Italy risks being derailed from 2012 European football championship

Italy's bid to host the 2012 European football championship risks being derailed after a policeman was killed during riots outside a Serie A match between Catania and Palermo last week.

Italy's bid is one of three for the competition, along with joint bids by Poland and Ukraine, and Croatia and Hungary.

The winner will be announced after a vote by UEFA's 15-man executive committee on April 18 in Cardiff.

Italy had been considered favourites to host their first major football competition since the World Cup in 1990, but the death of 38-year-old Filippo Raciti dealt another blow to a nation still smarting from last year's match-fixing scandal, Reuters reports.

Soccer fans won't be allowed into stadiums for matches in Italy unless security measures are met, the country's interior minister said Monday.

The decision comes only days after riots broke out during and after a Serie A match in Sicily in which a police officer was killed.

Giuliano Amato also said that clubs will not be able to sell blocks of tickets to visiting fans in order to control who enters the stadium.

These decisions and others still need to be approved at a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Amato said. Italy's soccer federation said the decision on resuming professional play would be made after that meeting, Miami Herald reports.

However, stadiums could ''technically'' still reopen by next weekend if the government approves the security measures, federation commissioner Luca Pancalli said.

The Serie A matches scheduled for last Saturday and Sunday were canceled because of Friday's riot after Palermo beat host Catania 2-1.

According to a report published Monday in Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport, only four stadiums used by clubs in the Serie A satisfy the safety norms -- the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, the Stadio Olimpico in Turin, the Artemio Franchi stadium in Siena, and the Renzo Barbera stadium in Palermo.

Thousands of mourners flocked to a cathedral in the Sicilian city of Catania on Monday for the funeral of a policemen whose death in a soccer riot has shocked Italy, prompting calls for new measures to curb stadium violence.

Pope Benedict XVI expressed his "spiritual closeness" to the family of 38-year-old Filippo Raciti, who was killed during street clashes at the Catania-Palermo Serie A match on Friday.

"In reiterating his firm condemnation for any act of violence that stains the world of soccer, the Holy Father urges protagonists to promote respect for legality with greater determination," the pope said in a telegram of condolences that was read during the funeral.

In a sign of respect, people applauded as Raciti's coffin, draped in the Italian flag, was carried inside the Duomo Cathedral followed by his youngest son dressed in a police uniform, Canadian Press reports.

Source: agencies

Prepared by Alexander Timoshik

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Author`s name Alex Naumov