ROME // Police investigating rioting at the Italy-Serbia game have detained 17 people, including the alleged ringleader, and Uefa warned that sanctions against Serbia could include disqualification from the European Championship or exclusion from future competitions. The Euro 2012 qualifier in Genoa on Tuesday was abandoned after six minutes when Serbia fans threw flares and fireworks on to the pitch, burned a flag and broke barriers. Violent clashes continued through the night, and 16 people, including two policemen, were injured.
Uefa opened an investigation yesterday and its disciplinary panel will hear the case on October 28. Of the 17 people detained, 16 were Serbian fans and one was Italian, Genoa police official Sebastiano Salvo said. Salvo identified the ringleader as Ivan Bogdanov, 29, who climbed on to a barrier separating fans from the pitch, used a wire cutter to slice apart a mesh fence and launched fireworks on to the pitch.
Bogdanov, who reportedly leads one of the most notorious Red Star Belgrade fan groups, was being held in a Genoa jail accused of causing violence and damage and resisting arrest, Salvo said, adding that 600 pieces of fireworks and explosives were found in four bags inside a bus holding Serbian fans Michel Platini, the Uefa president, said he saw pictures of Tuesday's violent scenes during his trip to the Netherlands, where he attended the Euro 2012 qualifier against Sweden.
"I remind everyone that Uefa has a zero-tolerance policy towards violence in stadia," Platini said in a statement. "The collaboration of the authorities is key to combating this scourge and I will request help from the highest level on those countries most affected." Like Platini, Cesare Prandelli, the Italy coach, was a Juventus player during the Heysel tragedy 25 years ago - when 39 fans died when they tried to flee a rush by hooligans at the European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus in Belgium - and he said he feared a repeat.
"When I saw the ultra fans try to break the glass barrier and the scared fans running away I was really afraid," Prandelli said. "In situations like that it doesn't take much to transform it into a tragedy." Hours before the match, a flare was thrown at Vladimir Stojkovic, Serbia's first-choice goalkeeper, inside the team bus, and Italy's players found him trembling inside their changing room when they arrived at Luigi Ferraris Stadium. Stojkovic upset some Red Star fans by moving to the club's fierce rival Partizan in the off-season.
Meanwhile, Serbia's Interior Minister Ivica Dacic criticised the Italian police for failing to prevent the riots, saying the Italians had been advised of the dangers a few hours before the match. "The Italian police didn't even try to intervene, and their players seemed like they did not want to play the match," Dacic said.
* Associated Press