THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

21 May ~ On Friday the Italian press published extracts from the evidence given by Filippo Carobbio, one of the principal suspects in the Italian match-fixing scandal. His testimony could have devastating consequences for current Juventus coach Antonio Conte. The evidence relates to two matches played by Siena in Serie B in 2010-11. The first was Novara v Siena, played on May 1, which finished 2-2. According to Carobbio: "There was an agreement that the game would be drawn. We all knew about it and how we should bring it about. Our coach, Antonio Conte, told us during the team meeting prior to the game not to worry because they had reached an agreement with Novara."

"At first it involved one of their players and one of ours. But then the whole team was informed and I talked about it with two Novara players on the pitch before the match."

The second match was AlbinoLeffe v Siena on May 29, the last game of the season. I was there and it was obvious at the time that there was something very suspicious about the game. What Carobbio has to say is startling. The plan began after the teams had played at Siena in January and Siena won 2-1. Carobbio says that, at the request of the assistant coach of Siena, he and another Siena player spoke with two senior AlbinoLeffe players. It was agreed that in the return game the points would go to whichever team needed them. Carobbio was probably chosen as he was an ex-AlbinoLeffe player.

When the time came, Siena were already promoted, whereas the points were still important to AlbinoLeffe. A meeting was held the night before the game at Siena's hotel. Two AlbinoLeffe players and a member of their coaching staff, and two Siena players, were present.

It was agreed that AlbinoLeffe would win, but only 1-0, so Siena could continue to boast the best defensive record in the division. According to Carobbio, some Siena players said they wanted to win because if they did and Atalanta did not, they would go up as champions. But in the end they were persuaded.

It will not have escaped anybody's notice that the reasoning used by the players is extraordinarily cynical. They did not say they wanted to win because that is what they should do in every match, but because it would bring them an extra reward. It is also obvious that we are not dealing with one or two rogue players but with whole teams who see nothing unusual in their behaviour. As had apparently been agreed, the match finished 1-0 to AlbinoLeffe. The way the goal was scored tells you everything. The player who scored it, Paolo Grossi, is now with Siena.

Carobbio adds that all of the coaching staff and some of the club's directors knew what was going on and offered no objection. If he is believed on both this match and the one against Novara, it will possibly mean a long suspension for Conte. If Siena directors were involved, the consequences for the club might go beyond a points deduction.

Carobbio is said to be considered a credible witness and to be truly repentant, unlike some other players who have only disclosed what it was impossible not to reveal. "I want to break the wall of silence," said Carobbio. "I feel part of a mechanism that is much bigger than me, and I realise that I have contributed to football's loss of credibility even though it has always been the most important thing in my life." He also said that for years most matches at the end of the season in Italy have been fixed.

This is confirmed in the only interview given to the Italian media by Almir Gegic, the most wanted man in all this and currently in hiding. He told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "We simply exploited a long-established practice which sees players make agreements among themselves with the collusion of club presidents. In Italy the end of season is like a bazaar. Everything has its price. We just bought information. Everybody knew." Exactly. Geoff Bradford

Comments (21)
Comment by geobra 2012-05-21 19:09:16

Conte is not helped by the fact that Carobbio's allegations regarding the AlbinoLeffe v Siena game have been corroborated by at least two AlbinoLeffe players from last season, Dario Passoni and Ruben Garlini. Garlini has since retired and become a member of the coaching staff, though he is currently under a self-imposed suspension. Passoni is alleged to have said that he knew that what they were doing was wrong, but that he agreed to it because 'we desperately needed the points'. The obvious conclusion is that if Carobbio is speaking the truth about AlbinoLeffe v Siena, why shouldn't he be doing the same about Novara v Siena? The investigators appear to believe him on both games.

It may or may not mean anything, but Conte was a member of the 1994-98 Juventus team accused of taking performance-enhancing substances, and was one of the most adept at replying 'I don't know' or 'I don't remember' when questioned.

Comment by Jobi1 2012-05-21 21:17:08

I was at the AlbinoLeffe v Siena game, as I have a little soft spot for Siena having studied there for a while (although can't say I care so much for them now all this is coming out), and I too was very suspicious of the way the match panned out. I even remember saying to friends before the game that I wouldn't be surprised if AlbinoLeffe won by a small margin, and then to see the same Siena side who I'd seen ripping teams to shreds earlier in the season putting in such a lack of effort when there was as you say still the possibility of taking the title seemed to confirm this. I was even suspicious of the fact they'd made it only 2 euros to get in! Could that have been a bit of guilt on the part of the club that they knew what was coming, and didn't want to rip off the fans too much?

That came at the end of a season where I'd had a fantastic time travelling about watching loads of games in loads of different places. This season, largely because of this scandal, I've only been to 5 games, of which only 2 were in the professional leagues. Italian football seems to be dead as a credible operation, which given that it was something I'd loved for many years and one of the things in all honesty which brought me here in the first place, I find completely heartbreaking.

Next season I think I'll be following the rugby for my live sport fix here.

Comment by FCKarl 2012-05-22 06:25:28

I am just amazed that after the disaster to Italian football of the revelations prior to the World Cup 2006 and the ongoing Italian justice machinations into late 2006 and year 2007, the player performance enhancement drug use scandals at Juve, the chapters in the Joe McGinniss book about the "Miracle of Castel di Sangro" where McGinniss outlines the real-world same Serie B scenarios of match fixings in the last 2-3 season fixtures -- NOTHING CHANGES IN ITALIA. Do the Italians remember that theirs was the best and most touted league in the world starting after the Italian World Cup triumph in 1982 and sealed as fact when England were banned from European competitions following Heysel? When Italy is hosting the World Cup 1990, Italy is the epicenter of world football. Now it is behind the German league and falling fast. The Italian Serie A could even drop beneath a French league if a few more things fall into place for the French (might not happen, but one has to believe that the French are ready to seize their moment in the run-up to the Euros in France in 2016 with new stadiums, etc.)

Doesn't everyone know that so much has already been swept under the carpet for the last twenty years? There was just a semblance of justice in 2006-2007, more could have been done. But the worry was that the whole would be placed into such disrepute.

Do the Italians realize what they are placing at risk here? They are relegating their game to the credibility levels one finds in the backwaters of South and Latin America. It is not like Italy has a boffo basketball league. What men's volleyball? Water polo? Whole cities and regions take pride in these Serie A and Serie B clubs. It should not be, but people hold these clubs dearer in their lives than many other aspects of their being.

One cannot "toy" with a national treasured item and pastime.
Calcio is a distinct brand of football and an Italian trademark.

There will now already be countless question marks (and hopefully real inquiries) raised about the 2011-12 Juventus season if a known match manipulator is at the helm.

Geobra, I am sorry to just now be thanking you here for taking time out to comment on and answer my queries about Andrea Pirlo and Alessandro Del Piero after the article on the Juventus season two weeks ago. Grazie. I appreciate the insights that you offer. So I'll ask one more question, if I may. If you could read one Italian sports journal of any kind (it need not be a daily or weekly) that specializes in Calcio, what journal would that be? Again, thank you for the commentary on the Juventus season that you shared with us.

Jobu, maybe you should look into -- for a live sport option other than real football -- following the American Football League in Italy. I'm serious. For fun and funnies and some interesting commentary on life there, see the John Grisham story about Italy and American Football called "Playing for Pizza." It is a great literary work? No, no. But it is a book that offers up some laughs, commentary, and scenes about living in Italy that you can probably relate to.

Comment by geobra 2012-05-22 06:34:46

The genuine passion that I thought Italians had for football, and their knowledge of the game, was one of the reasons why I came here too, 25 years ago. I too am now thoroughly disillusioned, but I continue to go, partly because I meet friends at the stadium who I otherwise wouldn't see and partly out of habit. One of the most depressing things now is to see the swathes of empty seats, especially in Serie B. Sassuolo, for example, who are in with a good chance of promotion and play in Modena, perform in a stadium that is virtually empty. I think that most Italian fans have now cottoned on to what is happening, but it amazes me that they still subscribe to SKY or sit drinking in bars which show live games on satellite.

