Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lippi fights to keep focused as the sky falls in

Each time Italy's coach thinks the scandal has blown itself out, another revelation flares up.

By tradition, the heavens beneath which Italy's Azzuri train for a World Cup is of a blue as deep as the team's shirts. But this campaign at the retreat in Coverciano on the edge of Florence began under a weeping, leaden sky. "Even God wants to piss on us," shrugged a security official at the gates which may keep out curious fans, but afford no protection against a hurricane of corruption and scandal.

Normally those fans wave flags and line up for autographs, but now clutches of supporters come to jeer and whistle their disapproval. "Champions or Mercenaries?" reads the graffiti outside. Of course there is a tribalism in this: the scandals affect mighty Juventus above all, arch-enemy of the local team, Fiorentina. "But usually, at this time, we are all Italians," observed Mauro, the security man.

The squad resembles a group of serious artisans trying to perfect their skills in a stockade while a high and highly distracting drama - compelling and squalid - unfolds around them. Indeed it is hard to believe this team are trying to focus on, and prepare tactically for, a competition at the zenith of football, about which barely a word is spoken at Coverciano.

Over the past few days the scandals, which have captivated the most football-crazy nation on earth, have galloped from their point of departure, when Juventus's general manager Luciano Moggi was accused of fixing referees. With the Old Lady facing relegation to Serie B, the ousted prime minister Silvio Berlusconi tried to seize the moral high ground but then the offices of his club, Milan, were raided by financial police. Scores of other teams are also to be investigated for alleged falsification of balance sheets. Italy's coach Marcello Lippi is under pressure after his son Davide was put under criminal investigation on Friday for alleged illicit finance and "threats of violence" during consultancy work with the GEA agency, which represents some 200 players and coaches. The Italians have an expression: figlio di papa - daddy's boy - and GEA is run by none other than Moggi's son, Alessandro.

The scandals took their most important symbolic stride when the Milanese judge Francesco Saverio Borelli was last week appointed to head the criminal investigation. The insinuation is crystal clear: Borelli spearheaded the operation codenamed Mani Puliti - Clean Hands - which put an entire political class under arrest in the 90s. The present investigation is inevitably dubbed Piedi Puliti - Clean Feet. This is more than a joke: Clean Hands began with a single warrant, signed by Borelli in Milan, then spread like wildfire across the political system, and football is providing kindling just as dry. Berlusconi, many of whose friends and political allies were caught in Borelli's net, jibed: "They've chosen their referee, just like Moggi".

The names of players are starting to surface as potential witnesses, most prominently Fabio Cannavaro, captain of Juventus and of Italy, right. And so the usual relaxed rules of engagement between players and battalions of reporters have changed. Training normally concludes with endless chiacciere, or chit-chat, but a diktat has gone out: all interviews must be supervised and recorded, tapes made available to Lippi.

But, like most rules in Italy, these are made to be broken, precisely because they involve irresistible chiacciere. As players leave practice little huddles form, indiscretions are proffered. Asked if the players talk about the scandals, Alessandro Nesta says: "We talk about little else. The whole business is a betrayal of those who love football. I want to turn back and smell the air of football as it was when I was little."

"We are trying to do our work in a correct and professional way," said Milan's midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, "but all this is very distracting. However, I think we have an opportunity. It's a chance to change Italian football, to clean up Italian football."

Filippo Inzaghi, despite his puckish demeanour, pleads into the microphones: "From today, if you want to make us a gift, please just talk about football. We have to try and think about the football, about the World Cup, and it's not easy. We understand the gravity of the problem. But the players are the least to blame for what is happening." His club-mate Andrea Pirlo echoed Inzaghi's plea of innocence: "The players are apart from all this - the cleanest and healthiest part of the game".

"It's been a very bad start," admits Gianluca Zambrotta of Juventus. "There's no denying it. To be a serious contender for the World Cup you have to have a degree of tranquillity. But we're working hard for that, to focus on what we have to do, which is to play our game."

Then there is Juve's goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, with his own set of problems, summonsed while at dinner in the retreat by magistrates from Parma to discuss alleged betting, which is against the rules. Once back he ploughed through the scrum of cameras, head down, only on Thursday affording himself a few remarks, after he was cleared to go to Germany. "Now I can concentrate on the World Cup", he said, "with no other thought in my head."

The high point came when, looking and sounding like something out of Gladiator, Cannavaro brazenly paraphrased the title his compatriot Lorenzo da Ponte penned for an opera by Mozart: Cosi Fan Tutte - they all do it. "This is not a matter limited to the managers of Juventus," said Cannavaro, straightforwardly, "the whole system of football functions like this."

This was last Wednesday, when Berlusconi and Milan were still preening themselves, and Cannavaro launched an astonishing attack. He asked why Juventus's Moggi had been wiretapped and not Milan's vice-president, Adriano Galliani, who is also president of the right-wing Northern League - part of Berlusconi's former governing coalition - a former executive of Berlusconi's giant Mediaset company and convener of the European G14 super-league project. "Is only Moggi's telephone being tapped?" jeered Cannavaro. "It strikes me that not a single call has emerged from the telephone of Adriano Galliani."

Unknown to Cannavaro, financial police investigating false accounting were raiding Milan's (and Internazionale's) offices as he spoke, and Galliani's phone had indeed been tapped. But Cannavaro's outburst was so unexpected that the special commissioner drafted to run Italy's now decapitated football federation, Guido Rossi, demanded he either retract or be stripped of the captaincy for the World Cup.

Next morning, Thursday, the team paraded their new stylish suits, specially designed by Dolce & Gabbana. Cannavaro looked striking but no one wanted to know about the glitz of alta moda, only the contents of a piece of paper read out solemnly by the federation spokesman in which Cannavaro said: "I did not explain myself well," that this was "a moment for reflection for the world of football" and he had "every faith" in the judicial investigation.

Warfare between Juventus and Milan is unfortunate given that Italy's first XI is, with the probable exceptions of Fiorentina's Luca Toni and Roma's Francesco Totti, effectively a fusion of players from the two clubs. But in their private remarks the players show a maturity their masters would do well to learn from. While Berlusconi demands that two Juventus titles be rescinded and given to Milan, Gattuso said: "I don't want those titles, and if the judge grants them to us, I certainly won't celebrate them."

"Juventus won those championships on the pitch", said Alberto Gilardino, also of Milan, "and here, we play together." His team-mate Inzaghi said: "It's not easy, but we have to be a single group. It's something that happens on the pitch, it happens at table."

Lippi had exuded inner calm for most of the week, sauntering between the practice pitches and his friends in the press packs. The coach is known for his focus on "the mental game", and before the scandals broke talked about building a "club spirit" among the national side.

In conversation with the Guardian, he admitted: "It's true, I have two jobs: one is to train the team for the World Cup, which is what I should be doing, and the other is to try and soften the repercussions of all this on the players. There is enormous pressure but I have to make sure it doesn't affect them, not even subconsciously."

Then, on Friday, his son was put under criminal investigation. Lippi had intended to use the next day to move away from scandal and towards tactics for the competition. Instead he faced the most awkward moment - to date - of a career that has garnered five scudetti with Juventus. He slammed his new mobile phone on the table (the old one's number having been published in a magazine) and presented himself as a father, an elder and master of football and a man wanting to lead Italy's national passion and pastime to Germany.

"Of course I have spoken to Davide; he is calm and bitter." he said, then a sharp change of subject: "It matters not what work you do, but how you do it. These have been important days; I have seen some excellent work, and great will and determination among the boys. Now for the World Cup - into the wolf's mouth." With that, Lippi and the team adjourned for a special guest appearance on the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire quiz show.

"On the pitch we just have to put it all behind us," says Gattuso. "Everyone knows that we have a duty, an obligation, to the country, to the fans and to Italian football. For goodness sake, we're competing for the Coppa del Mondo not a coppa di nonno [literally grandpa's cup, the Italian term for a coffee ice cream cone]."

Monday, May 29, 2006

Rossi: No Calciopoli whitewash

New FIGC Commissioner Guido Rossi assures the Calciopoli scandal will hit boiling point in 10 days and “justice won’t stop for anything”.

As new telephone wiretaps come to light every day and more names are implicated in the wide-ranging investigation into alleged match-fixing, collusion with referees, illegal betting and pressure on Coaches to pick players assisted by super-agency GEA, there are increasing fears that the scandal will be too large to take any decisive action.

“This is the toughest moment of the investigation, but after the frenetic next 10 days, we’ll reach the most important point,” explained the former judge who has been brought in as an emergency chief of the FA.

