04/22/2012 01:07 EDT | Updated 06/22/2012 05:12 EDT

Genoa fans force players to remove shirts in protest that interrupts Serie A match

GENOA, Italy - Genoa players stripped off their shirts in a gesture of apology to angry, flare-throwing fans on Sunday as their protests forced a 45-minute suspension of the team's 4-1 loss to Siena in Serie A.

Genoa is in danger of being relegated and the gesture was an apparent way for the players to acknowledge they were not worthy of wearing the club's shirt.

The unusual scenes came as protests broke out among Genoa supporters early in the second half as their team trailed 4-0.

Fans threw flares onto the pitch and climbed atop barriers as they were faced by stewards in riot gear at the Luigi Ferraris stadium, forcing families with small children to flee.

Also, Genoa forward Bosko Jankovic was forced to leave his seat on the bench after an argument with fans.

Genoa captain Marco Rossi spoke with the fans at one point and then removed his shirt before gathering some of his teammates' shirts in an attempt to appease the supporters.

That seemed to work as the fans eventually calmed down — while Siena and the referee went into the changing room — and the match resumed in the 54th minute without incident.

"This violence is unacceptable," Italian football federation president Giancarlo Abete said. "These are not fans. I hope these people are found and condemned. They shouldn't ever be allowed to enter stadiums again."

Genoa president Enrico Preziosi was similarly critical of the fans' behaviour.

"It's upsetting that 60 or 100 people have the impunity to do and say what they feel like without being stopped and sent home," Preziosi said. "It's not possible that they take over the stadium and impose their laws."

Franco Brienza had scored twice for Siena, and Mattia Destro and Luigi Giorgi also found the net before the suspension.

Cristiano Del Grosso scored an own goal for Genoa in the 79th.

Genoa has the worst defence in the league and is fighting to avoid relegation.

The scene was reminiscent of the Italy-Serbia match at the same stadium in October 2010, which was stopped by violent clashes between Serbia supporters and police.

"There are laws and they need to be applied," Abete said. "We already paid the price in Genoa with the national team."

The protests came just a week after all Italian matches were cancelled following the death of Piermario Morosini in a Serie B game due to cardiac arrest.