With the benefit of hindsight, I am fairly sure that what we are seeing is now is just an escalation of what has always gone on, and that it is coming out now because we have mobile phones and our conversations can be traced. It has been made worse by the explosion in betting, but I am now looking at games that I saw nearly 25 years ago and seeing them in a different light. I also think that the prevalence of 0-0 draws before three points for a win was introduced was at least as much due to pre-match agreements as to watertight defences.

It's all so sad, and it would be nice to say that we fans are the innocent victims who have been ripped off. But it would not be entirely true. When a defeat could see you risking limb and possibly life at the hands of your fans, the temptation to reach an agreement with your opponents must be enormous.

Italy still lacks a 'culture of defeat' and until it acquires one, the cancer that is destroying il calcio will continue on its inexorable path.

Jobù, I watch lots of games from Serie D down to Seconda Categoria, many of them free of charge, and I enjoy them. But of course, like me, that isn't the kind of football you originally came to Italy to see, and it wasn't necessary to leave home to see it!

Comment by geobra 2012-05-22 06:59:28

I think it must be added, and it cannot be stressed enough, that the 'culture of silence' to which Carobbio refers doesn't just include players. It starts at the very top with FIGC President Giancarlo Abete, and includes federation and club officials as well as the media. If Abete didn't at least suspect what was going on, he's the wrong man in the wrong job. If he did but preferred to stay silent and not rock the boat, he's the wrong man in the wrong job.

Most of the men at the top of Italian football, and Italian sport in general, already held positions of power when I came here in 1987. Adriano Galliani (Milan) and Gianni Petrucci (head of the Olympic committee) are two examples. Before any improvement in the current situation can be expected, there needs to be a root and branch purge of the top echelons of Italian sport. But I'm not holding my breath.

And finally we must remember that what we now know we know thanks to the painstaking work of the magistrates in Cremona, Bari and Naples. If it had been left to football, virtually none of what has been revealed would now be in the public domain. Football is acting now because its arm has been twisted so hard that it can longer deny the pain that it is in.

Comment by geobra 2012-05-22 07:01:36

'it can NO longer deny the pain that it is in'.

Comment by geobra 2012-05-22 07:17:00

FCKarl

When I read an Italian sports paper (usually in the bar!) it's nearly always 'La Gazzetta dello Sport because

-although it is based in Milan, it's not especially biased towards Milan and Inter. 'Il Corriere dello Sport' and 'Tuttosport' are, respectively, little more than mouthpieces for Roma/Lazio and Juventus/Torino.

-it has some pages every day dedicated to non-sports news

-it has a page in which its writers express opinions on matters of the moment in sport

-it has taken the scandals that are threatening to overwhelm calcio seriously for far longer than the other two

I agree totally, of course, with what you say about Italian football in your post. As Jobu has said, for a lover of football and a one time admirer of calcio, the situation is heartbreaking.

Comment by FCKarl 2012-05-22 17:23:19

Once more, Geobra, thank you. I wish I could speak (and read!) Italian better. There was a time about twelve years ago that I had eight uninterrupted weeks near Milano and dearly loved grasping huge chunks of it every day. I did the total immersion for 15 hours daily. It was fun, but I've lost it due to lack of brainpower, I guess, and disuse.

This truly is all very lamentable. My Milan metro experience was only one of many there in northern Italy. Sadly, all the other visits were never more than a week or two weeks long.

This dates back to May of nearly a decade ago, but I could not help smile at the cultural forces behind grown men listening to (loudly playing!) hand held radios to their ears as an Italian RAI? radio commentator would be frantically at 1,000 words per minute describing the final 20 minutes of the all-deciding matches in Serie A or Serie B. Where was I observing this? On the swaying palm-lined concrete promenade of a somewhat tony seaside town with beautiful beach sand and ocean only a few meters away. These men would be in their beach bathing suits and nothing more (well, dark sunglasses, but of course!) and gesticulating wildly to themselves while personally physically struggling along with the players 120 kilometres distant. Their wives or girlfriends or mistresses? They were making every effort to ignore them.