“We must go deep, very deep. There was almost nothing working the way it should’ve in this system. Some say there’ll be a whitewash at the end of this? I feel like making a joke about that, but I don’t want to create new enemies for myself. Let’s just say I exclude the possibility of a whitewash.”

If some of the allegations are confirmed, Juventus and other clubs could see points docked, titles stripped or even relegation into Serie B.

“The sports justice system will decide who is in and who is out. It will not stop in the face of anything or anyone,” he told the Gazzetta dello Sport. “I believe that people should lead by example, as sporting behaviour becomes a virtuous cycle that in the end contaminates everyone in a positive sense and wipes out traces of bad behaviour.”

The defence put forward by Juve players Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluca Zambrotta this week has been to suggest that it was the system at fault, one that everyone used to their own advantage, rather than former director general Luciano Moggi hijacking the football world.

They also suggested that it would be “an injustice” for Juventus to see the last two Scudetto titles revoked, as the players are not implicated in the scandal.

“Was I angry at Cannavaro and Zambrotta? What do you think?” smiled Rossi. “They’ll change their minds too, you’ll see.”

This is not the first scandal to have hit calcio, but it is by far the biggest, and the FIGC Commissioner knows the consequences could be far-reaching.

“It has to be clear to everyone that this affair has enormous significance for the country, because it affects the behaviour of 40 million people who follow this sport. While corruption only involves elite sectors like banks and financial institutions, the newspapers take it off the front pages after around 10 days, but football is on everyone’s lips. You can feel people’s intense desire not to be conned. They want to sit down and enjoy the sport once more without being cheated. The important thing now is to stay close to the Italy squad and the Azzurri must help me with their behaviour.”

Fiorentina plead innocence
Fiorentina owner Diego della Valle told magistrates that his club is the "victim" of the corrupt soccer system they are uncovering and not a part of it.

Lazio hit amid probe lull
Lazio were hit by allegations of financial misconduct amid a general lull in the Calciopoli scandal. Their President, Claudio Lotito, and the club's second-biggest shareholder Roberto Mezzaroma were placed under investigation.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Calls for massive shake-up

The scandal plaguing Juventus and a number of other teams in Italy's Serie A has "thrown a shadow across the whole of football," a leading Italian politician has said.

Following the allegations of widespread corruption, Piero Fassino, the leader of the Democrats Of The Left party - the leading left-wing party and a member of the governing coalition - has called for a massive shake-up in the way football is run in the country.

The crisis - which Italian newspapers describe as "the storm" - stems from transcripts of phone calls made by Juventus director Luciano Moggi discussing refereeing appointments. Moggi has since resigned, but officials from Lazio, Milan and Fiorentina are also under investigation - along with the former head and deputy head of the Italian Football Federation.

Meanwhile a number of Juventus players - including national team goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon - are under investigation for allegedly betting on matches, a practice illegal in Italy.

"I, like any other football fan, am totally mortified," Mr Fassino, himself a Juventus fan, said. "This throws a shadow across the whole of football. There are 142 professional teams, 13,000 non-professional teams, and millions of fans. It's even more upsetting to see all these people upset by this scandal."

The scandal shows few signs of stopping, despite the resignation of the entire Juventus board. Moggi has now been placed under formal investigation for suspected false accounting and tax evasion.

Juventus have now named Carlo Sant'Albano as their acting managing director until 29 June, when shareholders will decide on a new board.

And Mr Fassino said he believed it was down to the government and politicians to "make the game more transparent, cleaner, and more efficient. "I think clubs need to own their own grounds, so they are able to guarantee more resources for their clubs, as well as controlling the security of the club on matchdays," he added.

"I also think we need to look again at television rights, so that we are able to guarantee that all clubs are able to benefit from the money that is paid. We have got to make sure that referees are above any kind of influence, and make sure they have their own independent organisation."

Lippi's son investigated

The son of Italy's World Cup coach Marcello Lippi has been put under investigation by magistrates looking into the sports agency he worked for.

The agency, GEA World, which is headed by the son of the former Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi, is being investigated by magistrates for "illegal competition with use of threats and violence".

The firm has more than 200 players and coaches on its books. Luciano Moggi is at the centre of the match-fixing storm buffeting the Italian game after telephone transcripts were published of his conversations with leading officials.

Apart from Lippi's son, Davide, magistrates are also investigating Giuseppe De Mita, the son of the former Italian prime minister Ciriaco De Mita, and two others. Others at GEA, including Moggi's son, are already under investigation.

Lippi has faced calls to resign before the World Cup in Germany, which starts on 9 June, after allegations that he was forced by Moggi to select certain players for the national side. Lippi says he never came under pressure over selection and that he never had business dealings with his son while his son was at the agency.

Giancarlo Abete, vice-president of the Italian Football Federation, said the decision by magistrates to investigate Lippi's son did not affect its recent vote of confidence in Lippi.

"We are in a situation in which a storm is going on - there is a situation that gets filled with new elements day after day," Abete said.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

'Clean Hands' judge leads investigating team

A crusading 76-year-old judge who put 3,200 Italian politicians and businessmen on trial in the 1990's for corruption, has been brought out of retirement to investigate the scandal that has engulfed Italian football.

Franco Borrelli, after four years of retirement, will oversee an investigation that began at Juventus but has spread to involve several of Italy's biggest clubs, 41 officials and a selection of judges and politicians, including Giuseppe Pisanu, the former home minister.

His appointment as the head of the Italian Football Association's investigations department triggered comparisons between the current scandal and the dishonesty exposed during the 1990s.

Fifteen years ago, Mr Borrelli and a small team of investigators waged war on what appeared to be an endless stream of corruption infecting Italian life. The "Clean Hands" trials involved almost every major politician and businessman in the country, and two senior managers committed suicide rather than face the courts.

The "Clean Feet" investigations started two weeks ago after transcripts of wire-tapped telephone calls suggested that Luciano Moggi, the managing director of Juventus, had been able to influence the selection of referees for the club's domestic and European matches. Mr Moggi has since been dismissed, together with the rest of the Juventus board.

Magistrates in Turin, Naples, Rome and Parma quickly found a web of alleged corruption and financial fraud throughout Italian football. AC Milan, Internazionale, Lazio, Parma and Roma are all under suspicion of a range of offences ranging from match-fixing to hiding income from transfers. Mr Moggi has been charged with kidnapping after locking a disobedient referee in a changing room.

Italy's World Cup plans have been severely unsettled by investigations into Marcello Lippi, the national coach, and Gianluigi Buffon, the first-choice goalkeeper. Buffon, who plays for Juventus, was questioned yesterday by investigators trying to establish whether he gambled on matches in which he was involved.

Antonio Di Pietro, another member of the "Clean Hands" team who is the minister for infrastructure, said Mr Borrelli would come down hard "on those who played dirty and swindled so many supporters who believed in the goodness of the sport".

Juventus face relegation from Italy's top division and forfeiture of the league titles won in the past two years. There were suggestions yesterday that only foreign referees would be allowed to officiate in Italy next season.

Many Italian politicians expressed dismay at Mr Borrelli's appointment. "They have chosen a referee they trust, which is what Moggi was doing," said Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian premier and the owner of AC Milan.

Mr Berlusconi, who has been investigated by Mr Borrelli in the past, always maintained that the "Clean Hands" inquiries were a Left-wing conspiracy.

Milan's involvement

AC Milan allegedly tried to arrange which referees would officiate its matches in the 2004-5 season, just as Juventus is accused of doing, according to new wiretaps published in today's edition of the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Milan issued a statement by its lawyer denying wrongdoing and saying the phone taps were "poorly interpreted".

Financial police also searched the offices of AC Milan and Internazionale as part of Turin prosecutors' investigation into false bookkeeping by Juventus' former management. Documents on player transfers and team budgets were taken from the offices of several other clubs as well, with the focus on transfers involving Juventus.

Italian football has been embroiled in a scandal for the last few weeks, with prosecutors in Turin, Parma, Naples and Rome conducting investigations into suspected match-fixing, illegal betting and manipulation of referee assignments.

The scandal is centered on Juventus and former general manager Luciano Moggi. He and the entire Juventus board resigned, and the team faces possible relegation just weeks after winning its record 29th Serie A title.

Lazio and Fiorentina have also been implicated.

According to the transcripts published in Corriere, Milan chairman Adriano Galliani, who is also President of Lega Calcio, apparently had official Leonardo Meani make arrangements with referees commission secretary Manfredi Martino.

Meani was reportedly told by Martino two days before a game against Chievo that Gianluca Paparesta would officiate the match. Martino also informed Meani that the team's linesman of choice, Claudio Puglisi, was assigned to the game.

