Italy to train on former mafia territory

ROME - It was once a base for one of Italy's most feared mafia organisations but now a field in Calabria is set to become a training ground for the national football team as they push towards Euro 2012 qualification.

The land in Rizziconi - confiscated from the 'Ndrangheta criminal organisation in 2003 - is likely to play host to the Azzurri for training sessions in August, October or November, the Italian football federation said in a statement.

The symbolic move is an attempt to show Italy is winning its fight as a nation again mafia organisations.

On Wednesday, federation officials examined the facility, which has been converted into five-a-side pitches where 120 children between six and 14 play football.

Rizziconi, at the end of Italy's 'boot' has long been a centre of activity for the powerful 'Ndrangheta with the city council dissolved in 2001 because of the group's infiltration.

"The national team coming brings great hope and encouragement for all young people in the area who are looking to turn the corner," Pino De Masi, regional representative for anti-mafia group Libera, told reporters.

Italy, who have their national headquarters in the lush green fields of Tuscany, are five points clear in Group C and within touching distance of reaching next year's finals in Poland and Ukraine.

Their next qualifier is in the Faroe Islands on September 2.


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