Football: Roma 'ultra' charged over Cup final shootings

ROME - Police in Rome have charged a man suspected of shooting three Napoli fans on the fringes of the Italian Cup final against Fiorentina with attempted manslaughter, media reported Sunday.

The Cup final, won 3-1 by Napoli at Rome's Olympic Stadium on Saturday following a delay caused by hardline Napoli fans, was marred by violent clashes between Napoli supporters and suspected fans of capital club Roma.

Three Napoli fans were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds, one of whom is reported to be in an artificial coma as surgeons decide on how best to extract a bullet which has punctured a lung and lodged near his spinal cord.

A fourth man, believed to be a fan of Roma, was also taken to hospital. He was questioned by police on Saturday night in relation to the incidents prior to kick-off.

Domestic news agency ANSA reported on Sunday police had arrested a hardline 'ultra' fan from Roma, Daniele De Santis, and charged him with attempted manslaughter.

He has been accused of launching flares at Napoli fans during clashes in the city prior to the match and then shooting in their direction after they reacted violently.

The report said 48-year-old De Santis is already known to the authorities. Reports late on Saturday initially said surgeons had extracted a bullet from the back of one of the fans, a 30-year-old named as Ciro Esposito.

A report Sunday morning in Corriere dello Sport, however, said surgeons had yet to remove the bullet, which was lodged dangerously close to the spinal cord after puncturing a lung, for fear of leaving the fan paralysed.

Esposito, described as "critical but stable", was scheduled to be transferred to the city's Gemelli hospital, which is said to contain a specialist neurosurgical unit.

An updated report by ANSA on Sunday morning claimed the man's life was still in danger, with doctors describing his condition as "desperate" and adding: "the next 24 hours will be decisive".

Esposito's parents are reported to have travelled to Rome during the night. Police also arrested a 33-year-old fan from Napoli and handed him a five-year stadium ban for resisting arrest and injuring a public official.

The latest violence to hit Italian football has caused indignation in Italy with several editorials lamenting the lack of real action to tackle the scourge.

New Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was one of several VIP's watching the surreal events unfold in the Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

The final was delayed for 45 minutes after Napoli 'ultras' fans ordered the team not to play after news of the shootings had filtered through to their Curva Nord (North End).

Hardline supporters often hold great sway within major clubs and discussions between dozens of officials and Napoli captain Marek Hamsik were held before the Slovakian forward was ushered to speak to a leading 'ultra' holding court at the front of the stands.

A report in Spanish-language newspaper Mundo Deportivo alleged after the match that the ultra in question was the son of a Camorra mafia boss.

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis was later asked about the fans' influence in causing the delay of the final and he told reporters: "The fans give their hearts and passion to the shirt right to the end.

"So to talk with those groups without the police present seems to me a sign of responsibility both on the part of the organisers and the fans."

The incidents, however, have damaged a league already suffering from the loss of big name stars to more attractive league's in England, Spain and Germany.

Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella said Italian football had suffered another knock.

"It's not the first time I've seen this. I experienced it when I was playing at Roma," said Montella, referring to incidents during a 2004 Roma v Lazio derby when fans rioted and demanded the match be called off after false rumours spread that a young fan had been killed by police before kick-off.

"But unfortunately this is what Italian football is like. And it's a shame because there's a risk that players, including Italian players, will opt to play elsewhere."