Players receive death threats and force abandonment of match

Strange story from a lower division Italian match at the weekend where one of the teams, whose players had received death threats from their own supporters, deliberately reduced themselves to six players forcing the game to be abandoned.

The southern derby between Salernitana and Nocerina had already begun 40 minutes late as officials tried to persuade the visitors to kick off. They eventually did so but made their three permitted substitutions within the first two minutes. Over the next 17, five players went off injured, leaving the team with only six men, below the minimum permitted.

“This has caused enormous damage, it’s an extremely grave matter,” Lega Pro director general Francesco Ghirelli told RAI television. “We have to reflect on how to prevent these indecent spectacles. It’s a disgrace.

“We will wait for the sporting tribunal to judge this episode which has done huge damage to the Lega Pro.”

Nocerina fans had been banned from the match to avoid potential crowd trouble. Italian media said that as a result, angry supporters had demanded the team refuse to play and reportedly made death threats if the request was refused.

A video on the website of local newspaper Citta di Salerno (see below) showed dozens of fans, many of them hooded, outside the team hotel. On hearing that the match had been abandoned, the fans were reported to have celebrated.

After the game, the entire Nocerina board of directors resigned. “I’m just here to announce that all the directors of Nocerina have resigned and that the players will not be speaking to the media,” sporting director Luigi Pavarese told reporters.

Asked about the injuries, he replied somewhat absurdy: “The lads went onto the pitch without warming up, which caused the injuries.”

“The key point of this story was terror, fear of the consequences and the threats in this demeaning episode,” said Italian Football Federation president Giancarlo Abete.

And Salernitana coach Carlo Perrone added: “This is a terrible page in the history of football. We need to ask ourselves how this could’ve happened. I am a man of sport and right now feel terribly disappointed.”

Lyon chief accuses Saint Etienne keeper of hitting him

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has accused Saint-Etienne goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier of hitting him in the back following his side’s 2-1 away derby victory on Sunday.

Tension around the encounter between the local rivals had been high following a court decision to ban away fans from the game in Saint-Etienne.

Jimmy Briand struck three minutes into added time to secure a 2-1 win for the visitors, with the goal causing tempers to flare in the players’ tunnel after the full-time whistle.

“One of our doctors made a remark on his way back to the dressing rooms. Fabrice Grange, the Saint-Etienne goalkeeping coach, a former Lyon player and France international, thought it was a good idea to hit our doctor,” Aulas told Canal+.

“While I was trying to separate them, Stephane Ruffier gave me a big blow on the back.”

Before kick-off, Joel Bats, the former France international who is now Lyon goalkeeping coach, tied a club scarf to a goal net, prompting some Saint-Etienne supporters to climb over barriers in an attempt to confront him and remove the scarf.

Paper and plastic bags rained down towards Lyon goalkeeper Mathieu Gorgelin, forcing a brief stoppage in play just before half-time.

“I watched all the hubbub in the stands from the start of the game. Their supporters threw toilet paper at our goalkeeper. The officials didn’t see the reality,” Aulas complained.

“Luckily, it turned out well for us. What happened on the pitch is incredible. Some idiots managed to get onto the pitch after Joel Bats put one of our scarves in the goal.

“All of that is a shame as football is a party. With regard to Joel Bats, he was completely right to tie that scarf on. The supporters, who couldn’t watch the derby, deserved it.”

Sepp Blatter in Qatar u-turn

Sepp Blatter has ruled out any possibility that Qatar could co-host the 2022 World Cup finals with neighbouring Gulf countries.

It was only last week that Blatter raised the prospect of the tournament being shared among Qatar’s neighbours, with Iran in particular deemed a possible co-host.

However, after after meeting the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and presumably being informed to keep his more outlandish thoughts to himself, Blatter insists that the 2022 finals will be hosted solely by Qatar.

“The decision of the FIFA is to play in one country and that will be in Qatar,” Blatter said. “I was just touring a little bit here, I was in Iran and I was in United Arab Emirates and it came up, the question came up, ‘Can we share the World Cup with Qatar?’ I just took the questions, but I did not answer.”

“I just want to tell you that when we took the decision for the World Cup 2002 when we played in two countries with difficulties, it was (South) Korea and Japan. We decided to never go in two countries, even less so to three, if one country is able to do so (stage the tournament).”

Goal of the Day

Southampton’s Adam Lallana celebrated his call-up to the England squad with a wonderful solo effort against Hull City.

Quote of the Day

“Paolo Di Canio? That managerial charlatan – absolutely, yes. Paolo stepped in there and basically, as weeks ran on, he ran out of excuses. I had a wry smile to myself.”

Former Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill who was loudly criticised by his successor, Paolo Di Canio, over the fitness of the squad he inherited, is asked whether he was disappointed by the Italian’s remarks.

Sportsmanship still alive in Saudi Arabia

Al Nahdha goalkeeper Taisir Al Antaif needed to tie up a shoelace and was thankful to Al Ittihad’s Brazilian striker Jobson, who did the job for him.

Referee Abdulaziz Al Funaitel (which apparently translates from Arabic itno English as ‘petty jobsworth’) responded by booking the goalkeeper for time wasting.

Al Ittiha, rather than take advantage of the fortuitously awarded free-kick, opted to do the decent thing and simply rolled the ball out of play.

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