One of my many other Italian-Calcio-Cultural highlights was the scene of the swiftly improvised motor scooter parade of cheering,chanting, tooting, and flag waving Italians in the very heart of the walking streets of historical Verona. The occasion? A world cup game win against Austria in 1998. It just looked like a whole lot of fun. And, for me, the girls on the backs of those Vespa motor scooters looked real cute.

So message to Italy and Italians: Fix it. You cannot sacrifice the good for the ill, the temporary for the long term. What you have is indeed a treasure. Don't rub it out forever due to vanity and greed.

Comment by FCKarl 2012-05-22 18:08:22

geobra, hello once more. Might I ask another question of you? (I am running out of favors, I know.) Might there be any football matches of any sort worth attending come the last three weeks of June, next month? Yes, I know that the annual calcio calendar typically places the summer break already now or, at the latest, the last week of May. And the middle of June is the "focus time" that UEFA wishes us to spend on nothing but the Euros in Poland and the Ukraine. However, might there be some lower league or top amateur football of note to see live in some decent little venues north of Milano? I ask because a relative of mine will be just right by Monza for those last three weeks of June. He is also, in a very positive sense, a football fan. And he likes very much seeing the Game played in different countries, on different continents. If you might have a suggestion or two if there are any lower level match possibilities in this region of northern Italy, I'd be most grateful. Thank you.

Thank you also for the well deliniated points on La Gazzetta Dello Sport. Hopefully their "voice" can be a catalyst for ending the rampant corruption and the "silenzio."

About once per month, I used to fish them -- so easy to spot in their "pink" -- out of a neighbor's paper recycling bin when I was living in Germany. He was an Italian from Parma. They might be a week or already two weeks old, but I'd browse through them, noting the pictures, headlines, stats, and tables.

Comment by geobra 2012-05-22 19:51:58

FCKarl, I think that the last football of any kind for this season will probably be played on June 10th, but amateur football will probably finish a week earlier. Any games on June 10th are unlikely to involve teams from near Monza, and even if they did it would be difficult to get in, as I myself found when I went to Lecco a few years ago. I thought I would be able to walk in, but there were no tickets available, so I had to turn round and return home.

On the subject of Italian football more generally, I refuse to be entirely pessimistic. One has to cling on to a hope that things will get better, but it would help if Italian public life was not so corrupt. If those that govern us were to begin setting a better example, maybe football would follow.

Comment by geobra 2012-05-22 20:58:01

Contrasting news and/or rumours from Juventus this evening, according to RAI Sport

-Conte's contract extended to 2016

-but if the sporting prosecutor decides that he has a case to answer, plans are already in place to appoint a replacement, with Fabio Capello one of the names mentioned.

Certainly after 2006 Juve can't afford to take any risks, and to retain a coach who is under suspicion would not fit their new squeaky clean image. Not to mention the fact that they will have a Champions League campaign to prepare for, and they will not want to do so in an atmosphere of uncertainty and with a coach whose mind will inevitably be on other things.

Maybe they'll give Conte gardening leave until the result of the investigations he's involved in.

Comment by Jobi1 2012-05-22 21:35:08

FCKarl, I'm doing a thread on the message board of this site following the promotion/relegation play-offs, so you can use that to keep up with the remaining football that's happening here this season.

Non-league has already finished for this season though, and the bottom 2 divisions of the professional leagues will finish their play-offs on 10th June. The only teams in the (vague) area still in the hunt there are Cremonese and Pro Vercelli, based to the south east and south west of Milan respectively, so the wrong side for Monza. Serie B however is a couple of weeks behind so their play-offs will run later into June, and Varese (to the north west of Milan/Monza) will be involved in those, so you might have a chance of seeing something there.

Comment by geobra 2012-05-23 07:26:05

Yes, I'd say that the only possibilities are Varese on June 9th, if they reach Serie B the play off final and are at home for the second leg, and Cremona and/or Vercelli on June 10th if they reach the Prima Divisione play-off finals and are at home in the second leg. All these permutations are much more possible than probable, and for Varese and Vercelli in particular tickets are likely to be hard to find.

For information, as well as the message board of this site, you could try Soccerway Italia.

