Italian football or Calcio is one of the country’s proudest traditions, but in the last six years, a string of corruption has been discovered within Italian Football masking the coveted sport under a dark cloud. Some of the biggest clubs in Italian Football and Europe have been found guilty and subsequently punished for match fixing and betting scandals by rigging games through selecting favourable referees via telephone interceptions and relationships between high profile figures in the sport.
The Italians are some of the most loyal and passionate football supporters in the world, with religion heavily influential within the clubs fans follow. So to have some of the top teams and figures in the game accused of match fixing for their own benefit was something of a shock.
The scandal ‘Calciopoli’ started in 2006 when four current Serie A teams, Juventus (champions at the time) AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio and Serie B side Reggina were accused of rigging games by selecting favourable referees, when a number of telephone interceptions showed a thick network of relations between team managers and referee organisations.
This brought disgrace to the prestigious sport and resulted in several colossal punishments being handed out to the teams involved, changing the landscape of the sport. Juventus were handed the harshest punishment, being stripped of two Serie A titles from 2005 and 2006 (both given to Inter Milan) and getting kicked out of the UEFA Champions League for the 2006-07 season and then relegated to Serie C1, which on appeal ended with relegation to Serie B with a 9 point deduction.
The other punishments handed down to the remaining four teams involved were all four remaining in Serie A, but with point deductions for next season; 15 for Fiorentina, 11 for Reggina, 8 for AC Milan and 3 for Lazio. Fiorentina were also thrown out of the UEFA Championships League and Lazio, the UEFA Cup (now known as the Europa League) for the 2006-07 season. Not only several top flight clubs suffered punishments, numerous prime time players including former Juventus managing director Luciano Moggi was banned for life from football.
It was a dark day for Italian Football and it was hoped it would never happen again, but in 2011 on June 1st a number of high profile football-related figures including Giuseppe Signori and Cristiano Doni (banned for three and a half years) were arrested by Italian police for alleged match fixing.
Cristiano Doni’s involvement was during his spell at Serie A club Atalanta, where he was captain. This put the club under scrutiny and they were deducted six points for the 2011-12 campaign for Doni’s involvement. Another Serie A club Siena were also accused of having paided players in order to win a match by more than three goals. Other lower league teams like Ascoli, Padova and Piacenza were also mentioned in the inquiry; Siena were found not guilty but Ascoli guilty and were deducted 6 points for the 2011-12 Serie A season.
The campaign then took another twist on 28th May when Stefano Mauri, Lazio’s former captain was arrested and placed under house arrest for alleged match fixing alongside Juventus’s Serie A-winning head coach Antonio Conte (due to his alleged involvement in match fixing during his period as Siena manager) who was also questioned. It got even bigger when Goalkeeper Domenico Criscito was kicked out of the Italian Euro 2012 23 man squad and arrested for possible involvement in the Last Bet scandal.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti then publicly suggested that football competitions in the country be suspended for at least two years and offered to withdraw Italy from Euro 2012, but FIFA rejected that proposal and Italy reached the final before being badly beaten 4-0 by reigning champions Spain.
The 2012 ‘Last Bet’ scandal is still on-going and until it has been officially dealt with, the country’s fragrant and colourful national game is still under that elusive dark cloud. The only thing known is current Serie A players/figures involved have disgraced a game which has been graced by idols such as Alessandro Del Piero, Roberto Baggio and Gianluigi Buffon.
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