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Ex-Palermo skipper sorry for insult

Former Palermo captain Fabrizio Miccoli has issued an apology after he was accused of insulting Giovanni Falcone, a murdered anti-mafia judge.

After Miccoli, 34, had been accused of extortion, it was reported that evidence used against him showed he had described the late judge as "mud".

It was alleged that Miccoli, a forward, had used the son of a mafia boss to recover money owed to him by nightclub proprietors.

La Repubblica newspaper reported that phone-tap evidence in the case showed he had insulted Falcone, who died in an explosion in Palermo in 1992.

At a news conference, Miccoli said: "I ask the forgiveness of the whole city of Palermo. I ask the forgiveness of my family, who brought me up with values and respect. I am a footballer, not a mafioso. I'm against all the beliefs of the mafia.

"In the last few years, I wanted not just to be the captain of Palermo, but to be available to everyone. I hung around with people who I thought would be real friends, but I was wrong."

Miccoli, who will be released by Palermo when his contract expires later this summer, had been questioned extensively by police investigating the case.

He said: "After five hours of interrogation a new Fabrizio Miccoli came out. Now I need to be reborn, to stop all stupidity. I need to grow."