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Italian Soccer's Armageddon
A scandal involving some of the major clubs sheds doubts over soccer credibility.
Roberto Spiezio (seong)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2006-05-15 05:48 (KST)   
Juventus F.C. -- one of the most important and winning soccer clubs in Europe -- playing in "Serie B" the second Italian league; their top-players Alessandro Del Piero, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Trezeguet sold; sponsorships, TV royalties and ad rights' contracts revised and re-negotiated for a remarkable loss of money. At least one "Serie A" tournament victory revoked, two managers arrested; similar measures against other major clubs like Fiorentina, Milan and Lazio.

Science Fiction? Sadly, no. This is what is going to happen, should the investigation being carried out by four attorneys in Italy be demonstrated.

A criminal system already named "Calciopoli" after "Tangentopoli," the massive bribery system discovered in early 1990's in the business and political world, may have been governing football for years. Club and federation managers, managers at GEA World, the most powerful sports agent firm in Italy, journalists, referees and other accomplices might have altogether influenced several matches in the past months and years. More than 40 people are currently under inquiry by Italian magistrates, and this seems to be just the tip of the iceberg.

The accusations made against Juventus's management are clear and severe: conspiracy for sport fraud, sport fraud, even kidnapping - Luciano Moggi, sport director of Juventus, is being accused of locking a referee and his staff in the rehearsal room after calling a "non-favorable" game for his team.

So far, several Italian sports officials have resigned or been suspended from their positions, including almost all the federation delegates chosen to participate in the FIFA World Cup in less than a month.

In Italy, it's said that "trouble never comes alone," and this is the case: Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus and Italy's goalkeeper, has been suspected of betting money on European sport events, in spite of a law forbidding any player to do so. Not to risk his place on the national team, he has already spoken with investigators about these facts by saying he gambled, but only in a legal fashion.

The sentiment in the Italian sports universe nowadays is of unbelief and shock. Common people and deluded football fans keep repeating that it's necessary to "zero everything," or start over. Even Francesco Totti, a key player in Italy, supports this idea.

After years of games supposedly being fixed, tournaments won suspiciously, and, of course, a great deal of money flowing like an unstoppable river across the always thirsty game pitches, the Judgment Day seems to have arrived. Whatever Italian justice will ascertain, it's quite clear a system is over and a new one will have to be built, not based on the corruption and moral decay emerging from the inquiry.

I think the political world will intervene, as it did after "Tangentopoli," to "save the savable," maybe through a government decree once the government is formed and in charge in a few weeks.

But before considering the devastating effects in the long run, I think it's necessary to consider an immediate effect, in light of the participation in the Germany World Cup: the glamorous loss of credibility for Italian football. Will the other federations look at FIGC - Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio, the Italian football federation - suspiciously? Will any decision of the referee - however correct - during the games not be criticized and passed through x-rays to detect the smallest sign of "fixing"? Will the usual stereotypes about Italians - clever, lack of civic sense, inclination to trick and cheat, to name a few - be confirmed?

Once again, because of the supposed dishonesty of a bunch of people without scruples, it's easy to guess the entire nation will get involved. What to do then? The Italian team will have to face a really hard enterprise, and to show their superiority - true or not - on the game pitch.

Because of this scandal, Italy will have to keep a low profile. Italian football has lost our trust. Now it has to get back to deserving our Sunday afternoons spent with an ear glued to the radio speakers while our wives and girlfriends are blaming us because we never take them out. Now it has to earn back our passion and the evenings spent in front of TV watching hours of meaningless debates about a single controversial decision in a secondary game. Now it's time to change, and - hopefully - the change will start from the World Cup.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Roberto Spiezio

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