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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 16:25 GMT
Turkey brands Rome police 'fascist'
Clash between Galatasary and Roma
Riot police intervened to try to stop the fight
Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem has accused Italian police of behaving like fascists following a football pitch brawl on Wednesday.

Violence broke out between players and officials at the end of a European Champions League match between Turkey's Galatasary and their Italian rivals AS Roma.

Riot police used batons to force the Turkish players off the field.


I thought I was watching the time of fascist Mussolini, not Europe in 2002

Ismail Cem
"This is very serious," said Mr Cem. "The Italian police showed no mercy, striking our players with their sticks."

In a reference to the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, he added, "Watching from television and looking at the newspapers, I thought I was watching the time of fascist Mussolini, not Europe in 2002."

The Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit also said he was "deeply saddened".

Uefa inquiry

The European football body, Uefa, has launched an inquiry into the incident.

Ismail Cem
Mr Cem's comments could sour relations between Turkey and Italy
A meeting of the Uefa disciplinary body, originally scheduled for 28 March, has now been brought forward to 22 March.

The brawl involved players and coaching staff from both teams and resulted in injuries to 13 policemen.

The match was crucial to the hopes of both sides to qualify for the European quarter-finals.

Galatasaray held AS Roma to a 1-1 draw, depriving them of the chance of automatic qualification.

Strained relations

Mr Cem's comments could cause another diplomatic rift between Turkey and Italy.

Relations between the two countries were seriously strained in 1998 after Italy refused to extradite Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan when he took refuge in Rome.

Turkish newspapers, printing pictures of Turkish players lying on the ground after allegedly being hit by Italian police, made plain which side they were on.

"Mussolini's grandchildren" read a front-page headline in the daily Aksam. "Savagery" wrote Milliyet newspaper.

But in Italy, the Rome sports daily Corriere dello Sport headlined its story "Turkish brawl".

And Italy's largest sports newspaper, La Gazzetta dello Sport, said that the Turkish side needed to have a "cold shower".

See also:

14 Mar 02 | Champions League
Uefa probes Roma brawl
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