Soccer-Related Deaths in Italy and More

Italian soccer is in shambles yet again, following two killings within a week in soccer-related riots. First, a team official was kicked to death on the field following a lower-division game. Then on Friday, a policeman was killed in a riot in Catania during the Sicilian derby with Palermo, after an explosive device was thrown into his car. Local fans blamed visitors from mafia stronghold Palermo; other evidence suggests a deliberate hit against the police inspector, who was to testify against local gang members in a criminal trial. Officials first called off all games at every level from Serie A down to amateurs; after negotiations that have gone to the highest levels of the government, the season will resume this weekend, but with no fans allowed in any stadia that don’t meet stringent security requirements. (As of now, that’s just four in the whole country – Rome, Siena, Torino, and, ironically, Palermo.)

Wednesday was 2007’s first full international day, with some 50 national teams in action around the world. Key results: England lost at home to Spain, 1-0; Argen­ti­na beat France, 1-0, in Paris. The U.S. is hosting Mexico in Phoenix as we go to press.

The long-rumored sale of storied Liverpool FC finally happened; the buyers are Ameri­cans George Gillett and Tom Hicks, owners of the Montreal Canadiens, and the Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers, respectively. Locally, Hicks is known as a major G.W. Bush crony and former UT regent and head of the ethically challenged UTIMCO slush … er, endowment … fund. Merseyside fans consider themselves lucky at that; other recent Reds suitors included Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (deposed shortly after his purchase attempt fell apart), and Dubai Holdings, the equity arm of the United Arab Emirates.

American defender Oguchi Onyewu’s Premier League debut last weekend with Newcastle was a qualified success: his team lost 2-1 to Fulham, but the 24-year-old impressed his coach and teammates; they’ll look for him to take a leading role in what has been a porous Magpies backline.

Major League Soccer announced its 2007 schedule this week, and the major talking point was that David Beckham (oh, yeah, and his L.A. Galaxy teammates, presumably) will indeed play in every MLS city, even though he won’t join the team until midseason. In all, 26 of the team’s 30 games will be nationally televised.

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david beckham, george gillett, tom hicks, Oguchi Onyewu

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