ITALY received a formal apology from the Serbian ambassador yesterday after ugly scenes in Genoa caused the Euro 2012 qualifying match between the two countries to be abandoned.
The Serbian acknowledgement came as UEFA launched an investigation into the crowd unrest which resulted in Tuesday night’s game being halted after six minutes, with Italy coach Cesare Prandelli fearing a “tragedy” was unfolding.
The control and disciplinary arm of European football’s governing body will not hear the case until October 28. UEFA described the incidents as “serious disorder”.
When asked about the possible sanctions Serbia could face, Prandelli said yesterday: “We will wait with serenity.”
Prandelli feared the worst when spectators in the Serbian section began throwing flares and other objects both on to the pitch and into the areas where Italian supporters were seating at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium.
The same spectators tried to break through the barrier separating them from Italians, and there was little option for referee Craig Thomson other than to stop the match.
“After the initial delay, we were ready to play,” said Prandelli.
“When I saw the ‘Ultra’ fans that were trying to break the wall that divided them from the Italian supporters, I was really frightened. I saw so many people with children running towards the exit.
“When it’s like that, anything can happen.
“You needed very little to see an evening turn into tragedy.”
Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, Serbia’s ambassador in Rome, was appalled by what took place.
“What happened in Genoa was a disgrace, a nightmare,” she said. “I and all of the Serbians are ashamed.
“I take this opportunity to send the apologies from the embassy, our government and our population to the Italian people for what has happened.”
On Tuesday night, 17 Serbian supporters were arrested while 16 people were injured, including two policemen. “Everybody knew that these hooligans would have stopped the game? We didn’t,” said Prandelli.
“It’s clear that the people yesterday have nothing to lose and that is why they are ready for anything.
“They are true delinquents, I imagine with social and political problems.”
Prandelli expressed concern about the impact of Tuesday night’s chaos on the young fans in the crowd.
“To the children that were there last night those memories will remain for a long time,” he said, “but football will continue and will be an enjoyment.”
Some of the Serbia players visited the Italian dressing room during Tuesday night’s events and were visibly shaken.
“The Serbian players are under attack,” Prandelli said. “They have their homes and families and they have to return, they are men in fear.
“But football should not have fear in the face of Ultras.”
The Italian federation, the FIGC, could also face punishment, it emerged today.
UEFA Spokesman Rob Faulkner said: “Aside from the responsibility of those that provoked the incidents, UEFA rules also consider the responsibility of the federation that organises the game.
“They have the duty to guarantee safety in the stadium as well as making sure the game goes ahead.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved