Italy Vs. Serbia: Who Should Carry The Can For Euro 2012 Crowd Chaos?
It was one of those football nights you wish you had not witnessed. An evening where the pure escapism which sport can provide was crushed by a chilling blast of reality. No matter how rare such occasions are, they still happen too often.
The stage was set for an interesting game between Italy and Serbia. The Azzurri knew that a victory would set them on a clear course towards Euro 2012. For the visitors, humbled by Estonia a few days earlier, there was a hunger to set the record straight.
Would Milos Krasic get the better of his Juve colleagues? Would the Pazzini-Cassano strike force deliver in its home stadium? Which side would take best advantage of Northern Ireland's slip-up in the Faroe Islands?
All of those questions went unanswered as crowd trouble forced the suspension of the game.
Arrests have been made alongside plenty of speculation about the reasons for the ire displayed by some Serbian supporters. The most credible seems to be anger at the sacking of former national team coach Radomir Antic.
Whatever the cause of the shameful scenes, one pressing question now faces UEFA. What sanctions do they impose for a night which brought back unwanted memories of darker times for football?
If the game had been played in Belgrade, the answers would undoubtedly be clearer. A hefty fine, game awarded 3-0 to Italy and an international ban or future matches behind closed doors for Serbia. Job done.
However, the fact that the encounter took place in the Stadio Marassi in Genoa muddies the waters.
While it was clear that it was Serbian supporters who caused all the trouble, the Italian authorities are unlikely to escape blame. It is, after all, their responsibility to ensure a safe environment for the game to proceed.
How did fans get in with clippers to snip open the protective nets, carrying huge flares to hurl onto the pitch?
Why did problems in the city prior to the match not alert police to potential crowd trouble?
Could more have been done to get the problem supporters out of the ground and allow the game to proceed?
These will be the questions that European football authorities will be mulling over now and trying to formulate a suitable punishment.
It is obvious that Serbia will face action but the Italian federation can probably not rest easy, either.
At best, they can expect a slap on the wrist for their handling of events. At worst, they might also be forced to play behind closed doors or outside of Italy for their next home game.
As an aspiring host of a major competition, it does the nation little good.
There have already been promises from some supporters of trouble at the return game in Serbia next year. In the meantime, there remains the little matter of sorting out the chaos which unfolded on Tuesday night.
UEFA has made a statement that it will meet on Oct. 28 to announce what actions it will take. Sanctions can range from a reprimand up to a full ban from current or future competitions.
Both Italy and Serbia will be waiting nervously to discover the outcome from a night which should have been about football but ended up as anything but.
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