Playing under a shadow

Story by Ben Steele

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On Sunday the national team will play Spain in the Euro 2012 final. Mario Balotelli is fired up, Gianluigi Buffon is still one of the world’s best keepers and Andrea Pirlo seems to find the idea of misplacing a pass physically sickening. So everything is rosy in Italian football right? Wrong. Cesare Prandelli’s squad will return to a country in the midst of a corruption scandal that has rocked the Italian FA and in many ways taken the shine off an exceptional run to the final.

Lazio captain Stefano Mauri is the most high profile player to be arrested in connection with an investigation that involves people and clubs at every level of the professional game. Perhaps the most worrying development is that Antonio Conte, a trainer at undefeated Serie A champions Juventus, has been put under investigation. Famously, it was Juventus who were relegated to Serie B following another match fixing scandal in 2006 and proof of further involvement in this sort of corruption could see even bigger punishments going their way. I’d best be careful not say anything stupid here, we’re quite a new website and while they say all publicity is good publicity I’m not sure being sued by a footballing giant would end particularly well for us, but it does like Italian football has more than its fair share of match fixing/betting scandals surrounding it. With these issues continuing to raise their head it has to be said that the Italian police seem to do an incredible job picking up on these things and attempting to put a stop to them but allowing them to happen in the first place is the real problem.

The poison has been in the game for a while; in 1980 striker Paulo Rossi was banned for 2 years for his part in a betting controversy. He came back just in time to score a hat-trick against Brazil in the 1982 World Cup, so that worked out alright. Then in 2006 Juventus, AC Milan, Lazio, Fiorentina and Reggina were found guilty of selecting “favourable” (read corrupt) referees to officiate their games. The big question is, what effect do these scandals have on players in Italy?

Obviously the problem is there, but it would be unfair to say that everybody involved in football is guilty of involvement in some way, shape or form. Luckily for the Italian FA these scandals seem to come along at the time of major international tournaments and the players seem to use them as a way of taking the nations mind of the controversy. After Rossi broke back into the team in 1982 Italy won that World Cup, when the Calciopoli scandal broke in 2006 there was another World Cup. Look who won that. As for Euro 2012, well we’ll see on Sunday…

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