On February 2, 2007, Palermo traveled to Catania’s Stadio Angelo Massimino for a Sicilian derby that unfortunately changed football throughout Italy.
The fixture commenced without Palermo supporters in the stands. They were not able to get into the stadium until the start of the second half. Testimony from the visiting side claimed this was caused by poor planning and organization on Catania’s behalf.
In the 58th minute referee Stefano Farina temporarily suspended play with the visitors leading 1-0. Apparently, the tear gas being used by police seeped onto the pitch and affected players.
Several athletes were complaining of difficulty breathing and more were seen squirting water into their eyes.
What, actually, caused the rhubarb in the stands was accredited to a controversial goal scored by Palermo’s Andrea Caracciolo. After that, the rowdy Catania supporters expressed their disagreement and wreaked havoc in the form of smoke-bombs and fire crackers.
Police were forced to intervene and tossed teargas in hopes of subduing the crowd.
The match restarted 40 minutes later, and ended in Palermo’s favor 2-1.
The brouhaha continued well after the end of the match outside the stadium. In the end, hundreds were sent to the hospital with minor injuries and one officer lay dead.
Chief Inspector Filippo Raciti died in the melee of violence. Initial reports claimed Raciti died from a firecracker striking and exploding in his face, but was later revealed his death was due to severe liver damage from sustaining forceful blows.
Luca Pancalli, the Commissioner of the Italian Federation, suspended all football fixtures in the country for club and national team for a short period after the tragedy. His idea was to meet with mayors and owners to discuss and resolve said problem. Pancalli stated their goals were “to identify those drastic measures that will allow us to restart. Otherwise, we’re not restarting the games.”
The league eventual started back up but Catania had to endure heavy punishment. (1) The Stadio Angelo Massimino was closed down and all home games were played in another area for the remainder of the season. (2) All said home games were played in the empty stadium behind closed doors also for the remainder of the season.