FIGC chief pledges action against ‘criminals’

The president of Italy's football federation (FIGC), Carlo Tavecchio, pledged to eradicate the "criminals and tricksters" following the eruption of a sports betting scandal which an investigating magistrate said underlined the "sick" nature of Italian football.

FIGC chief pledges action against 'criminals'
The president of Italy's football federation (FIGC), Carlo Tavecchio, pledged to eradicate the "criminals and tricksters" from the game. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

“We will rid Italian football of the criminals and tricksters,” Tavecchio said in an interview on the Mattino Cinque television programme a day after the “Dirty Soccer” scandal led to 50 arrests in connection with illegal match-fixing in 31 matches, mainly in Italy's lower professional leagues.

A former president of Serie A giants Napoli and an ex-Serie A player are among 70 people being probed by investigators from Catanzaro following months of wire-taps and investigation of club officials, players and criminals from eastern-Europe, according to reports in La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Mario Moxedano, the president of Serie D side Neapolis who was briefly the president of top flight club Napoli, was among those arrested on Tuesday as part of an investigation by prosecutors.

His son Raffaele Moxedano, the captain of Neapolis, was also arrested on suspicion of being involved in fixing five of the 31 matches under investigation.

Francis Obeng, a Ghanaian briefly on the books of Serie A side Roma, was reportedly detained by police while at the home of current Sampdoria player Afriyie Acquah on suspicion he helped “sell” matches of his current club, Santarcangelo (Lega Pro) for up to €10,000 a time.

The probe has seen police secretly record 10,000 conversations between players, club officials and betting syndicates with links to the Calabrian crime syndicate, the 'ndrangheta.

Running to 1,267 pages, it has focused largely on teams and clubs from Italy's Serie B downwards although one Serie A side, Sassuolo, has been implicated for a suspect Italian Cup game, against Pescara, in December 2014.

In all, 33 teams have been implicated.

Gazzetta's report said investigators have uncovered a system in which criminals could pay between €5,000-€50,000 to “buy” the outcome of a match, allowing individuals to place huge bets and reap the consequent rewards.

Elio Romano, one of the investigating magistrates, said the case highlighted a “sick” world in which the “fragility of players is intertwined with the cunning ruthlessness of sports managers and organised crime”.

“The most horrifying thing is to see what football has become,” Romano was quoted as saying in Gazzetta's report.

“What we're faced with is a new criminal drama in which the protagonists are making a mockery of the passions of true supporters. We need to make an urgent reform of the rules governing sports betting that has polluted the sports world and everything in it.

“Football is a sick world… in which the fragility of players, seduced by the myth of earning quick and easy money, is intertwined with the cunning ruthlessness of sports managers and organised crime against a backdrop of general indifference of the football clubs.”

It is the latest in a string of betting and other scandals to tarnish the reputation of Italian football.

Authorities uncovered compelling evidence of attempted or actual match-fixing related to betting in 1980 and 1986.

The first of these two “Totonero” scandals famously resulted in Paolo Rossi being banned for three years.

The ban was reduced to two years on appeal and Rossi returned to fire Italy to World Cup glory in Spain in 1982.

A major 2006 investigation into the corruption of referees resulted in Juventus being relegated to Serie B and a new scandal centred on betting on minor details of matches rather than results erupted in 2011.

Known as “Calcioscommesse” that investigation overshadowed Italy's Euro 2012 campaign with investigators visiting the national team's training camp to question defender Domenico Criscito, who was subsequently withdrawn from the squad. Criscito was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

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Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.