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