THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

{mosimage} 7 January ~ Following the interrogation of Luigi Sartor on December 29, the second phase of "Betgate" took a short break. With the inquiry due to resume on Wednesday, it is time to take stock of the situation. The new revelations have confirmed the gravity of the scandal, largely thanks to the partial "confessions" of Cristiano Doni, Filippo Carobbio and Carlo Gervasoni. There are now seven clubs under suspicion from Serie A – Chievo, Genoa, Lazio, Lecce, Novara, Palermo and Siena – and five from Serie B, plus others from lower down. The list is unlikely to end there. Players now include Lazio’s Stefano Mauri, the recently retired Nicola Ventola and Chievo captain Sergio Pellissier.

It has also been alleged that three 2006 World Cup winners – Gigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro and Gennaro Gattuso – are inveterate gamblers. Buffon is said to spend up to €200,000 a month on his habit. The judge leading the inquiry said their gambling habits are only of interest to him if they involve the alteration of sporting results, but the sporting judge might take a different view.

It has emerged that the man operating in Italy for the criminal organisation behind all this is Almir Gegic. The 32-year-old Bosnian-born Turkish citizen is currently in hiding. He was playing for Chiasso in Switzerland, just over the border from Como. So, after fixing many games in Switzerland, he took advantage of the fact that a number of Italian players are currently with the leading clubs of the Swiss-Italian Ticino province.

In early 2009, Matteo Gritti, the goalkeeper of the Swiss club Bellinzona, contacted Gervasoni, who was then with Serie B team AlbinoLeffe, to tell him about Gegic. Gervasoni claims AlbinoLeffe went on to sell their matches at Pisa, Salernitana and Frosinone in the spring of 2009. Gervasoni says some of the players he tried to corrupt opted not to go along with the plan. None of them reported what was happening, so presumably this was more due to the fear of being caught than any moral principle.

AlbinoLeffe are also suspected of selling the end-of-season games against Ancona in 2009 (they turned a 3-1 lead into a 4-3 defeat in 20 minutes) and Padova in 2010. Both Ancona and Padova stayed up as a result of these wins. I saw both games and was convinced they had been fixed. If you add the infamous AlbinoLeffe v Piacenza 3-3 draw, which Gervasoni says involved the directors of both clubs, you can see that AlbinoLeffe are in a fine mess.

Whichever way you look at it, a lot of the players under suspicion have at some time worn the colours of Atalanta. Given the frequency with which players change clubs, this may be a coincidence. Even so, the club certainly has some questions to answer. The current silence of club president Antonio Percassi is an added source of frustration for the fans.

Italian football is becoming as much of a laughing stock as Italian politics was under Berlusconi. I used to think AlbinoLeffe was a model club. No more. I used to think that if you lived in Como you could at least cross over to Switzerland and breathe the clean air of Swiss football. No more.

There are now 95 different bets that you can lay in a single match. How on earth can that be controlled? It is madness. The TV programmes and newspapers that give the impression of carrying on as usual resemble more and more the orchestra that continued to play as the Titanic went down. Geoff Bradford

Comments (9)
Comment by kreig303 2012-01-07 14:10:14

Par for the course. Look up the "calcioscommesse" scandal of the early 80s and the resultant New Model Army of the 84-85 Serie A table.

As an old friend once said — "the only honest sport is rockclimbing".

Comment by lennon 2012-01-07 14:53:56

Where does it all end, though ? Who wants to watch fixed matches, like the end-of-season draws in Serie A.

Comment by jasoƱ voorhees 2012-01-07 16:48:02

I believe you left out "continue to", or "furthers to" coupled with "an even greater" in the title.

Comment by geobra 2012-01-07 19:35:14

@ kreig303

This is very different from the 80s betting scandal. That occurred when the only legal betting on football in Italy was totocalcio (predict the results of 13 games). One of those involved, Carlo Petrini, has said that compared to today's protagonists, they were 'chicken thieves'. That was a local difficulty, this has huge international ramifications. Petrini has written several revelatory books which allege that even in the 60s and 70s there was a very dark side to Italian football. He hasn't yet been sued, not even by Giovanni Trapattoni, one of his targets. He himself is almost blind, probably the result of performance-enhancing drugs administered to the gullible players of the time.

@ kennon

This isn't just about strange end-of-season results. But even if it was,they happen everywhere, including England,and are almost physiological when you have leagues and teams can go up or down. Often a team's fate depends on the quirks of the fixture list.

@ jaso voorhees

I didn't write the headline, but I can't really disagree with you. Italian football has always been part Jekyll and part Hyde. I'd like to think it could change, but I have my doubts. However, we must keep trying and hoping for a miracle. And there are plenty of Italians who believe in them!

Comment by The Awesome Berbaslug!!! 2012-01-08 01:51:03

Geoff, you couldn't bung us a pm outlining what petrini says about our trap if it's not too much trouble

Comment by geobra 2012-01-08 10:26:52

In his book 'Nel Fango del Pallone' (rough translation 'Football in the Mud') he alleges (pages 109-111) that before the game Bologna v Juventus on January 13th 1980, the directors of both clubs agreed that it would be a draw. Juventus had just lost 3 consecutive games and needed to halt the slide. The players were informed of this agreement, and many of them bet on the result. Petrini was a sub for Bologna that day, and alleges that when he came face to face with Trapattoni as he was making his way to the bench he said that he hoped that the pact would be 'honoured'. Trapattoni assured him that there was no problem, thus showing that he was in on the scam. The game should have finished 0-0, but Juve scored 'accidentally' and it took a Brio own goal (probably deliberate) to ensure the desired result.

Remember that these are allegations from a man who was himself convicted that year of match-fixing. But if true they do confirm my theory that the reason why there used to be so many 0-0 draws in Italy wasn't only the strength of Italian defences.

Comment by geobra 2012-01-08 10:41:38

@ The Awesome Berbaslug!!!

I should have added two things. The first was that the following day's newspapers appear to have been in no doubt as to what was going on, though of course they couldn't say so in so many words. They referred to 'an excessively friendly atmosphere' between the teams, and to the fact that Causio, scorer of Juve's goal, didn't look very happy about what he had just done.

The second thing I should have said is that we can, of course, never know how much pressure was put on Trapattoni by the Juventus directors. Not an excuse, of course, if he caved in, but maybe a mitigating factor. Neither players nor coaches had the power then that they have today.

Comment by The Awesome Berbaslug!!! 2012-01-08 17:39:57

ah cheers for that. I mean I love trap and everything, but you don't get to be a 71 year old italian football manager, and the king of juventus for 15 odd years, without er, being flexible.

Comment by geobra 2012-01-08 19:52:47

@ The Awesome Berbaslug!!!

Italian football has turned a blind eye to what you describe as 'flexibility' for far too long, which is why it's in such a mess now.

As for Trapattoni, he's become an untouchable icon.

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