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May 6, 2014

PM wants Italian football reform

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has promised reforms for Italian football in light of the incidents which overshadowed Saturday night's Coppa Italia final.

Renzi, a Fiorentina fan, was present at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome for the final which was won by Napoli after a 45-minute delay to kickoff.

Napoli fans initially appeared to want the game to be called off after learning of a shooting outside the ground, but after captain Marek Hamsik held talks with the leader of the ultras group, the game was allowed to commence.

While Hamsik approached the fans, flares and fireworks were thrown down towards security staff with a fireman getting hurt. Napoli's fans then whistled the national anthem.

A day later, Renzi watched his own 11-year-old son playing in a children's tournament in Florence, far away from the drama of the previous night.

"I felt how football still belongs to families at this level," Renzi told La Stampa. "And it made me think of all the children who were present at the Olimpico with a Viola or Azzurra shirt on.

"Once the season is finished -- between July and August -- then we will think of ways of giving football back to the families. Because on Saturday night, I went to the stadium as a father, and now as a father, I feel something has to be done to ensure football returns to being a game, and not an opportunity for rival gangs to go to war.

"They had bigger problems than us in England, yet they beat them. In the USA, you can lose a final for a controversial point, yet the game still always ends with a big celebration involving everybody. Why can't we do that too?"

Renzi's ideal is to rid Italian football of the ultras, who he believes enjoy far too much power.

"In a civilised country, Genny la Carogna [the Napoli fan who spoke with Hamsik], with that shirt he had on, would not be in the Curva, but he would be doing time," Renzi continued. "On Saturday, like on many other Saturdays, we've seen the stadium as a place where people are immune from punishment. The most disturbing thing for me was seeing players go to talk to the fan leaders.

"Let's not act like Sleeping Beauty, this kind of thing has always been around. They've taken away the banners, some of which were actually quite amusing, yet they still let people in who throw the things we saw on Saturday. There's no doubt this has got to stop. If we have to upset certain groups of fans, then we'll upset them."

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