Paparesta has reportedly acknowledged being locked up in a locker room by Moggi for failing to assure the club a victory last season. Moggi is under investigation for allegedly trying to manipulate assignments of referees for Juventus games.

After a match between Siena and Milan in 2005, which Milan lost, Meani talked on the phone with the official who assigns linesmen, Gennaro Mazzei, and complained about a linesman at the game.

"I don't want him! I never asked for him and I never wanted him!" Meani said, according to Corriere. "Now you be careful, be careful," Meani said, adding that "Galliani is furious."

Before a Milan derby last year against city rival Inter, Puglisi spoke to Meani about how "important it is for us to (beat) these Interisti," according to the transcripts.

In a statement, Milan lawyer Leandro Cantamessa said, "I've said and repeated to the point of getting sick that Milan has nothing to do with this case."

Meani, Mazzei and Puglisi were included on a list of 41 people asked two weeks ago to appear for questioning by Naples prosecutors.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Support for Galliani

Despite calls to resign in the wake of Calciopoli, the Serie A and B clubs have supported Lega Calcio chief Adriano Galliani.

“The Lega Calcio has not been touched by this scandal, so it does not need a revolution,” insisted Brescia President Gino Corioni. “This institution is clean and there are no telephone wiretaps featuring Lega employees, so there is nothing to worry about. What we must do is change some of the rules and we voted unanimously to come back in a month’s time with a new proposal.”

Galliani is one of the only major figures in the Italian football world who has not handed in his resignation during the scandal rocking this sport.

Today’s meeting of the Lega Calcio – a union of the Serie A and B sides – saw Milan representative Galliani given a vote of confidence, but his Vice-President Maurizio Zamparini continues to demand he step aside. “We need to change the entire governance of the Lega, but even if nothing changes until then, I will certainly quit in August,” said the Palermo patron. “At the start of the meeting I announced the radical revamp of the leadership had to be completed within two months. What we need is a Lega President who is not also in charge of a club, as that is the only way to avoid a conflict of interests. The only ones who disagree with this statement are Galliani and Lazio’s Claudio Lotito.”

With ‘the system’ now being blamed more than individuals who took advantage of it, there is a race against time to re-write the rule books.

“Like Guido Rossi at the FIGC, we will also change the rules of the Lega Calcio and must do so as soon as possible,” noted Galliani. “The difference is that we don’t need an extraordinary commissioner to come in for this task, as the current Lega board can achieve it. I won’t resign because the Lega was not implicated in the scandal, although obviously I’ll step aside if the new rules prevent one of the 42 club Presidents to take this role.”

As the scandal continues to spread, Gianluigi Buffon was interrogated by Parma’s public prosecutors for two hours this afternoon with regards to his betting habits. “There is nothing illegal going on here and we are also relaxed with regards to the sporting regulations,” assured his lawyer, Mario Valerio Corini. “Now Gigi can concentrate on the World Cup.”

Italy turn to foreign refs

Serie A matches could be officiated by foreign referees next season in an attempt to restore credibility to the Italian game.

The nation’s refereeing system is set for a drastic overhaul over the summer as a result of the scandal which has brought calcio to its knees. With nine referees currently under investigation as part of the probe looking into the alleged manipulation of the sport, Italy could be left short of adequate officials next season.

With that in mind, new Italian Football Federation commissioner Guido Rossi is seriously considering looking on the continent for assistance. It’s believed that Rossi is pondering the idea of appointing former top class official Pierluigi Collina (pictured) as the new head of the Italian Referees’ Association. He will replace Tulio Lanese who quit as President of the AIA earlier this month after the scandal broke. Collina would then look to create a system in which he could call upon the services of men like Germany’s Markus Merk and Graham Poll of England to take charge of some top-flight matches.

Italian football have turned to foreign whistle blowers in the past. In the 1955-56 season, a group of Austrian refs were hired in the business end of the season to guarantee fairness.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

'You are the boss! You own Serie A'

Gabriele Marcotti listens in on the phone-tap scandal engulfing Juventus...

Let us pretend that you are an ambitious executive at a big club. You are relatively successful, but you are not satisfied. You know you can do much better, even though some of your rivals have more money. So what do you do? Well, if you do not mind occasionally stepping on to the wrong side of the law, you may wish to follow the alleged methods of Luciano Moggi, the Juventus general manager, who, over the past decade, appears to have turned Serie A into his personal fiefdom.

The first step is to accumulate power. And in football that comes in different guises: money, influence over the FA and the League, control of players and referees. You have some money, but not enough to control everything financially, so it is best to focus on the other elements.

The head of the League is elected by the clubs. The head of the FA is also, effectively, determined by the clubs, in the sense that they exert influence over who gets the job. Thus, it is essential that you befriend as many clubs as possible, particularly smaller ones, because their vote counts as much as those of the big ones.

The way to do this is to do them favours. Start by loaning them players and talk up the brilliance of their chairmen at league meetings.

Moggi, talking to Andrea Dalla Valle, a Fiorentina official, when the club was in danger of relegation with two weeks to go: “The problem is you didn’t come to me sooner. See, you didn’t know how things worked and you were hurt by it. Let’s see what we can work out so that you’re treated fairly from now on.”

Once your man is elected to run the FA, make it very clear that he owes his job to you and must do what you say. If he steps out of line be firm and swift in your response.

Moggi talking to Innocenzo Mazzini, vice-president of the Italian FA, after Franco Carraro, head of the FA, talked about more “transparent” refereeing: “Tell him not to bust our balls. Better yet, I’ll talk to him and put him in his place.”

The referee selectors are crucial. They need to pass the message on to the officials that, if they make mistakes that hurt your club, their careers will be going nowhere.

Moggi talking to Paolo Bergamo, one of Serie A’s two referee selectors, complaining about Pierluigi Collina and Roberto Rosetti, the officials, whose refereeing was too “objective”.

“If you don’t punish Rosetti and Collina, all the other refs will feel entitled to do as they please. We don’t need them breaking our balls!”

Some officials will nevertheless be independent and want to apply the laws of the game. When that happens, you need to get tough. Assaulting them after a game and locking them in the referees’ dressing-room is one way to do it.

Pietro Ingargiola, a referee assessor, talking to Tullio Lanese, head of the Italian referees’ association, after Juventus’s controversial 2-1 defeat away to Reggina: “He [Moggi] came into the dressing-room and was furious. He berated Paparesta [the referee], stuck his finger in his face and then locked him in there! It was crazy! Don’t worry, though, I’ m not saying a thing about it. I don’t remember anything and I didn’t see anything. But it was mad, I tell you!”

You will need parts of the media on your side as well. It is a good idea to pick out a few favourite influential journalists and give them little treats: gossip, bits of news, interviews with your star players. The press can be very servile. Use the carrot-and-stick approach to get your way. In exchange, they will attack your enemies and defend your friends.

Moggi talking to Aldo Biscardi, presenter of a popular football show, after a 0-0 draw between Juventus and AC Milan, in which Andriy Shevchenko was controversially denied a penalty appeal: “You need to lay off the referee in this one. You either say the referee was correct in his decision or you don’t show the images at all and gloss over it.”

Over time, referees will get wind of this system and realise that it is in their best interest to help you out. Making favourable decisions is one way they can help, but there are other effective ways they can do this. One painless method is booking players who are one yellow card away from suspension the week before they face your team.

In the 2004-05 season, 25 players picked up their bans in the week immediately before they faced Juventus. Tony Damascelli, a journalist, congratulating Moggi after two Bologna defenders received bookings that banned them from facing Juventus the next weekend: “Great job! You took out half their back four!”

Sadly, some foolish people will get wind of your methods. You need to make it clear that, while you accept that not everyone will like you, those who speak out need to be punished.

Moggi speaking to Antonio Giraudo, the Juventus chief executive, after Zdenek Zeman, the Lecce manager, had complained that Moggi was running Italian football: “We need to deal with him, we need to beat him up. We need to make him haemorrhage, that’s what we need to do. We’ll invent something, we’ll mess with some of his players.”

Control over players is essential. To do this, create a football agency and get your 32-year-old son to run it. Hand-pick partners for him, such as the scions of powerful families.

Moggi’s son, Alessandro, was the chief executive of a company called GEA World, whose partners were Chiara Geronzi, the daughter of Cesare Geronzi, the head of Capitalia, Italy’s second-biggest bank, and the financial institution of choice for many clubs who relied on its credit to stay afloat, and Giuseppe De Mita, a former Lazio official and son of a former Italian Prime Minister. GEA represents about 200 footballers and managers in the Italian game.

Once you have set up your agency, your control over smaller clubs will be consolidated. You can now place players and managers where you please, knowing they will do your bidding.

