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Calcio – A History of Corruption and Scandal
Italy is a country associated with great wine, beautiful cuisine, beautiful women and above all Calcio. Italians are very passionate when it comes to the latter, but unfortunately their favorite game has a heavy history of corruption and scandal.
The recent Calciopli scandal that rocked the football world in the summer of 2006 is just one incident in a long list of problems that have rocked Italian football (and Serie A in particular) since the English introduced the game to the peninsula. A huge fan of Calcio, this latest scandal came as no surprise, especially to Italians who are used to corruption and scandal in their favorite game.
If you look back to 1926-27 (the case of the lost Scudetto of Torino), you will find that every subsequent decade has at least one incident that was surrounded by corruption or scandal. Most Italian fans are used to it and generally aren’t surprised when news hits the headlines. It seems that it has become part of Calcio on the peninsula.
There is a theory in Italy that players, officials (and the like) do not fix matches, but distort the concept of matches – and this is shared by everyone in Calcio. It is difficult to explain when I said that they distort the concept of compatibility, but I will try to explain it with a few examples.
Fixing a football game is not easy because all games are public events, played in front of people (and sometimes TV cameras); with at least three match officials, twenty-two players, two managers, a coaching staff, etc. There are different ways to achieve a certain result, and this is a kind of tacit agreement on the result. The lower echelon of Italian football is notorious for this kind of deal, and it’s also common at the end of the season in Serie A. So what is this deal? Basically, this is “for a draw”.
Rather, drawing lots where the outcome provides mutual benefit to both parties is common in Italy, and since nothing is officially agreed upon, nothing can be proven. Various bookmakers are aware of this and you will usually see very short odds on 0-0 or straight draws.
The most recent example can be seen in the last match of the 2006/07 Serie B season, when third-placed Genoa hosted second-placed Napoli. Napoli needed just one point to progress automatically and Genoa will join them if they finish 10 points clear of fourth-placed Piacenza. A goalless draw between the pair was enough for them both to qualify for Serie A.
At the end of the 2004/05 Serie A season, both clubs in Rome were facing a collective struggle. At the start of the derby, both clubs tried, before some conversations took place on the pitch. The result? There were only six shots in the entire match and the game finished 0-0 (a result that helped both clubs).
Although the Italians accept this as part of Calcio, they were on the receiving end of this potential Euro 2004 result. Due to UEFA taking into account (before aggregate goal difference when ranking teams by points) ), a situation arose in Group C where Sweden and Denmark only needed a high-scoring draw to advance. The game surprisingly finished 2-2, a high enough line to see off the Italians (who had lesser draws with both the Swedes and the Danes). Unsurprisingly, Italian fans disputed the result, arguing that FIFA’s tie-breaker should have been used as it prevented the Scandinavians from enjoying a replay after the score was 2-2.
Another possible example of a match fixing can usually be seen on the last day of the season. Generally, the “big club” (with nothing to play for) plays the “small club” (struggling for relegation) and the “small club” usually gets a favorable result (what they usually do in during the course) season). Inevitably, this leads to accusations of fixing the match, but this is usually not the case, and this is another form of distortion of the original concept.
So why isn’t this classified as a compatibility fix? The answer is simple – no one expects the “big club” to try hard (especially in a meaningless game). It’s worrying, but Calcio fans have accepted it.
In the last Serie A match of the 2006/07 season, Regina needed a win to ensure they were guaranteed relegation from the Champions League. The result? A 2-0 home win for Regina that ensured their safety.
The same season, but this time the example comes from Serie B. Spezia need a win to ensure they avoid relegation, and they face a daunting trip to Juventus, who are unbeaten at home all season (but already guaranteed). The result? A 3-2 victory for Spezia that guaranteed their safety. The theory behind the above examples is simple – why try so hard, especially when you have nothing to play with?
The above examples were all accepted as part of Calcio, but in some cases the authorities repressed and punished the various parties involved in the scandal. Some of the most famous scandals in the world of football have made global headlines, with the first dating back to the late 1920s.
The 1927 Scudetto was taken from Torino after an alleged scandal with their bitter rivals Juventus. The investigation revealed that Juventus defender Luigi Allemandi was bribed by a Torino official before the derby (in the amount of 50,000 lira). Torino were denied their first title and, surprisingly, no one won the 1927 Scudetto.
In the summer of 2006, an alleged match-fixing scandal named Moggiopoli as Juventus general manager. The scandal, uncovered by Italian police, involved league champions Juventus and other major teams including AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Regina; when a series of phone conversations revealed the thick web of relationships between team managers and referee organizations. The teams involved in the scandal were accused of fixing the games by selecting favorable referees. Juventus were stripped of their Scudetto, relegated to the top flight and placed on points, while the other clubs involved lost various points.
For most of Calcio’s followers, this was not a major blow, as many fans consider the referee to be corrupt (if not proven). There are various (well-known) examples of refereeing decisions that fans consider corrupt because they decided key matches or scudatto: Maurizio Turone’s disallowed goal against Roma against Juventus in 1981; The defeat of “Fiorentina” in the Scudetto in 1982; Inter and Ronaldo lost on penalties against Juventus in 1998.
Throughout Calcio’s history, there are hundreds of alleged matches and various scandals that have been uncovered by the authorities. Calcio followers seem to have accepted this over the years and it is part of the nation’s mindset to accept corruption.
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