Napoli Announce Death of Ciro Esposito, Fan Wounded Before Coppa Italia Final

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2014

NAPLES, ITALY - MARCH 23:  Fans of Napoli during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and ACF Fiorentina at Stadio San Paolo on March 23, 2014 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Napoli have announced the death of Ciro Esposito, one of the fans shot prior to the club's Coppa Italia Final victory over Fiorentina on May 3.

The Italian club's official website revealed news of Esposito's passing, while Adam Digby of FourFourTwo confirmed the development to English audiences:

Esposito's family released a statement after his death, reported by Football Italia:

At 6 o'clock this morning, after an ordeal that lasted 50 days, our Ciro, a hero of the people, has gone. That damn May 3. The day our Ciro stepped on to the Via Tor di Quinto in Rome to save Napoli fans on a bus.

ROME, ITALY - MAY 03:  SSC Napoli fans throw flares before the TIM Cup final match between ACF Fiorentina and SSC Napoli at Olimpico Stadium on May 3, 2014 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Tom Sheen of the Daily Mail reported events after the Italian cup final, in which two supporters and a police officer were said to "have been wounded by gunshots during violent clashes in Rome." Although skirmishes were originally thought to have taken place between Napoli and Roma Ultras, Sheen indicates the former club's supporters were injured in a battle against "opportunistic criminals taking advantage of the situation."

Contrasting this report, John Hooper of the Guardian suggests notorious Roma Ultra leader Daniele De Santis was behind the violence. In an alternate Hooper article, it is revealed De Santis was "under police guard in hospital accused of attempted murder."

Esposito's family urged the authorities to "identify and bring to justice Daniele De Santis' accomplices" in their statement, per Football Italia.

ROME, ITALY - MAY 03:  Marek Hamsik (L) and Team Manager Riccardo Bigon of SSC Napoli wait to speak with SSC Napoli fans before the TIM Cup final match between ACF Fiorentina and SSC Napoli at Olimpico Stadium on May 3, 2014 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Pao
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

The violence halted play at the Stadio Olimpico showpiece for 45 minutes. Napoli captain Marek Hamsik was moved to address his supporters ahead of the delayed kick-off, which saw the Partenopei capture a 3-1 victory.

A few days after the final, Football Italia reported Ultra leader Gennaro De Tommaso was banned for five years, possibly because he was wearing a t-shirt with the slogan "Speziale Libero" written on it while speaking to Hamsik.

This was a protest against the jailing of Catania fan Antonio Speziale, who was convicted of murdering a police officer during the Sicilian derby-day clash against Palermo in 2007.

After Napoli's cup-final win, club president Aurelio de Laurentiis was forced to deny the match kick-off time was dictated by extremist supporters, reported by the Agence-France Presse and via The National.

UDINE, ITALY - FEBRUARY 07:  Police are deployed during clashes betwen ultras  before the Serie A match between Udinese and Napoli at Stadio Friuli on February 7, 2010 in Udine, Italy.  (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)
Dino Panato/Getty Images

Unfortunately for Italian football, similar incidents are all too familiar. A Lazio supporter was shot dead in 2007 prior to the capital-based side facing Juventus, while Tom Kington of the Guardian wrote "Italian football is staring into the abyss again" in 2012, after a spate of match-fixing accusations and "the return of hardcore fan violence."

Esposito's death will reverberate throughout Italian football. It is possible the incident could act as a catalyst for retaliation when the club season begins, as tension around Ultras groups continues to threaten.