Stefano Argilli, the former Siena midfield player voted player of the year in 2004-05, was forced to leave the club last summer. “Our new manager was GEA, our general manager was GEA, half the team was GEA,” he said. “It was clear to me that if I wanted to stay, I would have to sack my agent and join GEA as well.”

If you do all this, people will fear you and respect you. Your enemies will feel powerless.

Mazzini, the vice-president of the Italian FA, speaking to Moggi: “You’re the boss of the Italian game! You own Serie A!”

I won’t quit, says Galliani

Adriano Galliani has dismissed suggestions that he will resign as President of the Italian Football League. Media speculation yesterday claimed that the Milan director would finally quit given the off-field chaos in the game.

Yet Galliani has silenced the many who are calling for his head by insisting he doesn’t understand why he should go. “I won’t resign because those that do in this country are seen as culprits,” noted the Rossoneri Vice-President. “I don’t feel at all responsible for anything that has happened. In fact, I think I have always done well for the Lega Calcio.”

Galliani’s decision to fight on has been approved by his great friend and Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi. “Adriano Galliani is right to not quit as President of the League,” the former Italian Prime Minister stated last night.

The media mogul also dismissed reports that he offered former Juve director Luciano Moggi a job at Milan last September.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Moggi launches Galliani broadside

Luciano Moggi, the man at the centre of the alleged match-fixing allegations, says he’s been ambushed by Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani.

In his first interview since the scandal erupted, Moggi has looked to defend himself while attacking Galliani and also now former FIGC chief Franco Carraro.

“I was ambushed,” he told the Quotidiano Nazionale newspaper. “It all started last September when I went to see [Milan owner Silvio] Berlusconi at Palazzo Grazioli. “He offered me a job at Milan. I was surprised but also honoured, I told him that I would think about it. “We were only at the start of the season and at that time I could only think about Juventus,” he continued. “But we all know what the Milan owner is like, it doesn’t take too much for him to get excited. He obviously told Galliani of the idea. “Then, two weeks after my meeting with Berlusconi, the FIGC were sent the documents from the Turin magistrates with the taped telephone conversations between myself and other figures in the Italian game. Carraro then informed Galliani, who obviously suggested to the ex-Prime Minister to be careful before he made any decisions, saying that it was perhaps best to forget about me because of the enquiry. It all began with that unfortunate meeting with Berlusconi.”

Moggi also blasted Carraro, who resigned as President of the Italian Football Federation earlier this month after being criticised for his handling of the present situation. “He knew everything,” the former Juventus director general continued. “We know where the first pieces of information came from.”

Moggi is at the centre of a probe which threatens to see his former club demoted to Serie B after a number of his telephone calls to the refereeing designators of 2004-05 led to suspicions of sporting fraud.

“I didn’t invent this type of football, the system has always worked like this,” he maintained. “The designators have received calls on a daily basis from clubs for years. And they were certainly not friendly calls because everyone always had a reason to complain about something. I, like my colleagues, just wanted to make sure that our games were refereed by serious professionals, impartial ones.”

Meanwhile, Galliani is expected to resign as President of the Italian Football League on Wednesday.

Lippi backed as Azzurri boss

Coach Marcello Lippi will be leading Italy at the 2006 World Cup Finals, it has been confirmed.

There have been suggestions over recent days that Lippi could resign, or be forced to quit, given his presence in a number of intercepted telephone calls that have come to the attention of magistrates investigating the GEA World football agency. But Lippi, whose agent son Davide has links with the organisation, has today been backed by new Italian Football Federation commissioner Guido Rossi.

“There is total and absolute faith, from myself and the CONI President [Italian Olympic Committee chief Gianni Petrucci] in the squad and the Coach,” Rossi said at Italy’s training base on Monday. “I have never had any doubts with regard to Lippi’s position,” added the man handed the unenviable task of cleaning up calcio. “It would have been utter madness to point the finger of blame to Lippi in this case, ignoring the real people responsible for this situation. There are conflicts of interest here, but I have nothing to lament Lippi about. You can’t accuse anyone of wrongdoing until there is real proof of it.”

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Blatter's reaction

FIFA President Sepp Blatter believe the scandal rocking Italian football could have repercussions on the World Cup squad.

“It’s a problem. A big problem,” Blatter told Italian journalists in Zurich. “Is it the worst football scandal? I think so. What’s happened is terrible and just crazy. In Italy, this sport is more important than religion, so the consequences of all this will be terrible. Their image comes out of this situation in tatters.”

Nobody has been charged with any wrongdoing yet, but the investigation into alleged match-fixing and collusion with referees at this stage involves several clubs and could see Juventus relegated in a worst case scenario.

Some people have already paid the price for the allegations, as referee Massimo De Santis was removed from the World Cup roster. “I learn from the Press that in Italy referees could be picked in a phone call. It’s absurd. The decision to suspend De Santis’ accreditation for the World Cup was well-timed, as if it hadn’t arrived before the tournament, then we would’ve taken that step without the FIGC asking us first.”

Blatter also had words of condemnation for FIGC President Franco Carraro, who has resigned from his post due to the scandal. “The Federation has its responsibilities, as it should’ve been vigilant and instead did not notice what was happening.”

Inter enter UEFA referee row

Inter are also involved in the growing scandal after allegations Pierluigi Pairetto informed them in advance of Champions League referees.

One of the first issues that struck former Juventus director general Luciano Moggi in this investigation was the fact that designator Pairetto had told him the name of the referees assigned to their European games up to two weeks ahead of kick-off. Under UEFA rules, clubs are not supposed to know who will officiate their ties until 48 hours before the match and Pairetto was reprimanded for that action.

According to new telephone interceptions quoted in today’s ‘Gazzetta dello Sport,’ Inter President Facchetti was also informed of the referees assigned to two of their Champions League group games in advance. The phone calls, made in September 2004, see Pairetto confirming that Urs Meier has been assigned to the big game against Valencia and Kyros Vassaras for the Anderlecht encounter.

“I made them put Meier in for the second game, because that was the most important for you,” Pairetto was quoted as saying in the alleged telephone conversation. “I picked him, as he is a very reliable referee. Valencia is a tough atmosphere.”

The conversation took place on September 14, two weeks before Vassaras was officially assigned to the 3-1 win against Anderlecht and over a month before Swiss referee Meier officiated Inter’s 5-1 victory at Valencia’s Mestalla stadium.

Juventus outline ‘ethical’ future

Juventus will “not sit passively” during the investigation into Luciano Moggi's dealings, but will turn a new page, claims patron John Elkann.

“We have to turn a new page. The values that were so greatly expressed during the Turin Winter Olympics must and will be at the heart of our future actions,” he told ‘La Stampa’ newspaper this morning.

Elkann is the nephew of legend Gianni Agnelli and one of the heirs to the FIAT empire, but insists the Agnelli family will not be taking a more active role now that directors Luciano Moggi, Antonio Giraudo and Roberto Bettega have resigned as a result of the scandal.

“The new Board of Directors will be made up of professionals and great sportsmen. At this moment in time, it is important to reinforce Juventus by introducing people for duties they specialise in, but the family will always be close to the squad.”

This week Carlo Sant’Albano was named temporary CEO until the full Board of Directors can be put in place on June 29. There are already strong reports that ex-Roma director of sport Franco Baldini will be drafted in for the new era, but Fabio Capello has been confirmed on the bench.

“We asked Capello to stay with us and he accepted. He has immediately put himself to work in preparing for next season. We couldn’t ask for anything more from him.”

Nonetheless, the future is up in the air for Juventus, who could be docked points, stripped of titles or even relegated if they are found guilty of the alleged match-fixing and collusion with referees.

The club has done everything possible to distance itself from Moggi, whose taped telephone conversations are at the centre of the investigation.

“It was impossible for us to spot what was happening,” noted Elkann. “The knowledge of the shareholders is based only on official documents presented at the meetings. We are still trying to ascertain details as to the behaviour of individuals in this organisation, but Juventus will not sit passively while the storm rages.”

In yesterday’s statement naming Sant’Albano CEO, there was also a reference to a new “code of ethics” that would be introduced with “specific criteria of behaviour and an adequate system of sanctions that will be the cornerstone for anyone working with this club.”

Friday, May 19, 2006

Zemen welcomes Juve inquest

Zdenek Zeman has given his opinion on the scandal turning Italian football upside down and considers it a blessing in disguise.

“Unfortunately for football, this was the system in place. I hope it can change and that from now on everything will be dealt with differently,” said the Brescia boss.

