- Associated Press - Friday, June 27, 2014

NAPLES, Italy (AP) - More than 7,000 people attended the funeral of Ciro Esposito, the Napoli fan who was shot during fan violence before last month’s Italian Cup final.

Esposito, who was allegedly shot by Roma fan Daniele De Santis, died on Wednesday - 50 days after the incident. He was 29.

“Thank you all, a horrible thing happened but we never lost our peace,” said Esposito’s mother, Antonella. “We have made you proud, you make us proud. We all prayed together for Ciro.

“Let Ciro’s sacrifice not be in vain. Hold up high the symbol of the sport in the name of Ciro Esposito.”

A deafening applause and chants of “Olé olé olé Ciro, Ciro” rang out as Esposito’s coffin - draped in Napoli shirts and scarves - was brought into the square in Scampia, a suburb of Naples on Friday.

Many people were in tears and even more wore t-shirts in his name, while there was also a huge banner. Several of his friends held a blown-up photo of a smiling Esposito.

“Ciro is in the hearts of all Neapolitans,” the Mayor of Naples, Luigi De Magistris, said. “Those who didn’t guarantee public safety must pay. Antonella is the symbol of Naples.”

Esposito was at the head of a group which ran to stop De Santis, after he was allegedly seen making threats against a bus carrying Napoli fans ahead of the May 3 final.

Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis and player Lorenzo Insigne also attended the funeral, as well as Giovanni Malago, president of the Italian Olympic Committee.

“The fact that we won that Italian Cup doesn’t have any value,” De Laurentiis said. “We want to win trophies with our heads held high, with honor and respect.

“That night was the death of Italian football, represented by Ciro, who was shot while defending a bus carrying children and families. I hope his death allows football to start again, to again find a culture of sportsmanship. We are too divided, forgetting that we are all Italian.”

Malago announced a prize in Esposito’s name, and his family will decide its recipient.

Thousands of people had also paid their final respects to Esposito during a public viewing in Naples late Thursday and early Friday.

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