RIZZICONI, Italy - The Italy national team trained Sunday on a pitch that was confiscated from a crime syndicate to show support for the fight against the mafia.
Cesare Prandelli's team were welcomed onto the pitch by around 1,000 spectators. The initiative was organized by Libera — an association that co-ordinates groups trying to stop organized crime.
"The fight against the mafia happens on the ground, but above all in Rome, in parliament," Libera president Luigi Ciotti said. "The real fight against the mafia is done with social policies, defending jobs, starting with those who have them.
"I invite the football federation to join Libera's network of 1,600 associations without political colours."
Calabria's 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate is today considered more powerful than the Sicilian mafia and has become one of the world's biggest cocaine traffickers.
"It's the third time we've inaugurated this pitch," Ciotti added. "Either we really put ourselves to work for change, or it will all be in vain. Change starts with each one of us."
Italy normally trains in the town of Coverciano on the outskirts of Florence but are instead in the small Calabrian town of Rizziconi.
"Don't give up, don't ever give up," Prandelli said. "Ciotti is right. These people won't be left alone. There is a tomorrow. We will give future purpose to this day."
Ciotti presented all the team to the parents of Domenico Gabriele — the 11-year-old who was killed while he played football on Calabrian team Crotone's pitch.
Former Italy midfielder Gennaro Gattuso was also present. The AC Milan player was born in Calabria.