Stefano Mauri, Lazio captain is in the dock for accepting money to fix results
In case you have not been following it, we have the makings of an enormous match fixing scandal enveloping Italian football which might make the original Calciopoli look like a storm in a teacup.
14 players have been arrested which include Lazio captain Stefano Mauri and former Genoa midfielder Omar Milanetto, now with Padua.
In a move that will surely endanger Italy’s chances at the 2012 Euro, the police converged on Coverciano, the national training camp to pick up Domenico Criscito for questioning. That ended the Zenit defender’s hopes for selection as Cesare Prandelli took a very dim view dropping him from the 23 man squad.
“He would have experienced a pressure that no human being can deal with,” Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said of Criscito playing at the June 8 to July 1 tournament. “He wouldn’t have been in the right frame of mind. And he could also have been called up by the prosecutors at any time, before a match.”
Criscito’s house in Genoa was also searched after a series of phone taps revealed contact with Milanetto and a series of text messages from former AC Milan and Genoa player Kakha Kaladze over allegedly fixing the Genoa vs Lazio match in the previous season. He was also photographed meeting with the leader of the Genoa ultras, Fabricio Fileni, and Lazio striker, Giuseppe Sculli over lunch days before the match which resulted in a 4-2 Lazio win.
The defender made the move to Zenit last year after spending three years at Genoa.
Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci is also under suspicion but has so far survived Prandelli’s axe.
Antonio Conte, the Juventus manager was also interrogated in relation to his time at Siena. The owner of Siena, Massimo Mezzaroma is also under investigation. Other clubs in the eye of the storm are Atalanta and Novara.
Roberto Di Martino, the chief prosecutor called Siena, a focal point of their investigation.
“There are seven, eight games being looked at and there have been statements that make us think they were manipulated,” Di Martino said. “The searches involved players, coaches and directors of the club, including Conte and Mezzaroma.”
Much of the investigation centres around the role of a shadowy group of Balkan mercenaries called the Zingaris aka Gypsies, headed by Hristiyan Ilievski who have targeted the Serie and its players paying them off to fix results in order to make large sums on sporting bets. The scandal crossed over to the Serie A after defender Andrea Masiello revealed he was paid €50,000 to score an own goal in Bari’s defeat vs Lecce, a result that ensured their rival’s survival in Serie A last season. Almost a year has passed by since Cristiano Doni, the former Atalanta midfielder was banned from the sport along with Giuseppe Signori, the former Lazio player on match fixing Serie B matches exposed the tip of the match fixing iceberg.
The scandal has gone international with five Hungarians also arrested in their country over allegations of fixing Lazio vs Lecce as well as Genoa vs Lazio. Authorities are also opening up investigations into betting syndicates operating out of Switzerland and Singapore into what appears to be illegal payments and sporting fraud.
Almost 150 other figures connected to Italian football are being questioned over dozens of matches fixed in Serie A. Here is the list.
This is deja vu all over again to the eternal shame of Italian football. On the eve of the Euros 2012 they have to try and answer this scandal on the pitch just like they did in the 2006 World Cup. Daniele De Rossi had this gloomy forecast:
“This time it’s worse than 2006. At least for me,” Roma and Italy midfielder Daniele De Rossi said. “It’s more shocking this time, with the police coming into Coverciano (Italy’s training ground) and people I know being arrested. We’re going to the Euros with a stain on us.”