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LA STAMPA

Italy's National Soccer Team Takes Over Field Once Owned By Mob

In crime-infested Calabria, the famed Italian national soccer team takes a stand against local mob intimidation by training on a field confiscated from a notorious boss.

The Italian national team has won four World Cups (crystiancruz)
The Italian national team has won four World Cups (crystiancruz)

Worldcrunch NEWSBITES

When the national soccer team chooses your local field as a practice pitch, it is an honor that small-town sports enthusiasts dream about. But now Italy's national soccer team has chosen to turn a field confiscated from the mob into one of its training grounds, a somewhat more complicated honor.

The president of the Italian soccer federation, Giancarlo Abete, and national team coach Cesare Prandelli, said they want to bring the Azzurri – as the team is nicknamed, after its light blue official color -- to Rizziconi, a small village in the southern region of Calabria where the mafia has prevented local youth from playing Italy's most popular sport.

The initiative was originally the idea of Father Luigi Ciotti, founder of the anti-mafia association Libera. "For seven years, the mob has used threats and pressure to stop anyone playing there," said Father Ciotti. "A strong signal is necessary."

The boss of the local ‘Ndrangeta mob, Teodoro Crea, was the owner of Rizziconi's only football pitch, before it was confiscated in 2000, and put under the municipal administration's control. But later even the councillors of the municipality were convicted for organized crime association, and Rizziconi was put under control of national special administrators.

In 2003, the football field became a local symbol of the fight against the mafia, which later led mobsters to vandalize it, and keep locals from playing on it. In 2007, Father Ciotti and Francesco Forgione, president of the parliamentary anti mafia committee, renovated the pitch and organized a match there. No other match has been played since. But now, the boys from the national team are on their way to try to give the field – and the town – a new life that lasts.

Read the full article in Italian.

photo - crystiancruz

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