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.”