The former Lazio and Roma Coach sparked the first major investigation into Juventus’ practices when he suggested allegations of doping at the club. A seven-year trial failed to find any serious wrong-doing and the Bianconeri were effectively cleared of responsibility.

Following the interception of telephone calls from former Juve director general Luciano Moggi, the side is back under the spotlight with one of the biggest scandals Italian football has ever seen. “This is an opportunity for change and I hope that everyone will take this chance to take a new direction. It has to be done, because this is not football,” added the Czech Coach.

Zeman was interrogated by public prosecutors in Rome this afternoon and spoke to reporters as he left the building. “We talked about the current football landscape. I didn’t have to tell them too much, as from the transcripts of the telephone calls you can tell what’s going on. They will make their own conclusions from that evidence.”

Lippi: I didn’t take Moggi orders

Italy Coach Marcello Lippi was interrogated today and insisted he did not take orders from Luciano Moggi.

“Everything is alright and I am relaxed. From now on, I will focus only on the Italy squad,” commented the tactician as he left the public prosecutor’s office in Rome.

Lippi was interrogated for over three hours as part of the on-going investigation into the influence of former Juventus director general Moggi and talent agency GEA World. “I answered the questions that public prosecutors Luca Palamara and Maria Cristina Palaia posed and was there as a witness,” he added.

There were claims in the Press that Moggi had ‘ordered’ Lippi to choose GEA-represented players for the Azzurri and to rest Juventus stars for friendly games. However, it’s reported Lippi told the public prosecutors he received pressure from many different agents, directors and clubs, but that he always made his own decisions.

There were even some suggestions in the Italian media this week that if Lippi’s part in the investigation became stronger, he would be sacked ahead of the World Cup, drafting in either Giovanni Trapattoni or Milan’s Carlo Ancelotti as an emergency measure, but today’s statements have made that very much a remote possibility.

Meanwhile, ‘Calciopoli’ continues to roll heads, as today the chief of the FIGC investigations committee Italo Pappa resigned. “The continual attacks on my office, which I have the honour and the privilege to represent, and the undignified spin that some newspapers have put on events to completely change the reality of the situation, have forced me to make this painful decision,” he said in a statement. Pappa has been working within the Federation for 31 years in various roles and joins FIGC President Franco Carraro and Vice-President Innocenzo Mazzini in tending his resignation.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lippi to assist in probe

Italy boss Marcello Lippi will be spoken to by magistrates on Friday as the various probes into the game threaten to disrupt the Azzurri’s World Cup preparations.

Lippi will be interviewed as part of the Rome-based enquiry into the workings of the GEA World football agency. The tactician, whose agent son is also connected to GEA, will only be asked for his informed opinions and is not under investigation himself.

Lippi has been brought into the chaos after a number of telephone calls between himself and former Juventus director general Luciano Moggi were intercepted. Some of the conversations published have suggested that Moggi allegedly tried to influence the tactician in which players to pick, a claim clearly rejected by the former Juve Coach.

"After eight years working together, could you imagine that after I left Juventus he wouldn't call me?" said Lippi. "If they had intercepted all the calls I got you would see that it was not only Juventus directors who call me. I get calls from all the clubs, from their directors and Coaches. "But I have never had any kind of pressure," added Lippi.

Nevertheless, the Italian media are speculating that the Coach could be sensationally replaced on the bench before the World Cup Finals if his situation becomes more complicated. Under-21 boss Claudio Gentile, Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti and even ex-Azzurri tactician Giovanni Trapattoni are being suggested as possible replacements for Germany 2006. However, there is nothing to suggest at this moment in time that Lippi will not be leading the nation’s World Cup bid.

Juve raided by tax police

There was more trouble for Juventus after the club’s offices, plus two of their players’ homes, were raided by Italy’s financial police.

The ‘Guardia di Finanza’ searched the Bianconeri’s headquarters as part of an investigation into the club’s transfer market manoeuvres.

It’s also understood that the homes of defender Fabio Cannavaro and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were visited today as part of the enquiry, even if neither man is being investigated in the probe. They were believed to have been targeted by tax officials as a result of tapped telephone conversations which concerned their transfers to the Turin club.

Turin magistrates have opened a file on the outfit with Antonio Giraudo, the club’s former chief executive, being placed under investigation for alleged false accounting.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

TV host resigns

The host of Italy's most popular football program has resigned amid allegations that he collaborated with Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi to boost the club's image.

Italian media published excerpts of intercepted phone conversations indicating Moggi allegedly pressured TV host Aldo Biscardi to favour Juventus. Viewers took part in phone-in polls that were manipulated to favour Juventus, according to the transcripts.

Biscardi was host of "Il Processo di Biscardi" ("Biscardi's Trial"), a show that analysed Serie A matches for 26 years. He said he decided to leave because of "all that is happening in the soccer world."

Monday's show was the last of the season.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

New Juve look to Baldini

Juventus have handed the reins of the club to Carlo Sant’Albano, while ex-Roma man Franco Baldini admits he could take over.

“A shareholders’ meeting has been called for May 19, in which there will be an update on the club’s operation and to hand power of administration to Carlo Sant’Albano,” read a statement.

Born in Torino in 1964, Sant’Albano spent most of his life abroad in Colombia, Brazil, Scotland and the US. He has been the director general of Ifil Investments Spa – the financial company run by the Agnelli family and which controls Juventus – since February 2006.

The move was made necessary after the entire Board of Directors resigned in the wake of the scandal over intercepted telephone calls and alleged match fixing. Luciano Moggi made his resignation official this evening.

It’s now reported that Juve will revamp the club next season with the arrival of former Roma director of sport Franco Baldini. “Will I join the Bianconeri? Maybe yes, maybe no,” said the ex-Giallorossi transfer guru when he was questioned by journalists.

The scandal over alleged collusion with referees has shaken the calcio world to the core and today Giulio Rossi was named as the temporary head of the Federation. “What we have here is a great opportunity to wipe out the current leaders and start again, but even that won’t be enough unless we change the rules,” added Baldini. “We all have to take a step back, because the problem is that even the best of us were involved, if not by actively taking part, then at least by turning the other cheek.”

Juventus may have just celebrated their 29th Scudetto, but with the investigation on-going and legal threats of anything from docked points to relegation hanging over them, the share prices are plummeting by 17.6 per cent and were suspended from trading this morning due to excessive losses.

Rossi named FIGC commissioner

Guido Rossi has been appointed as commissioner of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), it has been confirmed.

Rossi’s name was put forward yesterday and the decision to hire the 75-year-old was taken by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) at a crisis meeting earlier on Tuesday. CONI have opted to put the FIGC under emergency administration in the aftermath of the match-fixing allegations and subsequent investigations.

Rossi takes control of the organisation after previous President Franco Carraro and Innocenzo Mazzini, his deputy, quit last week. The 75-year-old Rossi has been brought in to re-organise the FIGC which has lost widespread credibility over the last 14 days. Rossi, a former head of stock market regulator Consob, will be aided by four sub-commissioners with one of those hailing from the football community.

Meanwhile, the investigations into alleged sporting fraud are continuing today with some high profile names being interviewed. Football League chief Adriano Galliani, Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti and Inter Coach Roberto Mancini are all being spoken to. Former Italian referee Pierlugi Collina, who was forced to resign at the start of this season over a conflict of interests row, is being contacted too. However, the four men are simply being asked for their informed opinions on the situation and are not under investigation themselves.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Moggi questioned in probe

Public prosecutors spent over six hours questioning Luciano Moggi as the investigation into alleged match-fixing continues.

Moggi, who on Sunday emotionally resigned as director general of Juve live on television, flew into Rome for interrogation in the aftermath of the telephone tap scandal which has blown the Italian football world into chaos. “This is a moment of great tiredness for me, but I looked to clear up everything,” Moggi is quoted as saying after his day in the capital. “Everyone acts in the way they think is necessary in this world because there are no alliances,” he added. “I reacted as I did in order to not be threatened, to not become a victim of the powerful forces already present.”
Sources added that Moggi had denied being a part of a system which included club officials and referees who allegedly looked to fix the result of games.

Fulvio Gianaria, Moggi’s lawyer, was happy with the discussions that had taken place. “The hearing was done with calmness and without bitterness,” he said. "There was a general discussion for half of the time and then we examined individual incidents.”

Moggi is one of 41 people under investigation by magistrates in Naples after a number of telephone calls between prominent figures in the game were intercepted. Transcripts of the calls reveal that a number of discussions took place with regard to the appointment of specific referees for matches.

The effects of the investigation have heavily penalised Juventus on the stock market after their shares lost 20 per cent of their value on Monday at a cost of around £40m. Financial experts in Italy are also speculating that Juve, crowned League champions on Sunday, could lose over £80m of their television and sponsorship deals if they find themselves in Serie B next term.

