Italian football is its own entity. It always has been and will be for the foreseeable future. Scandal has always been a substantial undercurrent within the Italian game. From the 1980 Totonero scandal to the more recent 2006 Calicipoli debacle. It’s a country in which slanderous affairs are rife. The latest scandal, involving none less than Juventus’ scudetto-winning manager Antonio Conte, is yet another blemish to the Italian reputation. The game in Italy once stood tall, attracting the world’s greatest players, dominating Europe, but it’s been on a downward spiral ever since.
Last season was an impressive one. Antonio Conte masterminded an unbeaten season for Turin’s biggest club. La Vecchia Signora, after a long hiatus from winning titles, clinched the scudetto. ‘Redemption’, many Juve fans cried. And, in some ways, it was. After the calicopoli scandal back in 2006, Juventus were relegated to Serie ‘B’, stripped of two scudetto’s and were banished from the 2006-’07 UEFA Champions League campaign – the other three teams got off relatively lightly, inducing measly point deductions and derisory fines. Last season restored a small snippet of Juve’s reputation: winning the scudetto, in such fashion, ‘fair and square’. Redemption… to an extent.
Last season was a great one for Juve. The scudetto, an unbeaten season and something to be happy about again. After finishing seventh in the previous campaign, you could be excused for thinking that Juventus would never win another Serie ‘A’ title for sometime. Andrea Agnelli introduced the enthusiastic Conte to signal a new dawn for the club. Juve moved into the new, state-of-the-art Juventus Stadium, established stars arrived in the Summer transfer window and optimism for the forthcoming season, an optimistic outlook which had been shattered in previous seasons, was held in many a La Zebre fans’ eyes. How that optimism was rewarded, yet, it all came crumbling down as the latest scandal, the Calcioscommesse, hit Italy, and hit them very hard!
Scandal and accusation is never far away in Italian football, and that’s proved to be the case yet again. Riding on a wave of confidence, the Italian football was rocked, once again, by another betting scandal – baring worrying similarities to the 1980 and 2006 turpitudous actions. Domenico Criscito was kicked out of Italy’s Euro 2012 squad after being quizzed by Itlaian police with regards to the match-fixing allegations. S.S Lazio captain, Stefano Mauri, was jailed for a brief spell earlier in the Summer. The biggest name was, definitely, the most surprising – Antonio Conte, who masterminded a scudetto-winning season at Juve, is accused of failing to report active match-fixing which he knew about. Another unwanted blemish to the historic Juventus reputation, not too mention Italian football’s.
“This isn’t justice!“
That’s what Conte exclaimed during his sport tribunal.
Antonio Conte’s time at Siena, the club at which he made his Italian managerial name, is the subject of accusations of being a part of the most recent match-fixing scandal. Despite Juventus not having a direct involvement in the match-fixing scandal, to the uneducated football fan, their opinions of Juventus will be tarnished yet again, as Conte faces a 15-month ban from football. It’s worth noting that Juventus’ reputation shouldn’t be struck down the way it has been. To criticise a club who’ve just gone a whole Serie ‘A’ season unbeaten is unjust, especially as Juve didn’t know anything about his part in the match-fixing scandal when they signed Conte last Summer. It’s a sorry situation for Agnelli, the players and Juventus as they will, undoubtedly, be regarded as ‘cheats’ by many a tabloid newspaper, an unknowing fan and the odd clueless pundit.
At this given moment, there is talk that Antonio Conte may face a 15-month ban from Italian football. The ban would consist of Conte not being able to have any say in Juventus’ pre-match preparations, nor contribute during or after the match. Conte will be consigned to the training pitch, and the training pitch only. In my opinion, this could be catastrophic to the ‘Juve family’ which has flourished under Conte. He understands the club, inside and out. His personality has won Juve games by itself. Enthusiastic, gutsy, balshy, emotional intelligent, ambitious – Conte’s complexion is bathed in traits which many a manager lacks. There’s a fan, in Conte, which comes out on match days. That will be sorely missed.
The Juventus contingent – three face lengthy bans;
Antonio Conte (Manager; 15-month ban), Simone Pepe (Winger; a Year-long ban) and Leonardo Bonucci (Centre-back; 3 year ban)
*The above bans are just predictions. Juventus’ Leonardo Bonucci, an Italian international centre-back, is also being accused of playing some part in the match-fixing scandal. Simone Pepe, who joined Juve from Udinese in the Summer of 2010, has also been caught up and dunked into the uncertain allegations of match-fixing. Yet more bad words against the prestigious club that is Juventus, a club that should be celebrated and cherished, not struck down.
If Conte is to be banned, for whatever length of time, he will be missed. He’s the heartbeat of this ‘Juve family’. A motivator. That’s exactly what he is. But, the Calcioscommesse has ruined what Juventus had done in the previous two season: got their act together. Indiviual actions of players while at previous clubs have done that. Juventus should be celebrated, not berated. For Italian football, after much promise, once again it returns with egg on its face.
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