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Italian games suspended after violence kills one police officer, critically injures another.

ROME (Friday, February 2, 2006) -- Italian soccer has been suspended until further notice following violence during and after a Serie A match that led to the death of a police officer and left another fighting to survive.

Filippo Raciti, who was participating in the effort to break up a riot following the match between bitter Sicilain rivals Cantania and Palermo, became the second person to die in five days from Italian soccer violence. Another police officer was reported to be battling for his life in a Catania hospital.

Last Saturday, Ermanno Licursi, a director of Sammartinese, a Calabria-based amateur team, died from a brain hemorrhage after being kicked in the face by a fan of Cancellese, a rival team.

Fourteen fans were arrested today, all believed to be Catania supporters, after the disturbance that left over 100 injured following several hours of running battles with police. The violence was triggered when Palermo scored a pair of disputed goals.

Andrea Caracciolo's opener looked to be offside. Catania equalized a minute later, but David Di Michele's winner for Palermo in the 83rd minute appeared to come with the benefit of a hand-ball. The game was suspended after tear gas, dispersed by police to quell battles within the stadium, drifted onto the field.

CONI, the Italian Olympic Committee which oversees all sports federations in Italy, planned a meeting for Sunday to decide on a long-term policy. Luca Pancalli, president of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), will meet with Italian prime minister Romano Prodi on Monday.

"I feel a duty to say that we need a strong and clear signal to avoid the degeneration of this sport which we are seeing more dramatically and more often," Prodi said in a prepared statement.

After a meeting today between Pancalli, CONI president Gianni Petrucci and Italy´s sports minister Giovanna Melandri, all professional and amateur matches in the nation have been postponed indefinitely. Next week's friendly between Italy, the 2006 World Cup champion, and Romania was called off.

"Football in Italy must stop and take stock. Enough is enough," Pancalli told the media. "I cannot find the words to describe how a 38-year-old man lost his life in such a way. This is completely unacceptable. . . What we're witnessing has nothing to do with soccer, so Italian soccer is stopping."

Italy is recovering from a match-fixing scandal that led to sanctions against four top clubs in July.

Pancalli had warned after Licursi's death Saturday that any further incidents would lead to a suspension of games. "One day is not sufficient," Pancalli said after following up on his promise. "Without drastic measures, we cannot play again. We will immediately set up a commission to discuss the situation between sport and politics. It's not possible to carry on like this."

Raciti, 38, died after a home-made bomb was thrown into his car. He left behind a wife and two sons.

Friday´s violence was believed to be premeditated, considering the amount of preparation necessary to build the bomb that took Raciti´s life. The game had already been postponed from the previous Sunday because of fears for public safety, but the extra days to ready for potential trouble and an early-evening kickoff did nothing to diffuse the hostilities. A minute of silence to remember Licursi preceded the match.

Catania club executive Pietro Lo Monaco resigned. "I've heard that a policeman has died," he was quoted in BBC Sports. "To speak of football right now seems useless. For me, this is the end. I will leave the football world. I don't recognize myself in this world anymore. I have loved football intensely but after this right now it seems absurd."

Soccer-related violence in Italy has claimed the lives of 13 people since 1962.

"Where did they come from, these masked boys who ran in the night in Catania, between the tear gas and the rubble-ridden streets?" the Gazzetta dello Sport asked in an editorial. "From whose houses did they come, from which schools, which bars? We still don´t know, but on their conscience, and ours, is the weight of a stupid atrocity, a policeman torn to pieces.

"A policeman, remember his name: Filippo Raciti. One of those who tried to placate the troublemakers outside the stadium. Now he is dead, taken by a wave of shame just days after Ermanno Licursi was booted in the face and left to die. What goes through the heads of these boys when they go to a match, what sickness were their scarves, banners and flags soaked with? Whose sons are they and what transforms their passion for sport into fury?

"Italy, we have a problem, and don´t just look at our football fans. Have a look at the fabric of this country, look at who governs and organizes our schools, look into our homes and at our families."

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