Napoli fan hospitalized, Roma fan under police guard after violence mars Coppa Italia final

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Napoli beat Fiorentina 3-1 in a frantic, fast-paced, attack-focused Coppa Italia final on Saturday night – but the play on the pitch has been overshadowed by the violence that broke out amongst fans in Rome prior to kickoff. A member of the Roma ultras  has been accused of attempted murder after allegedly shooting a Napoli fan in town for the Coppa Italia final.

Fans who tuned in to watch the game were met not with a soccer match, but with scenes of agitated fans, whispering officials, and police ensuring the situation remained under control. For a half-hour, confusion reigned, rumors abounded. Some media outlets reported that a Napoli fan was murdered prior to kickoff. Others reported that fan violence inside the stadium was what was delaying the match.

The delay was caused by Napoli supporters wanting confirmation that a fellow fan, known to be taken to the hospital with a gunshot wound, had not been killed. Without such confirmation, the ultras, who hold much influence in calcio, did not want the game to be played. Napoli captain Marek Hamšík negotiated with both officials and the visiting ultras, and in the end the match kicked off 45 minutes late.

But while it may be some time before we have a clear picture of what actually happened prior to the Final – if we ever get that clear of a picture – some details have emerged. Although it was originally reported that the shooting was not connected to fan violence, but was rather the act of an opportunist preying on visiting fans, the worst of the violence did occur between two rival fan groups.

The shooting was not a result of clashes between fans of the two teams in the final, but rather between visiting Napoli supporters and the Roma ultras. Some reports suggest that Napoli fans first assaulted Daniele De Santis, a well-known member of the Roma ultras. Others allege that De Santis, along with others, ambushed the Napoli supporters, and when they fought back, he pulled out a gun and started shooting.

It remains to be seen which version is true. What we know, however, is that a bullet went through the lung of Napoli fan Ciro Esposito, lodging in his spine. De Santis, too, is in the hospital, suffering from serious head injuries. In total, three supporters were taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds. Five police, two stewards and a firefighter were also reported injured, in separate clashes, often involving fights between Napoli and Fiorentina supporters.

This was meant to be a fantastic night for Napoli, who lifted their second Coppa Italia in three years. Instead the match was marred by ugly violence, a painful reminder that Italy still has a long way to go when it comes to cracking down on the influence and sway held by the ultras – and above all, the methods they apply to remind others of their place in the calcio hierarchy.


Retailer removes T-shirt from sale over Hillsborough links

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LONDON (AP) A British retailer has withdrawn a T-shirt from sale in its stores and online following complaints that its design could be associated with the Hillsborough soccer disaster.

[ MORE: Liverpool, Man City drawn in UCL quarterfinals ]

Topman had on sale a red shirt with a large “96” on the back and the phrase “what goes around comes around” underneath. The word “Karma” is written on one of the sleeves.

Ninety-six people were crushed to death in the Hillsborough stadium disaster, which happened in Sheffield in April 1989 at an FA Cup semifinal match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Topman said it “apologizes unreservedly for any offense caused by this T-shirt” and that the “garment has been removed from sale online and in stores.”

The retailer said the design was inspired by a Bob Marley track, with the number referring to the year of the re-release.

Cosmos, Miami FC petition USSF for 2018 U.S. Open Cup entry

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NASL’s decision to cancel the 2018 regular season has caused significant ramifications, with the latest forcing several clubs to be excluded from the U.S. Open Cup.

The New York Cosmos and Miami FC — both of whom participated in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup have not been named among the eligible teams for the 2018 edition following NASL’s cancellation of the league season.

Now, the two teams have petitioned to U.S. Soccer and its new president, Carlos Cordeiro, to rethink its decision and allow the clubs to play despite not belonging to a professional league.

Both clubs do boast reserve teams though — New York Cosmos B and Miami 2 — which is the lead argument from each organization as to why U.S. Soccer should grant the teams an exemption and a spot in the tournament.

Cosmos B and Miami FC 2 will both play in the NPSL once again in 2018, with both rosters largely comprised of senior team players.

As it stands, 94 teams have been placed in the 2018 Open Cup field, as announced by U.S. Soccer on Wednesday.

Both open letters from the respective clubs can be found below.

Brazil’s Luis could miss World Cup after leg fracture

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MADRID (AP) Brazilian left back Filipe Luis has a leg fracture that could stop him going to the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Arsenal draws CSKA Moscow in Europa quarters ]

Atletico Madrid said Friday that Luis sustained the injury to his left leg in the second half of the Spanish team’s 5-1 rout of Lokomotiv Moscow in the Europa League round-of-16 match on Thursday.

The club did not say how long Luis will be sidelined. Similar injuries have required at least six weeks of recovery time and longer if surgery is required.

The 32-year-old Luis was called up by Brazil coach Tite for friendlies against Russia in Moscow on March 23 and against Germany in Berlin on March 27. Brazil’s first game at the World Cup is against Switzerland on June 17.

Luis was injured while trying to prevent Lokomotiv forward Eder taking a shot from inside the area in the 60th minute. He successfully cleared the ball but his leg was hit from behind.

Luis left the field on a stretcher and tests Friday in Madrid confirmed the fracture in his lower leg.

Atletico advanced 8-1 on aggregate after the victory in Russia.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage:

Casemiro: Neymar “would get along very well with Cristiano” at Real

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The speculation (transfer) train keeps chugging along as domestic seasons near their conclusion, and one rumor continues to be fueled linking one of the world’s top players to Real Madrid.

[ MORE: FA Cup preview ]

Neymar’s time at Paris Saint-Germain has been short, less than a season to be precise, but the Brazil international could be moving on from the Parc des Princes sooner rather than later after his side crashed out of the UEFA Champions League recently against Real.

Nothing concrete has been determined about Neymar’s future, but Real Madrid continues to be linked with the South American star, and one current Real player feels Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo would get along “very well.”

“[Neymar] has always been spectacular, since he was 11 years old. He does crazy things,” Real midfielder Casemiro told El Partidazo .l”I don’t think there is any chance that he will come to Real, but you have to ask [Madrid president] Florentino Perez.

“He knows that the door is always open for him in Madrid, but he is happy in Paris. He always says that he is happy there, that he is comfortable in Paris. There are many Brazilians there too, it is very quiet there, but whether it’s possible you have to ask Florentino.

“With the quality that he has, I would sign him for sure. I hope he comes this season.

“He is a great player, one of the top three in the world. He can do whatever he wants off the pitch if he continues to do what he does on it.

“He would get along very well with Cristiano, very well.”

Real is currently in the midst of a historic run in the Champions League, having won the competition three times in the last four seasons.

Casemiro isn’t the only Real player eager to bring in a talent such as Neymar though.

Defender Dani Carvajal also recently told the media that he would be ecstatic to have a teammate like the Brazilian come into the fold at the Santiago Bernabeu.