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Making Sense of Scommessopoli

I’d like to start this post with the premise that as far as I’m concerned, anyone who has willingly participated in the fixing of match outcomes for personal financial gain as the ultimate motive, whether a Juventus employee or not, whether a player, a manager, a club official or owner, should be at the receiving end of a lifetime ban from football.

The world of Italian football is currently witnessing tumultuous times. Scommessopoli, as the betting scandal which has rocked calcio has been baptized by the ever-so-candid Italian sports journalists looks to be the second major scandal to have enveloped the top levels of football in the peninsula in the last decade. The uninformed and or ill-advised have even gone ahead and classified this scandal as “the second match-fixing scandal of Italian football in the last 6 years after the infamous Calciopoli one of 2006”.

A lot seems to have been said, written, fantasized and insinuated in regards to Scommessopoli over these last few months. Actually, to be more precise, little has been actually said, a lot has been written, and much, much more has been fabricated and insinuated, namely by the same ever-so-candid, brilliant journalists mentioned above. From what has come out thus far from the investigations, the names of Juventus as a football club and its employees are squeaky clean, but this has not stopped the usual suspects from lighting their torches and doing what they truly excel at: throwing dirt upon the club which has made the history of Italian football and hunting for virtual witches as they live out their delusions of finally escaping anonymity and achieving grandeur.

The scenario feels eerily similar to one Juventini are familiar with: it’s the summer of a major football competition for the Azzurri; the existing football system is believed by some to be dysfunctional, deviant and unlawful deep down to its core; there are relatively unknown prosecuting attorneys and justice officials at work looking to catch the biggest fishes in the supposedly rotten pond with name-making, career-establishing, limelight-seeking hopes fueling their pursuits; there are shameless sports journalists from the very same outlets as that chaotic summer of 2006 scrambling to make all kinds of insinuations possible, to stamp GUILTY on the first foreheads they come upon, and to get inside information and publish exclusive scoops of the investigative process including believed suspects, secret testimonials, upcoming search warrants, impending arrests and even verdicts of trials that have yet to take place; the lives and careers of consummate professionals are being seriously jeopardized and unfortunately even forever stained with stigmas of criminal behavior in the public eye by the media and the responsible authorities without the latter two entities spending much time and effort into trying to understand if the accusations hold any water in the first place, all while what seem to be the true (self-admitted, in this case) culprits are currently being depicted as the terribly misguided, incredibly brave victims of a supposedly long-expired, truly toxic environment.

Are you nauseous yet? Perfect, welcome to the nonsensical world of Italian justice and sports journalism. A world where those who are guilty and who had been fucking the system for their own gains for years are showered with praise, described as heroes and are given a slap on the wrist as punishment for their ‘short, yet remarkable contributions to justice’, all while the same men who have built the system with their career-long blood, sweat and tears are mercilessly denigrated, viciously attacked, carelessly thrown dirt upon.

I’ll explain further what I have just written in a later piece coming very soon, but for right now, let’s spend some time to cover what exactly our Old Lady and its employees have been dragged into this mess supposedly for:

-F.C Juventus: three current players’, Gianluigi Buffon, Leonardo Bonucci, Simone Pepe and its head coach Antonio Conte’s names have been mentioned or become part of the investigation. All of the above mentioned excluding Buffon whose situation is slightly different have become part of the investigation for their previous involvements while under contract with other clubs, Bonucci while at Bari, Pepe while at Udinese and Conte while at Siena. Juventus, as a club, does not figure into the investigation.

-Antonio Conte: as of late May il Capitano is under investigation for conspiracy to commit sporting fraud and fraud during his time as Siena’s manager. Filippo Carobbio, a scarcely-utilized midfielder and former Siena player during the 2010-2011 Serie B season which has become a focal point for the authorities for his presumed confessions and collaborations is the man to have brought up Antonio Conte’s name. Carobbio’s accusations of Conte involve three games: Novara-Siena 2-2, Albinoleffe-Siena 1-0 and Siena-Varese 5-0.

In regards to the draw against Novara, Carobbio claims Antonio Conte told his team ahead of the game to “relax since we had reached a deal with Novara for the draw”. In regards to the away loss against Albinoleffe, Carobbio claims that there had been a pre-agreement for the second match of the season between the two teams at the end of the first one on January 8th, 2011. Furthermore, Carobbio claims that this was known at Siena both at playing and directive levels, as he claims it was Conte’s assistant, Stellini who approached Carobbio and fellow Siena player Terzi asking them to contact the opponent’s side ahead of time and agree that when the two teams would meet again, the team in greater need for points would win. Carobbio claims that “during the week (leading up to the Albinoleffe game) there was much talk between club officials, players and head coach about the deal reached…”. The counts against Antonio Conte according to what Carobbio claims in regards to the Novara and Albinoleffe games would be for failing to report knowledge of a felony to the authorities and unlawful sporting conduct.

In regards to the thrashing Siena gave Varese, Carobbio claims that “a few days prior to the match, Ferdinando Coppola (former goalkeeper of Siena during the 2010-2011 Serie B season) entered the locker rooms with a pale, petrified look on his face and told us that shortly before outside the locker rooms, he had been approached by a man close to the president who had asked if the possibility existed to (try to) lose the match. This person, whose name Coppola told me but I currently cannot recall, had told Coppola that the president intended to bet or had bet on our loss. I’m referring to president Mezzaroma (Siena’s president and owner). The team categorically refused the proposal while suggesting Coppola to tell the individual he had been approached by that he himself had refused to inform the team of the proposal. I’d like to underline that Coppola himself was nearly in shock …. Later I learned from Stellini that the proposal had been made to the coaching staff and they had also refuted it.” In regards to the Varese game, Antonio Conte would once again be deemed responsible for failing to report knowledge of a felony to the authorities. As a result of Carobbio’s claims, there was a search warrant issued for Antonio Conte’s house, which was the subject of a search by authorities on the morning of May 28th.

