Straight from the dark heart of Italy
It’s no wonder Italian bookies give up quoting odds on Serie A games during the end of season run-in.They know that it’s time for favours to be called in; a point dropped here or there when a team is safe, a draw suits two sides, okay, a draw it will be. As we know from the 2006 scandal, centring on “Lucky” Luciano Moggi and Juventus, football matches are not won on the pitch.Italy is a country run on favours and a nod to the good to ensure that no one needs to suffer a sleepless night.
Moggi: Former Juventus chief accused of influencing referees
The latest investigation into match-fixing is not exactly gripping the country as it did two years ago but merely highlights the fact that the problem has never really gone away or is likely to.Speaking to someone in the know, they claimed that rigging matches usually came in two forms.On occasions, it’s a loose pact between players who had been team-mates in the past; on others, a middleman is involved.Their task is to secure the complicity of three or four key players – the two captains and at least one of the goalkeepers and maybe a striker or key defender for good measure.Those with influence on the pitch can then steer the outcome of the game in the “right” direction.This would seem to be the situation regarding the latest match-fixing investigation surrounding last season’s Serie A encounters between Livorno and Atalanta.The players charged fit the bill perfectly: Atalanta captain Gian Paolo Bellini and his Livorno counterpart David Balleri, experienced Livorno defender Alessandro Grandoni and veteran team-mates, the Filippini twins, Emanuele and Antonio.The case centres around proving that the captains “agreed to change the natural course of the game to try and alter the outcome,” as the Italian Football Federation put it.
The first game ended in a 1-1 draw with both goals coming three minutes apart midway through the first half. However, it’s the second game that the investigators have really latched on to. This was the fixture in Bergamo three games from the end of the season, with Atalanta safe in mid-table and Livorno bottom, needing a positive result to stand any chance of staying up.It looked as if it was going to be one of those plucky comeback stories so loved in Hollywood movies as the Tuscans overcame a 2-0 deficit with 10 minutes remaining to level at 2-2.However, obviously if there was a script then apparently Simone Padoin hadn’t bothered to read it as the midfielder lobbed home the winner with a minute to go.
Padoin nets a last-gasp winner... then wishes he hadn't
Eyebrows were raised at the final whistle when the Filippinis and Grandoni chased Padoin down the tunnel, not it would seem to congratulate the midfielder, while Balleri reportedly threw a plastic water bottle at an opponent.The “discussions” continued in front of officials from both clubs amongst no end of embarrassed coughs and foot shuffling.The aforementioned Livorno players along with team-mate Giovanni Pasquale all received hefty match bans for what was described as “over-reaction” at the end of the match and the Amaranto lost their next game at home, to Torino, to drop into Serie B.Of course, everyone is claiming innocent, leaving the federation with a tough job to clear up yet more murky goings-on in the world of Italian football.
Cheaters never prosper is probably the most apt phrase after reading that!
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