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Italy's squad staying at Confed Cup hotel amid protests

The Canadian Press

6/21/2013 7:14:23 PM

SALVADOR, Brazil -- Italy's squad has decided to remain inside the team hotel at the Confederations Cup after anti-government demonstrations occurred nearby.

The decision came after Italy arrived in the northeastern city of Salvador on Thursday, when police shot tear gas canisters and rubber bullets to disperse a small crowd of protesters trying to break through a barrier blocking one of the city's streets.

Also in Salvador on Thursday, a bus carrying FIFA logos was one of several parked vehicles attacked with stones, local organizing committee spokesman Saint-Clair Milesi said.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli denied speculation that Italy had asked to withdraw from the tournament.

"We have avoided leaving the hotel and there is some concern but we're not considering returning home," Prandelli said Friday.

More protests are expected in Salvador on Saturday when Italy meets host Brazil, part of an ongoing wave of demonstrations that involved 1 million people across the country Thursday.

There have been violent protests before each of Brazil's two matches at the tournament so far.

"As sportsmen we're hoping that tomorrow there is a great football match at the stadium and that nothing happens outside the stadium," Prandelli said. "It would be a paradox if inside the stadium we're trying to put on a show for the fans and 150 metres outside the stadium there is violence."

The Italian Football Federation told The Associated Press that the decision to stay inside the hotel was made following an alert from local authorities and that it was "standard procedure" following instances of public disorder.

"If someone protests and expresses their unhappiness they should be respected, as long as the protest is done in a non-violent manner," Italy midfielder Riccardo Montolivo said.

Italy is staying in a hotel located 7 kilometres (4 miles) from Salvador's Arena Fontenova stadium.

Each of the eight teams in the tournament have police escorts when they move around, and Italy has a security co-ordinator from Rome co-ordinating arrangements with local officials.

Brazil's squad has had extra security since arriving in Salvador.

"Civil protests can stimulate improvement for the country, but when they turn violent it becomes worrisome," Prandelli said. "When there are a lot of people it becomes difficult to control those who turn violent."

Prandelli said that none of his players have expressed fear over the protests or a desire to leave Brazil.

"No, not that I'm aware of," he said. "We're focusing on the match. We're attentive to what is going on around us but we don't have any worries of that sort."