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LA STAMPA

In Italy, Ancient Ruins Paved Over To Make Way For Soccer Field

In the southern town of Oria, a shiny new "mini" soccer field and gym facilities have been built over the precious remains of 15 Messapian tombs dating from the Third Century B.C. The mayor defends the choice of youth activity over ancie

In Italy, Ancient Ruins Paved Over To Make Way For Soccer Field
Valentina Roberto

ORIA - Soccer may be Italy's national pastime, but archeological findings are its greatest treasure. The two faces of Italian culture are clashing in the town of Oria, in the southern region of Puglia, where a shiny new soccer field has been built over ancient ruins from the Third Century B.C.

The mayor has defended the pragmatism of the project, while preservationists and some local townspeople are outraged at the building of a "calcio a cinque" (five-on-five soccer) field, about the size of a basketball court, along with gym facilities, on the site of what had remained of 15 ancient Messapian tombs.

The new sports facility has been constructed in the courtyard of the palace of the missionaries of San Vincenzo on the Sant'Andrea hillside, an area that had been officially placed under rigid controls by a 1998 national preservationist decree.

Oria Mayor Cosimo Pomarico defended the decision. "The soccer field and gym are useful for the community. Now our young people have a good place to go," he said. "We didn't have any facility like this; and Oria has no shortage of archeological sites."

Pomarico cited the interrupted construction of a planned new police station after antiquities were discovered during excavations; and the site still has been left as it was. "In that area today, there's just more rubble. Compared to a pile of abandoned land that's not even accessible to tourists, we will have a soccer field, which is certainly more useful to citizens. "

Leading the opposition to the project is Franco Arpa, a retired local police inspector, who has circulated a petition calling for an investigation into how the cemetery was destroyed. "We want clarity because not everyone thinks it is better to play pick-up soccer matches where the cradle of our civilization once stood."

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