The roots of match fixing in Italy

Hard choices

The recent scandal of match fixing is not even close to an end, but our football seems unable to think to everything else. I have a theory, I think that the roots of this scandal are older than most people think, the seeds were planted in 1979-80.

That was the date of the first Italian fixing match scandal. I think that at that time we made our biggest mistakes, that still today have an influence in our football. In the first years of 80s there was the huge scandal called “Totonero” which involved dozens of players and important clubs, at the end of the trial, AC Milan and Lazio were relegated in Serie B, two managers were found guilty, one of them was the Milan’s president at that time, and 18 player were sentenced to various punishment from been disqualified from 3 months to 6 years. One of them was Paolo Rossi, the one who would won the World cup two years later in Spain. I think that everything started at that time, Paolo Rossi has become in the next thirty years a hero of the Italian expedition to Spain and not the man who cheat before winning the title, no-one likes to remember that the man who took the cup in Madrid was the man who was involved in the “Totonero” scandal.

We have simply removed the bad things to remember only the good ones.

In 1982 after the triumph in the World Cup the Italian federation crossed out 2 years of ban at the players that were still facing one. Why? To celebrate. That was completely crazy, what was the link between a victory and a ban for match fixing is something at least obscure.

So after only 4 years another scandal went off, the so-called “Totonero-bis”. Only Udinese in Serie A were involved, and only 2 managers of the top league were found guilty, but there were other 6 clubs in Serie B involved with 10 managers One of them was Renzo Ulivieri the present head of the coaches association, he was sentenced to 3 years, someone still remember? I dare say no. There were 28 players found guilty. In Serie C, now Lega Pro, the third level of football, there were 2 clubs involved, 5 managers and 8 players sentenced.

That happened only 4 years later, that was the result of the glorification of the Italian football after the Spanish World Cup of 1982, the Paolo Rossi myth, the reduction on the bans after the victory.

Anyway after a quarter of century, with a nation raised up with the legend of the great Italian team which won the title in 1982, and no or little reference of the scandal that surrounded it, the same scandal got off a spectacular start and Italian football is facing another dramatic challenge.

Is it a surprise? Is it something unusual? Well History says no. When you have spent 30 years talking about the heroes of Spain, but you forget to mention that the “goleador” was someone convicted for match fixing, and he’s now a well-know media personality you cannot be surprised if another scandal goes off. You cannot be surprised if you win a World Cup and then you cut the penalty on those found guilty. You cannot be surprised in a country where the last matches of every season are not played because you don’t want to make enemies. It’s something natural, it’s something that we prepared 30 years ago and that we have never tried hard to solve. The Singapore gang had operated in Italy for around 10 years, it means that we won’t never know how many matches had been fixed for real, too many years and probably too many people had been involved. In fact the present match fixing scandal is the largest of ever, it has already involved more clubs and more players that the preceding two combined. What’s more the penal investigation is still going so we cannot even be sure that those who have been involved so far are the only one who risk something.

For these historical and social reasons I cannot think that the federation is doing enough, they’ve been too soft with all the sides involved, so it’s even too easy to forecast another scandal in the coming years.

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