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Wednesday, 29 April, 1998, 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK
Political football, Italian style
Italian parliament brawl
On the attack: the politicians get to grips on the penalty clause
Italy's parliament was suspended after deputies lunged at each other during a debate on a controversial decision by a soccer referee.

The debate, on Wednesday, was being broadcast live on television.

"We are not at a stadium. This is a spectacle that is unworthy, embarrassing and grotesque," the Deputy Prime Minister, Walter Veltroni, said.

His question time had to be suspended because of the uproar in the Chamber of Deputies.

Ushers in the lower house had to hold back Domenico Gramazio of the far-right National Alliance after he launched a break-away attack into the benches of Italy's largest Left wing party.

Italian newspapers
Foul! The Italian newspapers claim Inter was robbed
Mr Gramazio was involved in several scuffles with the ushers as he tried to reach his goal. Other parliamentarians began shouting and nearly came to blows.

According to some reports, Mr Gramazio was heard to shout "They are all thieves" before trying to reach Massimo Mauro, a deputy of the ruling Democrats of the Left and a former player with Juventus.

Mr Mauro also tried to reach Mr Gramazio before the session was suspended and the live television transmission was cut.

More than a game

Ronaldo
Penalty! Inter's Brazilian ace Ronaldo, in blue, is tackled by Mark Luliano
The outburst is the latest in a series of controversies in what newspapers are now calling "the poisoned championship".

The debate followed referee Piero Ceccarini's failure to award Inter-Milan a penalty during a key match against their great rivals Juventus last weekend.

Juventus won the game 1-0 and are now expected to win the Serie A league.

The BBC's Sport's Correspondent Harry Peart says the incident has caused heated debate among football fans throughout Italy and attracted wide press coverage.

He says there seems to be an almost unanimous view that the incident was the latest in a series of mistakes that have favoured Juventus and devalued the race for the league championship title.

The debate has also widened and revolves around the question of whether Italian referees are totally objective and whether they are unwilling to make decision against such major football institutions such as Juventus.

Before the outburst forced the suspension, Mr Veltroni told parliament that the football federation had promised there would be changes to the way referees are selected in future.

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