Comment by geobra 2012-05-23 12:27:43

jobu

Amateur football finished? Not here, it isn't. I'm going to a Seconda Categoria relegation decider on Sunday that will not be for the faint-hearted!

But before that, on Saturday evening, I will be present to see the end of AlbinoLeffe's 9 seasons in Serie B, against promoted Torino. A totally insignificant match, so it'll probably end 4-4! If it does, you read it first here.

I'm going because I was there when it all started, a 2-1 home defeat to Ternana in 2003, and I want to be there when it finishes. We all thought it would last a season at most, but when they beat Fiorentina 1-0 in their third game, we realised that it might last longer. Those were different players, though, with pride in the club, and they would never have betrayed it for 30 pieces of silver.

In 2007-2008, they played football as scintillating as any I've seen in 25 years here and almost made it to Serie A. Even we Atalanta fans almost came to love them. Since then it's been a slow but inexorable decline made worse by the match-fixing scandal, and now where that love was there is a void.

To see Cinderella's visit to the ball end so ignomniously is unbearably sad.

Comment by FCKarl 2012-05-23 17:23:10

Jobu and geobra, thank you for your responses, for taking the time to do so. I appreciate the ideas and suggestions and will pass this information along. Maybe it can work out for my friend and relative to get in some live match calcio culture while there. Obviously you two know the Italian scene very, very well. Your perspectives and insights are indeed valuable to us here. I did forget to mention (above) that I also have looked at the La Gazzetta dello Sport for another reason: Their Giro d'Italia coverage. The "ups and downs" of it all, both literally and in terms of scandals (doping and such). Never a dull moment or quiet journalism day in Italia, for sure.

Comment by geobra 2012-05-23 18:39:53

FCKarl, I don't know how or when your relative will be arriving, but if he is already around by June 9th and he can't find a game in Italy, Mendrisio are at home at 4 p.m. that day in the third division of the Swiss League. Mendrisio is easily accessible by car or by train from Monza, as it is not far from Chiasso across the Swiss border from Como. I saw a game there once, in 1989, and enjoyed it.

(Information from Soccerway, Switzerland)

Comment by Jobi1 2012-05-24 17:54:56

Stand corrected, shows how little I'm following things at the moment due to my current pessimism! Might give the Serie D relegation play-off Seregno v Colognese (delecately poised at 0-0 from the first leg) a go on Sunday in that case...

Comment by geobra 2012-05-24 18:50:55

Good choice. There should be bags of atmosphere. Seregno are a well-supported club and their fans are, as they say, 'passionate'.

Comment by geobra 2012-05-27 00:07:59

My prediction that AlbinoLeffe v Torino might finish 4-4 was way off. It ended 0-0! But a good game, and with Pescara beating Nocerina 1-0 with a goal after 92 minutes from Maniero, the side from the Adriatic took the title from Torino on goal difference.

Some of the other games had some very suspicious goals. Maybe no betting or selling of games, but some habits die hard.

Serie B verdicts:

Promoted Pescara, Torino

Promotion play offs Sassuolo v Sampdoria Verona v Varese

Relegated AlbinoLeffe, Gubbio, Nocerina

Relegation play off Empoli v Vicenza

Comment by geobra 2012-05-27 08:53:56

PS Even the lugubrious Zeman allowed himself a smile. For someone whose football brings so much joy, he should do it more often.

Comment by Jobi1 2012-05-27 19:12:21

Good shout on Seregno, it was indeed quite lively, stirred up by 'Ballboygate' which rumbled on through most of the second half. The Seregno keeper told the ballboys behind his goal to hide the spare balls to waste a bit more time, but the Colognese bench saw this, and a couple of the subs went and fetched them back, while others protested to the ref (who did nothing) and then kicked off with this old Steptoe look-a-like who seemed to be in charge of the ballboys. Steptoe then had a physical fight with another official, requiring the Carabinieri to step in! Fun and games! The feds were looking nervous all afternoon as a bunch of Atalanta morons had come along, but the worst that went on was a few insulting chants going back and forth.

On the field, Seregno won 1-0 with an early goal, so will play in Serie D again next season. The quality of the game left me not in the least bit surprised that these 2 were in this position in the first place, very poor fare.

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