Italy, a country associated with fine wine, exquisite cuisine, beautiful women, and above all Calcio. The Italians are very passionate when it comes to the latter, but unfortunately their beloved game has a stark history of corruption, and scandal.
The recent Calciopli scandal that shock the football world in the summer of 2006, is just one incident in a long list of problems which has rocked Italian football (and in particular Serie A) since the English introduced the game to the Peninsula. Too many followers of Calcio, this recent scandal did not come as a shock, and in particular to Italians who have become accustomed to corruption, and scandal within their beloved game.
If you look as far back as 1926-27 (the Torino missing Scudetto incident), you will find that each proceeding decade contained at least one event that was surrounded in corruption or scandal. The majority of Italian fans have grown accustomed to this, and are generally not shocked when a new story hits the headlines. It is as though it has become part of Calcio in the peninsula.
There is a theory in Italy that players, officials (and similar) do not fix matches, but rather twist the concept of match fixing – and this is seen as the norm by everyone involved in Calcio. It is hard to explain what I mean when I state they twist the concept of match fixing, but I will try and explain it with a few examples.
It is not easy to fix a soccer match, as all of the games are public events, played in front of crowds (and sometimes TV cameras); with at least three match officials, twenty-two players, two managers, coaching staff etc. There are various ways of getting around fixing a particular result, and it is kind of a tacit agreement over a result. The lower echelon of Italian soccer is renowned for this kind of agreement, and it is also common place at the end of season in Serie A. So what is this agreement? In essence it is ‘settling for a draw’.
Deliberately settling for a draw where the result ensures some mutual benefit to both parties is common in Italy, and since nothing has officially been agreed, nothing can ever be proved. Various bookmakers are aware of this, and you will generally see very short odds on a 0-0 result, or a straight draw.
An alleged recent example can be seen on the last matchday of the 2006/07 Serie B season, when third placed Genoa entertained second placed Napoli. Napoli just needed a point for automatic promotion, and Genoa would join them if they finished 10 points above fourth placed Piacenza. A goalless draw between the pair followed, and was enough to guarantee them both promotion to Serie A.
Towards the end of the 2004/05 Serie A season, both clubs from Rome were facing a relegation battle. At the start of the derby match, both clubs appeared to try, before several conversations took place on the pitch. The result? Only six shots were managed in the entire match, and the game ended 0-0 (a result which helped both clubs).
Even though the Italians accept this as part and parcel of Calcio, they were on the brunt end of a similar alleged result in Euro 2004. Due to UEFA taking head-to-head into consideration (before overall goal difference when ranking teams level on points), a situation arose in Group C where Sweden and Denmark only needed a high scoring draw in order for them both to progress. The match surprisingly finished 2-2, which was a sufficiently high score line to eliminate the Italians (who had lower-scoring draws with both the Swedes and Danes). It was quite ironic that the Italian fans contended the result, stating that the FIFA tie-breaker should have been used, as it would have stopped the Scandinavians half-heartedly playing out the match after the score became 2-2.
Another example of alleged match fixing can generally be seen (again) on the last matchday of the season. Generally a ‘big club’ (with nothing to play for), is playing a ‘small club’ (fighting a relegation battle), and the ‘small club’ usually get a favourable result (one which they normally would not achieve during the course of the season). Inevitably this leads to accusations of match fixing, but this is usually not the case, and it is another form of twisting the original concept.
So why is this not classed as match fixing? The answer is simple – no one expects the ‘big club’ to try to hard (especially in a match that is meaningless). This is worrying, but followers of Calcio have come to accept this.
On the last matchday in Serie A for the 2006/07 season, Reggina needed a victory to be certain of avoiding relegation, and they faced an AC Milan side guaranteed Champions League football. The result? A 2-0 home win for Reggina which guaranteed their safety.
Same season, but this time the example comes from Serie B. Spezia need a victory to be certain of avoiding relegation, and they faced a daunting away trip to Juventus, who had not lost at home all season (but were already guaranteed promotion). The result? A 3-2 win for Spezia which guaranteed their safety. The theory behind the above examples is simple – why try so hard, especially when you have nothing to play for?
The above examples have all been accepted as part and parcel of Calcio, but in some cases the authorities have clamped down, and punished the various parties involved in the scandal. Some of the most famous scandals have made world headlines in the soccer world, and the first of these dates back to the late 1920s.
The 1927 scudetto was taken away from Torino, after an alleged scandal involving their bitter rivals, Juventus. An enquiry found that Juventus defender, Luigi Allemandi, had been bribed by a Torino official, before the derby (for a sum of 50,000 lire). Torino were stripped of their first title, and surprisingly no one was awarded the 1927 scudetto.
In the summer of 2006, an alleged match fixing scandal hit the headlines, named Moggiopoli, after the Juventus general manager. The scandal was uncovered by the Italian police, implicating league champions Juventus, and other major teams including AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, and Reggina;when a number of telephone interceptions showed a thick network of relations between team managers and referee organisations. The teams involved in the scandal had been accused of rigging games, by selecting favourable referees. Juvetus were stripped of their scudetto, relegated, and docked points, whilst the other clubs involved had various points deducted.
To the majority of followers of Calcio, this did not come as a major shock, as many fans regard the referee as corrupt (unless proven otherwise). There are various (well known) examples of refereeing decisions which fans class as corrupt, as they decided key matches, or decided a scudetto: Maurizio Turone’s disallowed goal for Roma against Juventus in 1981; Fiorentina’s loss in the 1982 scudetto; Inter and Ronaldo’s lost penalty, against Juventus, in 1998.
There are hundreds of examples of alleged match fixing, throughout the history of Calcio, and there are various scandals which have come to light, which have been uncovered by the authorities. It seems that followers of Calcio have come to accept this over the years, and it is part of the mentality of the nation to accept corruption.
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