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Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009

Hooliganism rears its head to mar West Ham win

LONDON (AP) A fan was stabbed during large-scale violence before West Ham met Millwall on Tuesday while the English League Cup match was interrupted by several pitch invasions.

Metropolitan Police said hundreds of fans were involved in the disorder before the game between the London neighbors at Upton Park. One man, said to be age 44, was stabbed close to the stadium and taken to a hospital. Police said he was in stable condition.

The violence was condemned by the Football Association.

"We absolutely condemn all of the disorder that has occurred at Upton Park this evening both inside and outside of the ground," the F.A. said in a statement.

"We will be working with all parties, including the police and clubs, to establish the facts surrounding tonight's events.

"We strongly expect all culprits to be banned from football for life. They have no place in our game."

Several hundred fans confronted each other in streets close to the stadium, and police revealed CCTV footage of supporters hurling bottles and bricks at officers outside Upton Park.

Inside the ground, fans of both teams taunted each other, and stewards and police, some of them using batons, struggled to stop West Ham fans getting at the Millwall supporters. West Ham supporters ran onto the field several times, many of them after their team went ahead in extra time.

The teams walked off the field but returned after a few minutes. At the end of the game, which the Hammers won 3-1, more of their fans ran onto the field to celebrate their win, some of them goading the visiting Millwall fans.

West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola, a former Chelsea star who has spent several years in the English game, said he never expected trouble.

"I've been involved in difficult games and things happened. Here, I've played seven years and I've never seen it like this," Zola said. "It's certainly not good for football. I was completely shocked. Totally.

"I knew it was a game that meant a lot for the two sets of supporters, but I didn't imagine it like this. What can I say? I'm a sport man.

"I love the game. I love to go on the pitch and try and make it exciting for the supporters and enjoyable for everybody to watch. This was beyond my powers."

Split ratified in Italy

MILAN , Italy (AP) Italy's top flight Serie A clubs confirmed they will split from the second-division Serie B sides in an attempt to make up ground on England's Premier League and Spain's La Liga.

The move is based on the English clubs' 1992 breakaway which transformed the sport and made the Premier League the richest in the world.

The leagues will split from the start of the 2010-11 season, meaning the Serie A clubs will no longer have to pay any money to their Serie B counterparts.

There is also the possibility that the clubs, as with England, will negotiate a collective television rights deal. Currently they negotiate individually, resulting in the larger clubs, such as AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus, taking the bulk of the money and leaving little for the rest.

Over the summer there was great embarrassment in Italy when two of its biggest stars — Milan's Kaka and Inter's Zlatan Ibrahimovic — moved to clubs in Spain, seen as further indication of the dwindling power of the once-mighty Italian League.

The split was approved in July but was ratified on Tuesday after a meeting of club presidents. Maurizio Beretta was elected president for the two divisions, but they will operate as separate entities.

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