Italian soccer widow's funeral speech moves nation

Updated: 2007-02-06 09:04

ROME, Feb 5 - It is a tale of two widows. Both Sicilian, both lost their policeman husbands to violence -- one to the Mafia, one to a soccer mob. Both their funeral speeches moved a nation inured to violence and sparked calls for change.

When Marisa Raciti spoke at her husband's funeral on Monday to plead for an end to soccer violence, to many Italians it was eerily reminiscent of a speech made in Sicily 15 years ago by another widow.

Both have now become national symbols against violence, linked by the rare opportunity for a common person to address an entire nation on live television with leaders sitting in the front pew.

"I said goodbye to him like I always did. I expected him to come home, maybe with a few scars but I never thought he would come back to me like this (in a coffin)," Raciti said at Monday's funeral in the cathedral of Catania.

Her husband, Filippo, 38, was killed on Friday night during a soccer riot. Many of those in the mob -- most likely including her husband's killer -- were too young to vote or smoke legally.

"I appeal to those youngsters who immaturely, stupidly, ridiculously, look at a policeman or anybody who wears a uniform, with contempt and hate," she said calmly at the funeral which was broadcast live nationwide.

"I hope that my husband, who was an educator in life, will remain an educator in death, that this death can really bring about change ... "

"These youngsters should think a little. Sports is something beautiful, violence is not. Violence just causes pain, too much pain, too much pain," she said, as many in the church and around the country cried.


Raciti's moving speech, applauded by the crowd in the cathedral and thousands of others outside, was the latest in a series of calls for authorities to crack down on soccer violence since her husband died.

Her emotional words brought back memories of May 25, 1992, when the entire nation also stopped to watch another funeral that turned out to be a landmark in the fight against the Mafia.

On that day, Rosaria Schifani delivered a bold personal challenge to the Mafia.

Her husband, Vito, was one of three police escorts blown apart in the huge highway bomb attack which killed Italy's top anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone and his wife two days before.

"I forgive you but you must get on your knees if you have the courage to change," she challenged the men of the Mafia.

Just as Schifani's chilling wail of pain was played over and over again on television 15 years ago, so was Raciti's calm challenge to young hooligans broadcast again and again on Monday on television and radio.

And, in an ironic twist of fate, one widow -- Raciti -- was from Catania and the other -- Schifani -- from Palermo -- the two cities whose archrival teams were involved in last Friday night's bloody Sicilian derby.

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