll Kill You” variety.
If you live and work in Camorra-infested Campania, the region of Naples, then you take death threats seriously. So much so that the Nocerina players at first refused to play on Sunday, only taking to the field after they had been reassured by a local police officer.
As it was, in a country where almost the only thing that starts on time is the football match, this one started more than half an hour late. Worse still, when the Nocerina players came out, it immediately became clear that this would be no ordinary game.
In the very first minute of the match, Nocerina made all three substitutions. After that, the Nocerina players gave a series of virtuoso acting performances as no less than five of them had to be stretchered or helped off the field in the next 20 minutes. With the team reduced to six players, referee Juan Sacchi then had no option but to abandon the game.
After the match, Nocerina sports director Luigi Pavarese attempted to justify his players, saying that their injuries had happened because they had not done their pre-match warm-up. Salerno magistrates, however, immediately opened an investigation into the affair with “unknown parties” accused of intimidation and unauthorized public demonstration.
Two possible explanations for this farce offer themselves. Firstly, it could have been organised within the context of a nationwide “ultra” campaign which has attempted to resist recent hard line regulations adopted to deal above all with racism in Italian stadia. Secondly, it is hard to believe that the hand of organised crime is not involved in some way.
Means to hire
It was significant that at one point during the match, a plane flew over Salernitana’s “Arechi” stadium flying a banner which read “Respect For Nocerina And The Ultras”. It is hard to believe that third division football fans in Nocera Inferiore would have the means to hire such a plane
Whilst Italian football Federation President Giancarlo Abete called the whole affair a “humiliating spectacle”, it must needs be recorded that this is a humiliating spectacle of the recurring kind. The most obvious of many recent examples of “ultra power” would be the 2004 Rome derby abandoned because of “ultra” threats made at half-time against both the Roma and Lazio players.