Italy Reeling from Latest Football Scandal

10 Apr 2012

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Masiello admitted to receiving 50,000 euros for scoring an own goal in Bari's 2-0 home defeat to Lecce last season


Italy could ill afford another football scandal just six years after the infamous Calciopoli match-fixing affair with memories even still fresh from the Totonero scandal in 1980.

And yet this season has been marked by another ugly episode that culminated last week in the arrest of a Serie A footballer for having taken bribes to fix matches, reports AFP.

Andrea Masiello, now with Atalanta, admitted to receiving 50,000 euros for scoring an own goal in Bari's 2-0 home defeat to Lecce last season.

The revelation came after an investigation by the Bari public prosecutor which discovered a match-fixing ring centre around the city's football team.

It was the latest incident in what has been generally termed Calcioscommesse (football-betting) which involves at least three separate investigations up and down the country.

Local and foreign mafias paid players to help fix matches, mostly in the lower divisions but also in Serie A, to make money through betting on those games.

Masiello and Bari's involvement took place once the southerners were almost certain to be relegated from Serie A, with a group of Ultra fans allegedly approaching players and telling them to lose certain matches.

Masiello is far from the highest profile player to be implicated in these scandals with former Italy international striker, Guiseppe Signori banned from footballing activities and briefly placed under house arrest.

He is still under investigation.

Former Atalanta striker, Cristiano Doni was also banned for five years for accepting bribes, a charge he eventually admitted to as his ban had ended his playing career.

Doni and Signori were first implicated last June when the first betting scandal stories started being made public.

It has since dogged Italian football all season long and continues to do so as more investigations are launched and more revelations published.

Italians have been here before and are even managing to see a light-hearted side to the affair, with the joke doing the rounds: "Calcioscommesse scoop, the Vicenza-Cagliari match in 1964 wasn't fixed!"

There is perhaps a good reason to Italians' looking at the funny side of what is another humiliating blot on the country's footballing image.

The 2006 Calciopoli affair, in which teams including Juventus were ringing up the Refereeing Commission to ask for certain "friendly" referees to take charge of their games, preceded a World Cup victory.

And the Totonero scandal in 1980, in which players took bribes to fix games, came just a couple of years before Italy's previous World Cup success.

Paolo Rossi copped a two-year ban for his involvement and came back just in time to star for Italy at the World Cup in Spain.

Not everyone is laughing though as giants AC Milan, in 1980, and Juventus, in 2006, both paid for their involvement with relegation to Serie B.

Atalanta were hit with a six-point penalty at the start of this season over their part in the current Calcioscommesse affair.

That could have proved costly for the newly-promoted side, although a fine start to their campaign saw them keep clear of the relegation battle.

So far they have been the only Serie A team directly involved and Masiello the only current top flight player implicated.

But if Hristiyan Ilievski, a Macedonian mafioso who gave an interview to La Repubblica a few weeks ago, is to be believed, the match-fixing is far more wide-reaching that even the authorities believe.

"Players phoned me and said: '20,000 (euros) on this result', I did it because I trusted them," he said.

"That doesn't happen in England but it does in Italy. The players make an agreement and then bet or sell their information.

"Often it's the directors of the clubs themselves who come to an agreement."

Tags: Sports, World, Football Scandal

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