Soccer madness

Staff reporter DAVID KELLY and photographer DAVID EVANS were in Naples for the stormy match which brought Swindon Town their third trophy in just over a year. They were on the field with the players when the violence flared.

SWINDON Town last night won the Anglo-Italian football tournament in a match that ended in a riot and ugly violence.
   Only minutes from the end of the game in Naples, with Swindon holding a comfortable three-goal lead, raging fans went on the rampage.
Hundreds of concrete bench seats were torn up and smashed into small chunks which were thrown onto the pitch sending players and officials scurrying to the other side of the field for safety.
   Fires were started all around the stadium as the hooligans raged out of control. Bottles and blazing cushions were thrown as the match dissolved in chaos 12 minutes from full-time.
   During the second half, as the Swindon players had asserted their superiority, the fans had grown increasingly disinterested. Shortly after two boys ran across the pitch chased by ground officials,. a section of the crowd took up a frenzied chant.
   Then the riot exploded. It was a bewildering sight.
   What looked like pieces of paper at first were suddenly chunks of concrete with razor sharp edges and they were hurled onto the field by the storming fans.
   The vandals were expressing their disgust of home team Napoli's performance, but the hail of rocks rained down towards everyone on the field.
   At first the players tried to continue but it became clear that it was too dangerous. Then the Austrian referee Paul Schiller, blew his whistle to end the game.

Dash to safety
   The Swindon team went up to collect the solid gold trophy, fighting their way between the enthusiastic fans on the side of the stadium opposite the barrage of concrete.
   The hail went on and Swindon's manager, Fred Ford, grabbed the trophy and ran towards the trouble  spot to show them the cup. It almost worked; the applause began but then turned again to the frightening barrage.
   He was forced to duck and weave his way across to the safety fence over the players' tunnel. The remainder of the team held back and then a few of them sprinted across, escaping injury by a miracle.
   The rest of the team stood near the centre of the field and when the vandals had been driven back up the terraces, they too made the dash to safety.
   The scenes of violence and mob behaviour that followed almost defy description. The vandals began to tear the stadium apart, smashing seats and starting fires.
   The police seemed few in numbers and totally unable to deal with the situation. Chaos reigned on the terraces and as I stood and watched this amazing sight the chunks of concrete began to fly through the air towards me and nearby cameramen.
   We picked a moment when the hooligans seemed more intent on damage rather than injury and sprinted for cover.
   Outside the stadium in the streets of Naples, all was chaos. Riot police fought with the enraged mob and tear gas was used. Mounted police charged the hooligans and many people were injured and rushed off for treatment with wounds pouring blood.

   Under the stadium the shocked players and officials waited for the violence to subside and Orfeo Pianelli, the vice-president of the Italian Football League, told me he was ashamed to be an Italian.
   He praised the conduct of both teams for the clean, sporting game.
   When at last we boarded the players' coach, the atmosphere was electric with expectation. Players and officials wives sat in the inside seats as the coach pulled up the ramp.
   The overwhelming greeting from those waiting was applause but at least two objects hit the coach and players quickly pulled down the blinds and called for the lights to be extinguished.
   The centre of Naples was one massive traffic jam and whenever groups of young people approached the vehicle they were treated with a certain amount of caution. But they were all friendly fans.

'Never seen scenes like it' - Ford

SWINDON'S team manager Fred Ford said he had never seen such scenes at a football match before.
   He thought taking the cup over to the strife-torn stand might turn the tide and at first it seemed to, he explained. But none of the concrete chunks hit him as he ran for cover.
   "The players feel a bit let down because the banquet that was to have followed the match was cancelled," he said.
   He praised the team's performances during the stay in Italy.
  "We have had a good trip and not had a goal scored against us. We have got a good name in Rome, Turin and Naples, and the players have played exceedingly well.
   "We were the better side today, but at the same time the ball ran for us," he said.
   Mr. Ford said there had been times when the players had turned the other cheek and he praised their conduct both on and off the field.
   Stan Harland, the team captain, said the team had played exceptionally well, but said they had turned in top performances in their other games, particularly in the "rehearsal" match against Napoli last Saturday.
   None of the players had been injured by the flying concrete, he said. And Austrian referee Paul Schiller said the Swindon performance had been equal to those of Manchester City, Arsenal and Newcastle in the other European matches he had refereed this season.
   He had never witnessed such violence in a stadium, he said.

   Praise too came from Mr. Don Pearce, chairman of the Supporters' Club, who said he did not think any of his party had been frightened.
   "At no time, it seemed to me, was there any danger to us from the crowd. A lot of supporters will regret they were not in Naples today," he commented.
   Mr. Pearce had organised the trip in just three days - most of them without sleep. And today when he returned with his weary band he was 'off' on another job for the supporters' club before he would consider going to bed.