Fans turn on the Triade

There may have been celebrations in Bari as Juventus won the title, but a large number of fans contested the club’s ‘Triade’ on their return to Turin.

Around 200 Bianconeri followers gathered at the Caselle airport last night as they awaited for the side to touch down in northern Italy.

Outgoing director general Luciano Moggi, who last night quit on live television, was the focus of their anger as they chanted against the controversial figure. “Free [Mafia boss] Provenzano, arrest Luciano,” was one phrase repeatedly heard. “We no longer want the Triade,” was another.

The frustration of the fans with Moggi and Co – chief operating officer Antonio Giraudo and Vice-President Roberto Bettega – comes in the aftermath of the continuing scandal following a number of intercepted phone calls.

The contents of those conversations between a large number of high profile figures in the Italian game has led to a variety of probes into alleged match-fixing which involves Juventus and a number of other clubs.

With the possibility that Juve could be stripped of past Scudetto successes and relegated to Serie B, if anything is proved, the fans turned on the trio who had led the club to numerous titles over the last 12 years.

Although the trio of directors was heavily criticised, the fans stayed loyal to the Coach and the playing staff. Captain Alessandro Del Piero was particularly hailed, while there were also chants to bring back Juve legends Giampiero Boniperti and Michel Platini to the club.

It's over, and it's only just begun...

The weekend's final round of games had a surreal air, with clubs reasonably secure in the knowledge that the standings will soon have to be rewritten anyway, James Richardson reports...

It's over, and it's only just begun. Juventus wrapped up scudetto No29 with a 2-0 win over Reggina on Sunday. The game was played on neutral ground at Bari following trouble at Reggina's last home match, allowing the Turin giants to celebrate in front of 50,000 ecstatic southern fans. Many of these supporters had queued for hours for what, given that Bari play in Serie B, looked a rare chance to see the Old Lady up close. Given the way things are currently going, they and the rest of Italy's second division may soon be seeing a lot more of the old girl.

One of the strangest stories yet to emerge from the phone tapping scandal - the thousands of pages of recordings of Juve general manager Luciano Moggi and his allies discussing their manipulation of Italian football - features Moggi boasting of locking one of Italy's most senior referees and his linesman in their dressing room after a rare Juventus defeat last year. "I locked them in, and I took away the key," sniggers Luciano on his phone. "They'll have to break the door down!" "If I reported the incident," referee Gianluca Paparesta now comments, "they'd have run me out of the game." As fate would have it, Paparesta came face to face with Moggi again this Sunday as fourth official for the game in Bari. This time there was no question who's running out who.

Moggi has had to resign at Juve and is facing charges ranging from intimidation to kidnapping and criminal conspiracy. Juventus meanwhile stand accused of sporting fraud, as beneficiaries of what police have dubbed the "Moggi System". This consists of assigning friendly referees for Juve games, finding unfriendly ones for their rivals, and making sure future opponents were "softened up" with judicious use of the red card.

Juve aren't facing the music alone, however. Nine referees stand accused of being Moggi's foot soldiers. They include Massimo De Sanctis, who the Italian FA have now withdrawn from the World Cup. Forty-one people in total are being investigated, including senior officials at two other Serie A clubs, Lazio and Fiorentina, both of whose phone transcripts appear to show them "signing up" for the Moggi System. They and Juventus now stand a real chance of being relegated.

Sounds grim but at a guess, the worst is yet to come. Moggi, who broke press silence for the first time on Sunday to declare amid tears "They've murdered my soul!", will begin interrogation by police in Naples today. So far the spread of this scandal has been based on last year's phone transcripts, but what happens when Moggi decides to tell his version of the story? Stand by for Luciano to name as many names as possible because, with the evidence against him looking incontrovertible, he's expected to paint himself as just a small shark in a very dirty ocean.

Frankly there's no telling what accusations may emerge in the next few weeks. This weekend's final round of games therefore had a surreal air, as clubs competed for the two prizes left on offer - the title and the fourth Champions League place - reasonably secure in the knowledge that the standings will soon have to be rewritten anyway. For what it's worth, Fiorentina's 2-0 win at Chievo saw them tie up fourth place, which should see them enter the Champions League alongside Juve, Milan and Inter next season. Should! Roma, Lazio and Chievo should go into the UEFA Cup, and Messina, Lecce and Treviso should be relegated.

But who knows? Depending on the outcome of the investigations, Juventus, Lazio, Fiorentina and possibly even Milan could be penalised or relegated. This means the current eighth-placed finishers Palermo, who are currently facing the Intertoto Cup this August, could be involved in the Champions League instead.

All very exciting. Of course, the chances of the various investigations being settled by August are slimmer than Nicole Ritchie, what with the likely appeals and such. How next season can begin on schedule (on August 27) is anyone's guess, as we likely still won't know by then who should be in it. One possibility is that Serie A might actually return to the 18-team format enjoyed until two years ago, when another summer of scandal forced them to fit in two more clubs.

If so, it would be just one of the many plusses the upcoming summer might bring. And, bleak as the picture may be for the Italian game right now, there is in fact a tantalising vista on the other side of the next few months. A vista of a Serie A championship where the big clubs don't always get the better bounce of the ball, where outsiders (hey, even Inter) stand a chance just like in the old days, where whoever wins, we're quite sure it was because they had the better line-up, and not the bigger Rolodex. Pie in the sky? Maybe, but starting again from scratch is a rare and exhilarating opportunity for any league. For Serie A, it could prove the greatest blessing ever.

Juve clinch Scudetto under a cloud of suspicion

Juventus secured their 29th Scudetto yesterday but the celebrations which greeted their 2-0 win over Reggina in Bari were totally overshadowed by the scandal which threatens to see them stripped of the title.

Goals from David Trezeguet and Alessandro Del Piero might have ensured Juve kept their one-point lead over AC Milan, but the did nothing to mask the whiff of suspicion which now lingers over the Stadio delle Alpi.

Juventus are one of four clubs being investigated by prosecutors in Turin, Rome, Naples, Perugia and Parma for alleged match fixing in a scandal which has shaken the sport to its foundations.

A total of 58 people are so far under investigation including referees, agents, journalists and club and national federation officials for a range of allegations including the coercion of match officials, blackmail and threats, illegal betting and false accounting.

AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio, along with Juventus, have denied any wrong-doing as recordings of intercepted telephone conversations involving senior figures from the game, leaked to the media last week, appeared to show that the sport in Italy is rotten to the core. If found guilty of sporting fraud all four clubs could be punished and Juve could even be relegated from Serie A.

Today Italy manager Marcello Lippi names his squad for next month's World Cup in Germany. But with first-choice goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon accused of breaking rules which prohibit players from gambling on matches they are involved in, that looks set to be a sideshow. The Juventus player voluntarily met with Turin investigators on Saturday to deny the claims but his part in the controversy has placed his participation in Germany in doubt.

Central to the scandal is Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi, who stands accused, along with former managing director Antonio Giraudo, of trying to influence referee appointments for games during the 2004-2005 season, which ended in triumph for Juventus.

Transcripts of phone calls Moggi made to Itallian FA officials appear to show he was a key figure in the appointment of referees. He is even accused of locking a referee in a dressing room following one match.

Yesterday Moggi said he was standing down to concentrate on clearing his name. "As of tomorrow I will have resigned as general director of Juventus, and as of tonight soccer is no longer my world," Moggi said. "Now I will think only of defending myself from all the nasty things said about me."

Italian FA president Franco Carraro has also resigned, while referee Massimo de Santis, due to represent Italy at the World Cup, has been withdrawn along with assistant referees Alessandro Griselli and Marco Ivaldi.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Moggi: I’m leaving football

Luciano Moggi has announced he is leaving Juventus and the football world for good after an investigation into alleged match fixing.

“I am here to inform everyone that on Monday I will resign as director general of Juventus and that from now on football is no longer my world,” he told Sky Italia’s cameras. “I no longer have the desire nor the strength to carry on. These people have killed my soul. All I’ll focus on now is defending myself against so much bitterness aimed in my direction.”

The controversial transfer guru’s telephone conversations were taped by public prosecutors for several months and have sparked an investigation into alleged match-fixing and collusion with referees. Many heads have rolled over this scandal, such as the entire Juventus Board of Directors, the FIGC President Franco Carraro and Vice-President Innocenzo Mazzini. Today another high-profile figure stepped aside, as the President of the AIA – Italian Refereeing Association – Tullio Lanese has suspended himself from his post “with immediate effect.”

