Monday, May 15, 2006

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.


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