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By ESPN Staff

FIFA to investigate Italian fan violence

FIFA have launched an investigation into the conduct of Italian fans during their World Cup qualifier in Bulgaria on Saturday.

A section of visiting fans threw bottles at Bulgarian supporters and made fascists salutes and chants during the goalless result in Sofia.

FIFA confirmed on Monday that "an investigation has been launched" and that they are "currently in the process of collecting all the relevant information".

Italy's football chief Giancarlo Abete has taken swift action in the wake of those unsavoury scenes, announcing on Monday that Azzurri fans will indefinitely be banned from travelling to Italy's away games.

"Until we have certainties and we are able to verify certain things, we will not ask for any tickets for Italy's away games," said Abete.

Saturday's incidents caused further embarrassment to a country that has tried to clamp down on football hooliganism in recent years.

Italy's Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa was particularly shocked by the actions of three Italian fans that burned a Bulgarian flag. Those supporters were detained by local police before being released on Monday.

"I feel shame for what has happened," said La Russa. "But especially, for the horrible gesture that has seen some individuals burn a flag of a friendly country."

The incidents come just one month after the Italian government announced measures to step up efforts to stamp out football hooliganism.

The game in Italy has been plagued by the problem in recent seasons with the start of this year's Serie A campaign marred by vandalism and unruly behaviour from Napoli'ss fans and other club supporters.

Italy's Interior Minister Roberto Maroni recently launched an advertising campaign against violence in football.

The world champions host Montenegro in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier in Lecce. Their next away game is at Montenegro on March 23, 2009.

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