Locri-Lazio to play women's futsal match despite threats
A women's futsal match between Sporting Locri and Lazio will go ahead as planned on Jan. 10 -- just days after the tiny Calabrian club's president said he was forced to withdraw from the women's league due to what he said were threats from organised crime.
The club had become a sensation after receiving top-level promotion, but president Ferdinando Armeni said he received what he called anonymous Mafia-style threats, accompanied by damage to his car.
Italian federation authorities, including the Italian Amateur Football Association (LND), which oversees women's divisions, and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), pledged their support for the club's plight this week and have announced that the match will be shown on national television -- an extremely rare occurrence for women's futsal and unprecedented for a league match. FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio has confirmed he will be attending the game in person.
The club, from the deep south of Italy and the only women's futsal club in the region, had been forced to withdraw from the league on Boxing Day after its president, Ferdinando Armeni, and his family said they received threats before Christmas, including letters ordering him to close the club, damage to his car tires and threats he said were against the safety of his family. Some of the players were also reportedly approached on the street by "suspicious individuals."
"We are deeply sorry to be forced to close down after six wonderful years, which have allowed us to become one of the revelations of the Serie A," Armeni said. "Ours is just a hobby: We do this because we have a passion for football. But we weren't calm before and we're definitely not calm now -- we cannot risk our lives and those of our families."
Accompanying Armeni's statement was his offer to give the club away for free to anyone willing to step forward.
Following Monday's announcement that Locri will host the match against Lazio, the futsal women have resumed training under regular coach Willy Lapuente. The town mayor and police promised round-the-clock security for the club and their management.
Tavecchio, who in the past has been critical of women's football, has pledged federation support as well.
"We have worked tirelessly together with the mayor so that Sporting Locri can continue their extraordinary experience," Tavecchio said. "Our aim was to create the right setting, including financially, to allow the women to get back on the pitch and more importantly, to allow them to conclude the season without any further trauma.
"I will be there on Sunday as a sign of solidarity, on behalf of the entire football world."
Also attending the match will be LND president Antonio Cosentino and Futsal division president Fabrizio Tonelli, who added: "We believe a lot in women's futsal, and on this occasion, once again, the movement has shown its incredible strength and vitality."