Italian Cup final concerns after players receive death threats

Anonymous callers tell players 'you had better lose, otherwise we will kill you'

Lazio players have been the subject of death threats in the run up to the Italian Cup final against Rome rivals AS Roma. Photograph:  Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

Lazio players have been the subject of death threats in the run up to the Italian Cup final against Rome rivals AS Roma. Photograph: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

Sun, May 26, 2013, 13:43

Today’s Italian Cup final derby between city cousins AS Roma and Lazio was always going to be a hot and heavy affair but the pre-match climate has become even more tense following claims over the weekend that three Lazio players received death threat phone calls on Friday night.

It was the Lazio press officer Stefano De Martino who controversially made the claims during a weekend press conference when he confirmed the widely circulated rumours that goalkeeper Federico Marchetti, striker Sergio Floccari and midfielder Antonio Candreva had all received threatening phone calls, in which the message was clear: 'You had better lose, otherwise we will kill you.'

Derbies between the two Roman clubs have long been considered by Italian authorities to be among the most dangerous of Serie A games given the bitter rivalry between the two sets of fans - both of which contain ultra right elements - regularly becomes violent. Today’s derby has given rise to particular worries for the good reason that much depends on the game.

Not only is this the first time the two sides have ever met in a Cup Final but also the winner of today’s game earns a place in next season’s Europa League. City authorities often hope that a derby will prove to be a draw, leaving both sets of fans with the same level of content/discontent at the final whistle. Obviously in today’s winner-takes-all situation, that cannot happen, and accordingly there will be a 2,000 strong security presence in and around the Olympic Stadium this evening (kick-Off is at 5pm Irish time).

Due to attend are two recently appointed Italian government ministers, namely the Sports Minister and former Olympic canoeist Josefa Idem and the Minister for Integration, the Congolese Cecile Kyenge. Minister Idem denounced the climate of pre-match threats yesterday.

“It is simply not acceptable that players are threatened like this...Football has arrived at an intolerable point,” she said.

The Sports Minister also said that she had invited her colleague, Minister Kyenge, because she too had been the object of intolerable racist attacks in recent weeks, adding that today’s game represented a perfect opportunity to publically express solidarity with her.