Rome: FIFA president Sepp Blatter has blasted Italian football over a strike which has caused the postponement of the opening weekend of the new Serie A season.
The Italian league's scheduled start last Saturday was delayed after the Players' Union opted to strike over the failure to agree on a collective contract.
Players and clubs had refused to sign a new deal to replace the old collective contract that ran out a year ago.
Speaking at the opening of a beach soccer tournament at Marina di Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, Blatter said: "It was wrong, professional football needs respect.
"Professional football needs to respect the clubs, the media, the (advertising) partners and the fans all over the world.
"It is wrong to start the season without football because the players are on strike.
"One shouldn't arrive at a situation in which a season cannot begin. It's a question of respect for the fans who follow football all over the world.
"Whoever is responsible for this situation, it is like going to La Scala in Milan and waiting for the start of a grand opera which never begins.
"Football is also a social and cultural matter.
"Italy is the country of football, here football is more than a game, it's a religion."
Negotiations were ongoing Thursday between the Players' Union and representatives of the Football League.
The Football League has proposed an interim collective contract to run until the end of this season, which president Maurizio Beretta claims the Union is considering.
The main stumbling block in the contract is article seven, regarding the training conditions for players dropped from the first team squad.
The clubs want to be able to bar players from their training ground, with the Italian Federation providing a centralised training complex for players in such a situation, while the players want to have the right to train with their clubs even if they've been dropped from the first team squad.