-Leonardo Bonucci and Simone Pepe: Leo has supposedly been on the investigative list since May 3rd. His name has been brought into the mix by Andrea Masiello, a “pentito” and another one of the focal points of the ongoing investigation by the courthouse of Cremona which is where nearly all of the investigative work on Scommessopoli is taking place. Since Bonucci’s case is related to his time spent at Bari, his case and files are believed to have been transferred to the Bari courthouse, which is also performing its own investigation A former teammate of Bonucci at Bari during the 2009-2010 season, Masiello has made Bonucci’s (and Pepe’s name) in relation to a Udinese-Bari 3-3 of the aforementioned season. Masiello claims that “Di Tullio (one of the bettors under investigation by the Bari courthouse) proposed to him for the match to be manipulated for a draw with many goals”. Masiello’s testimonial states that “I informed my teammates about the proposal and found agreements. I spoke with Bonucci, Salvatore Masiello, Nicola Belmonte and Alessandro Parisi”.

As far as Bonucci in specific is concerned, Masiello claims he spoke to Leonardo after he had come back from international duty and the latter told him “If it’s possible, we’re interested”. “Once we arrived in Udine, Salvatore Masiello contacted Simone Pepe by phone asking him ‘if he wanted to buy a Ferrari’, with Salvatore Masiello eventually telling Andrea Masiello “No, Pepe told me no” “. Ultimately, according to Masiello, the match-fix was unsuccessful: “although we hadn’t reached an agreement with Udinese’s players, as far as I had been told, myself, Bonucci, Belmonte and Parisi played to reach the result Di Tullio aimed for by facilitating the scoring of three goals”. The transfer of Bonucci’s files from Cremona to Bari has supposedly postponed Bonucci’s upcoming search, as he was supposed to be the recipient of the same search Domenico Criscito got while on international duty on May 28th. Bonucci’s counts would be for attempted unlawful behavior according to Masiello’s testimonial. Bonucci himself has denied all claims made by Masiello, while stating that he had been on international duty the week prior to the Udinese match.

Pepe’s counts would be for failing to report knowledge of a felony to the authorities. Simone Pepe was in fact expected to be heard by Stefano Palazzi, the federal prosecuting attorney (yep, that same Palazzi of 2006) yesterday on June 13th , where he was going to testify his version of the story. He was reported to have spoken with Palazzi’s collaborators for roughly 45 minutes. Interestingly enough, Salvatore Masiello’s testimony of the 12th, categorically denied a phone call made to Simone Pepe, with Bari’s former defender Alessandro Parisi stating the same and claiming “Udinese-Bari was a regular game”.

-Gianluigi Buffon: to be perfectly honest, I don’t think even Buffon himself knows what his name is in all of this for. I’ll try to make some sense out of it. On May 26th, Gigi Buffon, while on international duty ahead of the Euro Cup, when asked about the possibility of losing his head coach due to the betting scandal unfolding by journalists, while underlining his confidence in Conte’s innocence, good judgment, character and stating he didn’t fear Conte being taken away since he thought Antonio would be going nowhere, stated: “Those who know football and live it day after day know what happens. Sometimes they say it is better having two men wounded than one dead”. Buffon’s honest, direct, free-speaking interview generated much discussion and the ever-opportunistic, completely shameless hyenas of the Italian media immediately began speculating among others on Buffon’s character, whether Gigi had something else in mind, how the prosecuting attorneys from Cremona (dis)liked his words and if they were considering calling him in for a few questions as a possible betting suspect.

The journalistic terrorism he was the victim of led to Buffon blasting journalists for their reactions in a press conference he gave on May 30th while at Coverciano. Gigi highlighted his displeasure at their reports in regards to his words days before, while ripping into them for their always theatrical and morally-false approach, as evident by the microphones and cameras present in the early morning of May 28th in front of Coverciano’s entrance as Criscito had yet to be met by authorities for his search. Buffon talked a lot, criticized the media and the power it constantly displays on the public opinion and the news reported and his fury was not greatly appreciated by sports journalists. Just days later, reports emerged of money movements of more than 1.5 million Euros at the smoke shop/convenience store and betting center Alfieri of Parma on Gigi Buffon’s behalf. And the media unleashed all of its fury upon Buffon in revenge, practically depicting Gigi as a low-life criminal who has made big-money bets on illegal matters (fellow Serie A games). The Parma shop was searched by the Turin Guardia di Finanza a few days ago and although Alfieri’s shop was first believed to have been a betting location with an abnormally high winnings payout values, this has been refuted by the authorities as they determined the Alfieri 2012 average to be 77 to the national 2012 betting payout average of 81.5.

For now, Buffon’s issue has been somewhat put on the backburner by the authorities, the only ones prosecuting Buffon with possible verdicts continue to be Italian journalists with trite articles speculating on what awaits Gigi once he returns from international duty.

That’s it for now, I hope to have made things a bit clearer, while not sedating you to death. As far as I’m concerned, every Juventino, young or old, fan for a year or fan for a lifetime, fluent in Italian or not should have the chance to understand exactly what for Juventus and its employees names’ have been mentioned. A second part is already in the works, where I aim to highlight the ridiculous aspects of this enormous witch hunt, as far as Juventus is concerned. Until then: