By Tony Attwood
Would you believe it. A week or so ago, while I was staying in Antwerp with Walter, we sat down together to look at an article which would outline just how one would go about fixing football matches. There was no allegation that match fixing was taking place, but rather, if you wanted to do it, this is what you might do.
This morning I wrote the article up and posted it. Now at lunchtime I discover that all hell has broken loose as the police have moved into the Italian national team’s training camp ahead of the Euros to let defender Domenico Criscito know he is under investigation for match fixing.
That is the coincidence – but for the rest – it doesn’t look as if the people under investigation were doing what I suggested. But still it is a strange coincidence.
10 other players, some of them top guys like the captain of Lazio were put under investigation, along with nine non-players including the manager of Juventus – who had two championships removed after match fixing investigations. They recently started a campaign to claim those two removed championships back, claiming that they had won them – and actually celebrated doing so when they won the league this past season.
This latest event was a good old-fashioned dawn raid but a lot of it focussed on gambling (especially in the case of Domenico Criscito of Genoa). And not just a dawn raid, a dawn raid just before the Euros. This was a surprise, since until now most of the action has focussed on Serie B matches.
Omar Milanetto, the former captain of Genoa was arrested, along with Christian Bertani of Sampdoria, plus the guys who are said to have paid players to lose games.
For balance (the sort of balance Untold is famed for!) I must report that the Juventus manager’s lawyer said, “Conte’s reaction is that of someone who’s completely innocent and strongly determined to prove his total innocence.”
What is interesting is that the investigation is turning up all sorts of people. When the last big scandal hit, five clubs (I think) were found guilty and got points deductions. Now it is as if those not involved last time around are thinking that they are missing out and so have demanded a seat at the crooks’ table. Siena president Massimo Mezzaroma for example has been placed under investigation – I don’t remember Siena getting involved last time.
“The searches are connected to what’s happening with Siena,” said Cremona prosecutor Roberto Di Martino. “There are seven, eight games being looked at and there have been statements that make us think they were manipulated. The searches involved players, coaches and directors of the club, including Conte and Mezzaroma.”
There are many in Italy who like to say that such events don’t mean much – just as there are many in England who say that just because Untold can show some oddities in the ways games turn out it doesn’t mean much. There are even some who suggest that we wouldn’t worry, if Arsenal benefited from match fixingand only complain because we don’t win the league – a sort of “I’m in the moral gutter and you would join me if you had half the chance” approach which I find both repugnant and bizarre.
But to be fair, this even in Italy is just a notice of investigation, nor a guilty verdict. However it is a widespread investigation and seems now to include Lazio, Napoli, Sampdoria, Brescia, Bari, Lecce, Palermo, and Genoa.
And here’s a bit more. La Repubblica reports today that there is a special interest in a meeting from a year ago in Genoa when players met with members of the club’s Ultra movement and a Bosnian criminal, which also implicates the trans-European gang The Gypsies.
Magistrates have been issuing arrest warrants for a year as part of the investigation and the sporting tribunal in Italy is convicting players before they even get to criminal trials. And at the end of this month a trial will start of 22 clubs, 52 players and 33 matches.
So the long and the short is that this is not 2006 Calciopoli all over again – this is not ref fixing but match-fixing.
The ceaseless work of the referees who report back to Untold on ref decisions in the Premier League show statically that there is something wrong – and thus far it doesn’t look like it is similar to the current round of problems in Italy.