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Serbia fans clash with Italian police
By Barnaby Chesterman
14:43 AEST Wed Oct 13 2010

Fourteen people were hospitalised early Wednesday after Serbian fans clashed with Italian police following the two countries' cancelled Euro 2012 qualifying match in Genoa, northern Italy.

In violence before, during, and after the match, some Serbian fans targeted not just Italian fans and local police but their own team's goalkeeper.

The most seriously injured in the violence early Wednesday was a member of Italy's paramilitary caribinieri, who was rushed to hospital after an explosive device detonated in his face. A Serbian fan also suffered facial injuries.

The match was abandoned Tuesday night just six minutes in, after Italy's goalkeeper was hit by a flare, which Serbian fans were throwing onto the pitch and at Italian supporters.

After the game, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Italian police kept Serbian fans hemmed into a gated parking area, intending to release them in small groups to waiting buses.

The clashes started when some of the fans managed to break out and police in riot gear moved to try to get them under control

"It's scandalous," said Serbian FA president Tomislav Karadzic after the match.

"Those who organised these incidents are in Belgrade," he added.

"It's an attack against the state and the state must resolve this problem."

Wednesday morning's violence was just the latest incident in a series of clashes that started the previous day.

On Tuesday, before the match, Italian police moved in when Serbian fans attacked one of their vehicles.

There was more trouble when the Serbia players left their team hotel, as Serbian fans attacked first-choice goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic, who was hit by a flare thrown on to the team bus.

Although not seriously hurt, he was taken to hospital for checks. Once at the Marassi stadium, he stayed inside the Italians' changing rooms and refused to play.

Before the kick-off, Serbian fans threw flares and firecrackers at Italy supporters - and onto the pitch - while three fans climbed onto a security screen and for a while refused to get down.

The start was delayed by 35 minutes, and police, firemen, and stewards were still trying to bring order to the area surrounding the away fans as players came out onto the pitch.

Riot police were eventually called in and stationed themselves between the Italian and Serbian supporters while the players were sent back to the changing rooms.

When the players came back out to keep warm, members of the Serbian team went over to the away stand to try to calm the fans down, which appeared to work.

But there was trouble again soon after Scottish referee Craig Thomson blew for kick off. Six minutes in, a flare appeared to hit Italy goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano and Thomson halted the match.

Officials took almost an hour to formally call off the game following protracted talks between football officials and the referee.

"Before the game the Serbian goalkeeper (Stojkovic) was in our dressing room and wasn't just afraid to play he was also afraid for his return home," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told reporters afterwards.

Stojkovic used to play for Red Star Belgrade but now plays for rivals Partizan Belgrade, which has angered hardcore Red Star fans.

The fans who caused the trouble at the match were linked to these two teams, ANSA news agency reported, citing witnesses at the scene.

"The Serbian players felt these fans were doing everything they could to stop the match being played," Prandelli added.


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