The maiming of an Italian sportscaster last Sunday has refocused attention on the problem of sports-related violence in this country.
Investigations are under way in Avellino, southern Italy, into the shooting of Luigi Necco, a sports reporter for the Italian State Radio and Television network.Necco, in Avellino to cover a soccer match between the home team and Cesena, was shot about noon while walking to his car from a restaurant.
Necco, 47, was shot twice in the leg. Someone had traced on his car the words: "Careful with your comments" and "Don't be such a big critic."
According to judicial sources, investigators are working on two theories. One is that the incident could have been a vendetta prompted by anger among fans of the Avellino team, who reportedly believe the broadcaster favored the rival squad.
Another is that the shooting could have been designed to punish Necco for comments made about Antonio Sibilia, president of the Avellino team. Sibilia recently was sentenced by a local court to three years of internal exile in northern Italy because of his alleged ties with the "Camorra," the underworld or Mafia.
Necco is the 10th Italian journalist shot or killed in the last five years, but he is the first involved in sports news. The shooting has been regarded as part of a recent resurgence in sports-related violence, primarily involving soccer.
Although there is no comparison with the level and scale of stadium violence in England, vandalism and delinquency inside and outside stadiums on soccer Sundays has long been a problem in Italy.
Two years ago, even the most violent soccer fans appeared to have been sobered by the accidental death of Lazio fan Vincenzo Paparelli, 33, at Rome's Olympic Stadium. Paparelli died instantly when a red-hot rocket flare set off by fans from the rival Roma team hit him in the eye. Vandalism by fans continued, however.
Then, on Sunday, Nov. 22 -- Black Sunday, the Italian papers were quick to call it -- there were new outbreaks of violence.
In Milan, clashes between fans of the Milan Inter team and the visiting Roma squad left a dozen Roma fans hospitalized, two with serious knife wounds. Magistrates issued formal warnings of possible criminal investigations to 10 people charged with assault and illegal possession of arms.
In Perugia, in the central Italian region of Umbria, crowd violence exploded at the end of a soccer match in which the local team was defeated, 2-0, by visiting Pisa.
Police, short-handed because Pope John Paul II was visiting nearby Todi, broke up the crowd with tear gas, but not before several cars were destroyed and the referees were trapped for three hours in the locker rooms by angry fans throwing stones and bottles.
In Cesena, a soccer game spectator was hospitalized after being struck by a firecracker. And in an unrelated incident the same day in Florence, midfielder Giancarlo Antognoni, captain of the Fiorentina team, suffered a fractured skull when kicked in the head, apparently by accident, by the goalkeeper of the rival Genoa team.
These and other recent incidents -- last Sunday in Siena, seven shots were fired by an irate fan during a basketball game -- have set off much soul-searching about the reasons for the violence and ways to prevent it.
On a national television program this week, sociologist Francesco Alberoni said that violence is prevalent in modern society and that sports events provide an occasion to express it.
Psychology professor Feruccio Antonelli said, "The stadium is a place of assembly where negative instincts are encouraged by the anonymity provided by the crowd. The stadium, with its adversary concept, provides a fertile terrain for repressed aggressiveness."
Some observers say expensive tickets, poor seats or contested referee decisions trigger hostile actions by fans.
Interior Minister Virginio Rognoni said police must adopt new techniques to deal with this type of violence. Rognoni suggested that extensive closed-circuit television networks be set up in stadiums. These would enable police to see trouble developing and to identify potential or actual troublemakers.
However, some experts here believe that violence is built into Italy's sports system to some extent and that the teams themselves indirectly subsidize the fans' violent behavior.
For example, soccer teams encourage the formation of fan clubs in various neighborhoods of their home cities, and the team's management helps members get good seats at games. Club members usually are the team's most fanatical supporters and often are the ones involved in violence.