Although nobody has been charged and the investigation is on-going, the worst case scenario could see Juve docked points, stripped of titles or even relegated to Serie B if the allegations are proved.

Berlusconi: Give back our titles

Milan patron Silvio Berlusconi demands the ‘return’ of the Juventus Scudetti under investigation and Franco Carraro warns this title is only provisional.

“We demand the return of the two Scudetti that belong to us,” said the former Prime Minister and media mogul this afternoon. “I don’t think I can be any clearer than that. We are sick of being the victims of injustice.”

A police investigation into match-fixing allegations and collusion with referees is sweeping through Italian football and could potentially see clubs docked points, stripped of titles or even relegated. While these scenarios are unlikely and it should be noted that at this stage no charges have been made, it casts a shadow over Juve’s celebrations for their 29th Serie A Championship.

“The season ends today and the winner is assigned a provisional Scudetto,” explained former FIGC President Carraro. “The sporting justice system will investigate and reach its conclusions, but this is not just because of the events from this week. It’s the way it always works, as the results are only ratified after a few days.” Carraro resigned from his post at the head of the Italian Federation earlier this week after the publication of telephone conversation transcripts between Juve director general Luciano Moggi and several high-ranking officials. “It’s only right that everything be burned down and started from scratch, as it will take years to wash away what has happened,” he continued. “I realised that public opinion was very strong and thought it impossible for a figure to be head of the FA who was the subject of so much debate, both inside and outside the sport. I have always considered myself an honest man, but as President it was my responsibility to ensure everything ran smoothly. I was the only person to ask for a commission into GEA’s practices, but after a year the investigation was closed without evidence of wrong-doing.”

Carraro turned against referee Gianluca Paparesta, who was interrogated by public prosecutors this week after allegations Juventus director general Luciano Moggi locked him in his office as ‘punishment’ for disallowing the Bianconeri’s goal in the 2-1 defeat at Reggina last season. “Paparesta has disappointed me and failed to do his duty, as he should’ve reported this incident. I heard that he said it was because he’d never referee again if he talked. How can he say such a thing, as his father was a respected referee and he has been in this sport for a long time? As for Moggi, what saddened me was his air of arrogance and impunity.”

There are reports that the investigation could take so long that next season, scheduled to kick off on August 27, won’t actually be able to start until October 1. In order to achieve that, the Serie A table could again be reduced from 20 teams to 18.

Rivera tipped for FIGC chair

Zdenek Zeman and Maurizio Zamparini have suggested Gianni Rivera as the new President of the Italian Federation.

The FIGC is without a chief after President Franco Carraro and Vice-President Innocenzo Mazzini resigned following the investigation into match-fixing allegations. It’s believed a temporary commissioner will be put in place in an emergency meeting on Tuesday and the race is on to find a candidate who can lead the FA into a new era.

“The Lega Calcio and the FIGC must be placed in the hands of a new person who is alien to the current system. It’s the only possible way,” noted Palermo patron and Lega Calcio Vice-President Zamparini. “I’m waiting for Lega Calcio President Adriano Galliani to take the first step. We have to resign together, as I’m not quitting to leave him here alone. We need new blood and Rivera would be a brave step in the right direction. There’s also the issue of dividing resources equally, so we should follow the model set up by Denmark and France.”

The latest scandal to have hit Italian football is of little surprise to Zeman, the man whose comments in 1998 sparked the long-running and ultimately fruitless investigation into alleged doping at Juventus.

“When I started talking about what I saw in this sport, I got nothing but whacks on the back of the head,” said the Brescia Coach. “When I heard about this investigation, my first thought was gratitude that at last something was being done. In this sport there is a problem of men and the general system, which I have been criticising for many years. I hope that football can be cleaned up by this action.”

Saturday, May 13, 2006

De Santis dropped from World Cup

The Italian Federation has asked FIFA to drop referee Massimo De Santis from the 2006 World Cup.

This afternoon the FIGC officially sent a letter to FIFA and UEFA to revoke De Santis’ candidacy for the tournament. Assistant referees Alessandro Griselli and Marco Ivaldi, plus designators Bergamo and Pairetto, will also lose their World Cup passes.

De Santis, a 44-year-old police chief constable, is one of the people under investigation as part of the scandal spreading throughout Italian football. The Naples public prosecutor released a list of 41 names they are looking into, but also claimed there were six ‘brains’ behind the operation to organise certain referees for specific games. De Santis was among them along with Juventus director general Luciano Moggi, Bianconeri chief Antonio Giraudo, FIGC vice-President Innocenzo Mazzini, refereeing designators Paolo Bergamo and Pierluigi Pairetto.

Although nothing has been proved and nobody has been charged with sporting fraud, it was thought unwise to send De Santis to the World Cup with such serious allegations hanging over his head.

Fiorentina point to ‘invisible force’

Fiorentina are under investigation for alleged match fixing and patron Diego Della Valle insists they were only swept along by ‘an invisible force.’

“We saw an unquantifiable but powerful force that blocked everything going in another direction. It was a force that isolated whoever dared to point a finger of blame and ask questions on where we were heading,” Della Valle told television programme ‘Matrix’ last night.

The Naples public prosecutor yesterday confirmed that several clubs are under investigation for an alleged match fixing scandal and 19 games from 2004-05 in Serie A are particularly scrutinised for possible irregularities. The accusation is that referees were handpicked for these tasks to either favour a particular team or book players so they would be suspended for their next encounter with the clubs involved.

Della Valle hit the headlines last season when, upon Fiorentina’s return to Serie A, he attempted to push Adriano Galliani out of the Lega Calcio Presidency and repeatedly called for a complete shake-up of the football system. “I got the impression that we were considered the new boys who wanted to change everything, but that we’d soon get ‘thumped’ to teach us and anyone else who wanted to follow us a harsh lesson.”

The Viola only narrowly escaped relegation last season, as a final round win over Brescia and Parma’s 3-3 draw at Lecce sent the Gialloblu and Bologna into the play-off. “We have read the public prosecutor’s evidence and are perfectly relaxed,” insisted Della Valle. “I ask the magistrates to be swift and leave no stone unturned. A distinction must be made between those who are guilty, victims and implicated indirectly. I can’t wait to get in front of the judges to make my case.”

However, some of his other comments suggest there was an ‘invisible force’ pushing Fiorentina in certain unnamed directions. “There is a system of total power in football and we never bowed to that. Then we understood they wanted to knock us down just because we didn’t side with the system. That’s when we started listening to what they said without actually doing what they asked.”

As with most of this unseemly affair, the comments are kept deliberately vague, but the businessman does imply that this powerful cabal of calcio was responsible for Fiorentina’s poor results last term. “Someone wanted to show us what happens when you don’t toe the party line and the team was going straight to Serie B. We never bowed to pressure, as there are ideals we hold dearly. Those were worrying times and we were afraid of what was around us, but we decided to listen and then do our own thing anyway.”

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Wiretaps (Part 2)

Other intercepted conversations show how Moggi and Paolo Bergamo (referees’ designator) agreed on which referees to send for which games, and how Moggi asked for Pierluigi Collina (international referee) to be punished among other things.

Officials from Milan, Lazio, Fiorentina and the FIGC were also tapped.

WARNING: These transcripts contain very strong language, and some text may not be translated 100% acurately!

On February 9 2005, Moggi and Bergamo had this conversation...

