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By ESPN Staff

Seedorf critical of Italian society

Once again, the Italian game has come under the spotlight following the death of Lazio supporter Gabriele Sandri at a motorway rest stop in Arezzo last weekend; although the scenes that unfurled 400kms away in Atalanta were just as worrying for the state of Italian society as a whole.

News of the shooting prompted violence on the terraces at the game between Atalanta and AC Milan in Bergamo while, later in the day, fans in Rome armed with batons and stones attacked one of the police units in the vicinity of the Stadio Olimpico before raiding the CONI headquarters.

A problem that has blighted Italy's reputation across Europe, the killing of policeman Filippo Raciti after violence broke out at the Sicilian derby match between Catania and Palermo first sent shockwaves around the country nine months ago, and it would appear that nothing has changed.

One of the players involved in the scenes at Bergamo, Clarence Seedorf has seen a lot in his long career and has been in Italy since 2000, playing for both Milan sides, but has been critical of the Italian government for failing to put an end to the trouble.

Derek Rae caught up with the AC Milan midfielder to ask him about the problem of violence in the Italian game.

Derek Rae: Do you think this is a football problem or one for Italian society in general?

Clarence Seedorf: Well it's obviously society's problem and it's not the first time we have talked about it. It's really a pity that things still have not changed in Italian society and in the people that come to the stadium. Of course in Italian football we can improve and make it safer and do a lot of things to improve everything that's going on in the stadium, but even this accident has nothing to do with football directly.

Certainly I think it was a miscommunication, or they made the wrong decision, to say it was a Lazio fan. I don't think we're going to find too many Italians that aren't linked to a club. Every time someone dies in Italy, it could be a Milanista or an Interista or a Roma supporter - they are all fans of clubs, so why communicate it like that?

That's what provoked the reaction in the stadium of the Curva, the supporters of Atalanta and Milan, because after the Catania incident where a police officer died, they stopped the games that weekend and for two weeks afterwards. So they said now one of our people died, so they have to stop the games also. And that's when they started to be violent in the stadium, to stop the match.

DR: You've been quite critical of the Italian government in recent days.

CS: Yes because I don't really think it's good for society to blame football all the time for things that are not really our responsibility. I think government has to take the responsibility, the federations have to take the responsibility, but these are two separate things.

One thing is to try and improve the environment of football, and one thing is to resolve society's problems. And I think, more than once, the government has had great opportunities to make major changes using football to better the community; but it's still not happening and unfortunately they just point the finger at football and that's not really changing anything for the better.

DR: Your Milan team-mate Kaka has been quoted as saying that he fears this kind of violence might lead eventually to people not wanting to play in Italy. There's also been talk about his own potential departure. Is that something that you could see happening?

CS: Well I have a different point of view because we all have good contracts and I think we all have been treated very well by Italy and Italian clubs and Italian fans. Personally, I want to help as long as I'm here, and as long as I'm playing for AC Milan, I want to create a better environment for football.

I want to lead by example, on the field, off the field, with interviews and things of that nature, and all the ones who are thinking of leaving, I believe that's a simple escape. I don't think it's going to help football in general. Italy is way too important for players just to say: 'Well it's still just the same, I'm leaving.' A lot of the players are paid very well, so I think you have a certain amount of responsibility, especially to the young players to try to make a change for the better.

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