Moggi: ...Now I tell you what I had studied.
Bergamo: ...Let’s see what we agree on with what I had studied!
Moggi: ...Let’s see a bit if…
Bergamo: ...Let’s see who studied best... Who do you put in the first grid of teams? Of games?
Moggi: ...wait...let me get the paper! Because I checked it out well today... So I put: Inter-Roma;
Bergamo: ...yes...
Moggi: ...Juventus-Udinese;
Bergamo: ...yes...
Moggi: Reggina-Milan;
Bergamo: ...yes...
Moggi: Fiorentina-Parma, which cannot be left out and Siena-Messina;
Bergamo: ...yes...;
Moggi: ...I put five, however we can also put four! It’s not like Siena-Messina is an important match! I think so, no?
Bergamo: Then there’s also Livorno-Sampdoria where in the first round there was a lot of problems! However, it’s ok! Go ahead, as anyway... it doesn’t change much!
Moggi: ...I know teams which ...I know teams Livorno and Sampdoria which in practice are a bit calmer!
Bergamo: Uhhh! Not really! Well! Ok, go ahead! Because anyway not much changes, we can also add another one if we wanted, however I have only a few referees for the first slot! Tell me!
Moggi: I put: Bertini...
Bergamo: ...uh...
Moggi: ...Paparesta who returns...
Bergamo:, Paparesta does not return!
Moggi: He returns on Friday!
Bergamo: Are you sure?
Moggi: Sure!
Bergamo: But if Gigi told me that this UEFA commitment will keep him out till the 12th?
Moggi: ...ehm... What he told you is crap...and when’s the 12th??
Bergamo: ...Saturday!...
Moggi: No, no, he returns on Friday night!...Bertini, Paparesta, Trefoloni, Ragalbuto, I had placed Tombolini, but Tombolini then made a mess with Lazio, I don’t know how this is, that is he made a mess, he gave a penalty...
Bergamo: ...uh...
Moggi: ...and these were the referees I had placed in this grid!
Bergamo: ...and Rodomonti instead of Tombolini, right?
Moggi: ....or Rodomonti instead of Tombolini, is fine too!
Bergamo: ...and so we had done it the same way, you see!
Moggi: ...I, I think...I think that this can be a grid…a grid;
Bergamo: ...that is I don’t have Paparesta. I had 4. I had: Bertini, Ragalbuto, Rodomonti and Trefoloni! And sincerely I want to stop Tombolini for a match because he made a mistake, otherwise you never punish them?
Moggi:, no, no...Eh...oh? Look, let me tell you... maybe I’m wrong, also I have some people to keep under, no? If you, for example, don’t punish Collina and Rosetti, the others are all authorized.
Bergamo: ....but in fact, I did not put Collina and Rosetti, eh?
Moggi: ...No, just to tell you, but the others are authorized to say: if they do it, we can do it too, they cannot break our balls!
Bergamo: ...I have written down: Bertini, Rodomonti, Trefoloni, then you tell me Paparesta, better! Paparesta arrives and is used as a referee! The important thing is that he arrives on Friday because Inter-Roma is moved forward to Saturday!
Moggi: No, no Friday night he will be there! No, no, there are no problems....
Moggi: ...I think...I think that there is no problem... this grid has no problem! I think! I think so, but then in football you never, if there are problems, however.
Bergamo:, but also I believe in this, eh... the only thing, it doesn’t even interest me if Bertini goes to do Reggina-Milan which is the sixth time for Milan and... from that moment he will precluded! Patience, oh! He will not ref Milan-Juventus but this is not what worries me! Because anyway he already took care of the first leg, therefore!
Phone calls between Moggi and Giraudo on December 22 2004 show that the Bianconeri duo discussed on how to punish Zdenek Zemen – the Czech coach who accused Juve players of being doped in the early 1990’s.

Moggi: Zeman? We must...we must do something to him, I don’t know a system, pity… we must hit him with a piece of wood...
Moggi: We need ‘to take all the hemorrhages’, causing him a damage, inventing something, removing a player from him, finding some…
Not just Moggi is involved in these interceptions, AC Milan official Leonardo Meani called linesman Contini, designated for the Milan-Brescia match of the 9th of April 2006 which ended 1-1. In this interception, Contini calls Meani for a dinner-meeting…

Meani:, if there wasn’t the uncle, however always eh?
Contini: *laughs*
The second game is Milan-Chievo 1-0 from the 20th of April and the interception involves Bergamo and Pairetto…

Bergamo: a...a…and, one who has been already for two months which we should have put him and there was some pressure and therefore… we put Puglisi to direct Milan-Chievo?...ehm, yesterday there were mistakes and therefore they ask: why do you penalise us? ehm, that is with me they did not speak, eh? I’ll tell you the truth, they called Gennaro (Mazzei).
The third match is Siena-Milan 2-1 from the 17th of April 2005. In this case, according to the investigators, they believe that the Rossoneri were damaged in favour of Juve…

Mazzini to Giraudo: "however...however I must say that our friend was exceptional at Siena, eh?
Contini talking about Baglioni, linesman designated for the Siena-Milan game…

Contini: he’s Pairetto’s friend, if you want to know he’s the one who books the tickets for him, that Pairetto goes to eat at his house, not at the restaurant, at his house…
Meani: "What the fuck, what the fuck, I really don’t want him, I don’t want him, I never asked for him nor wanted him, this is one… now he’s also asking me to be very careful, dh, not to make mistakes because Galliani is very angry, obviously. So tell him to be very careful from now on… till the end of the season… however Gennaro is very angry, tell him that from now on he must not make any fucking mistakes because he’s very angry, therefore also on Wednesday try to send two intelligent ones.
Here are some extracts from the conversations between Bergamo and Pairetto, after the President of the FIGC (Franco Carraro) asked Bergamo to help Lazio for the Chievo-Lazio game which the Biancocelesti won 1-0 on February 20 2005.

Bergamo: ...Lotito was looking for me, he wanted to know, he spoke with Carraro, I think on Friday, on the request for attention for his case, because you know he’s one of the flag bearers pro Carraro, pro Galliani, but Carraro told you something and he did not tell you anything?... try to understand Gigi, he wants to know just if Carraro told you something, to keep into consideration Lazio’s position and his own, because he is doing a lot…
A telephone conversation between Mazzini and Lazio President Claudio Lotito…

Lotito: Therefore he spoke with him?... This is a positive thing, so it means that he is loyal with me…
Lotito: …but he did it specifically or generically? … in the sense for a conduction, even a future one, not just specific for a thing.
Mazzini: no. no...he confirmed it to me, not only...but it’s a pressing intervention.
Lotito: You must work on both of them and talk to them clearly, start, start, we must see and start to say, did you understand? To establish, to establish, understood?
The second match is Lazio’s 2-0 win against Parma on February 27 2005, which was refereed by Messina. In this case Carraro had a direct interest in this game and Mazzini called Lotito…

Mazzini: ...We must avoid relegation in every way, eh?...
Lotito: ...aoh, on Sunday I have Parma eh? Which is important.
Mazzini: they will arrest you...they will arrest you!
Lotito: ...Aho? And why should they?...
Mazzini: ehh! Ask those guys from Parma...ask the Parma guys!...
The third Lazio match is the one against Bologna (2-1). Apparently, the designation of Tagliavento as a referee was predetermined by Carraro, Bergamo, Pairetto, Mazzini and Lotito…

Lotito: ...the problem now is at Bologna…listen to me…look that Bologna is important, you know why or what he did to me Gazzoni…you know what he told me…on Sunday next to me? I will make a declaration…I told him ok…do the declaration.
Mazzini: You do the declaration…we take the points!
Paolo Bergamo called the fourth official of the Roma-Juventus match so that he would keep his mobile phone turned on during the half time and the game, recommending him a “secure mobile”…

Bergamo to employee Fazi: Listen, I need a courtesy…can you call Francesca (wife of the referee Marco Gabriele, fourth official of the Roma-Juve match) Marco’s wife… and tell him that tonight he needs to leave the mobile phone on…so that if there was the need for something… between the first and second half… or also to take it on the pitch, it’s the same…since there…eventually only I call him, but if there was any need I would be able to contact him…tell him that it should be a secure mobile and then…however do it through Francesca, not directly with him.
The following conversations, both between Moggi and Italy's most famous sports commentator Fabio Baldas, show how Moggi’s system worked. Baldas is Italy's Des Lynam, reviewing the weekend's games in his weekly programme. Moggi, with his canny understanding of the media, had worked out that the best way to conceal the bias that referees were repeatedly showing Juventus was by exploiting his contacts in the mass media. His logic was that though 50,000 might see the game live, millions had their opinions formed by men such as Baldas. According to investigators, Baldas and Moggi spoke before nearly every programme to discuss what was going to be said and shown, who was going to be given the Roman thumbs up and who got the thumbs down. So, on 18th October 2005, Baldas rang Moggi on his mobile…

Baldas: How are you? Well?
Moggi: Good.
Baldas: Listen Luciano, today we haven't got much ... there is ... [just] Rodomonti [the referee for a game between Cagliari-Milan over the weekend]. Is it OK if we make him look bad? If you agree, of course ...
Moggi: Oh naturally.
Baldas: And then? And then? There's always Siena-Fiorentina ...
Moggi: But was there a penalty?
Baldas: Er ... bloody hell, yes, there was a penalty! ... And there Rosetti [a referee]. You know the guy ... But if we show him, what are we going to do?
Moggi: No, no, leave him alone ... just drop the Siena game.
Baldas: OK ... if I need a favour will you do me a favour?
Moggi: No problem.
Baldas: You'll call me back soon?
Moggi: Yup, soon.
Baldas: Fine, bye.

There are dozens of such conversations. In fact, according to investigators, Moggi received or made an average of 416 calls per day. He had six mobile phones and 300 sim cards. In nine months, he made or received 100,000 calls.