Juve's crowning shame

The publication of TRANSCRIPTS of phone calls between Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi and others last season, notably Pierluigi Pairetto who at the time had the task of appointing referees to individual fixtures, has been at the forefront of the recent adverse publicity that has engulfed the Serie `A' champions and Italian football in general, writes CINDY GARCIA-BENNETT.

The recent coronation of Juventus as Serie `A' champions — at least for now — was overshadowed by resignations and recriminations over the recent adverse publicity that has engulfed the Turin club in particular and Italian football in general.

A 2-0 win for Juventus against Reggina earned the club their 29th Scudetto and players and coach Fabio Capello celebrated accordingly at Bari where the match had been switched because of previous crowd trouble by fans of Reggina. However, outgoing Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the owner of AC Milan, called for his club to be retrospectively awarded the Serie `A' title for the past two seasons — both of which saw Milan finish runners-up — if allegations of wrongdoing against the `Bianconeri' are proven.

Meanwhile, Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi — the central figure in the revelations that have rocked the football world in Italy — announced he was ending his involvement in the sport. The Italian League's head of refereeing Tullio Lanese also left his post. It was the publication of transcripts of phone calls between Moggi and others last season, notably Pierluigi Pairetto who at the time had the task of appointing referees to individual fixtures, that has sparked a media storm surrounding the Turin club. Finally, Franco Carraro, the outgoing president of the Italian Football Federation who quit his post following criticism of his handling of the crisis, held out the possibility that Juventus' status as champions might come under review.

Berlusconi, speaking to reporters at the San Siro where AC Milan had their title hopes ended by Juve's result despite their 2-1 win over Roma, made it clear that he felt that his club were the true champions of Italy for the past two seasons. Berlusconi, acting as caretaker Prime Minister while his conqueror at the recent elections Romano Prodi forms a government, said: "We demand that the last two Scudetti are given back to us; we are tired of injustice."

However, Juventus coach Fabio Capello claimed his side had proved themselves the best in Italy during the previous two seasons. Capello said: "We have been at the top now for 76 games." Key Juventus defender Fabio Cannavaro believes the players should not worry about events off the field. "This is an important Scudetto; we have had to work hard to stay at the top. It's a great season. We will enjoy the win and let the club resolve the other problems," said Cannavaro.

But the victory celebrations may well be short-lived. Carraro warned Juventus that their status as champions was not yet done and dusted. He told the Italian media: "Whoever wins the Scudetto is only awarded it provisionally; then the sporting justice body will draw its conclusions. The awarding of the Scudetto is only provisional because we must wait until the results are ratified."

Not everyone at Juventus's title celebrations was smiling as Moggi announced he was quitting the football world. Earlier in the week Juve's entire board resigned ahead of elections in June to appoint a new board but Moggi made it clear he was bowing out immediately. In a live statement on Sky Italia, Moggi told viewers: "I am here to inform you that from today I will no longer be the Juventus general manager. From tomorrow the football world will no longer be a part of my life. I only intend to defend myself from now on from all the nasty things that have been said about me."

The scandal came to light when recordings of phone calls — many featuring Moggi — were published in the press. Many of the conversations featured Moggi and Pairetto and the two men can be heard discussing appointments. Four referees were recently rested from Serie `A' duty after the transcripts were made public while referee Massimo De Santis was withdrawn from the list of World Cup officials — the whistleblower has voluntarily met Naples magistrates investigating alleged corruption in the game. Separate probes are also being carried out by magistrates in Rome and Turin.

Meanwhile, top Italian magistrate Antonio Di Pietro warned that there was a danger that the affair could be brushed under the carpet. Di Pietro became a national hero in Italy during the 1990s when his probe into corruption in politics led to a revolution in the country's political system and the collapse of the Christian Democrat party that had governed Italy since the War — that affair was known as "Tangentopoli" in Italy.

Referring to the political crisis of the 1990s, he said: "At the time of Tangentopoli, when it was discovered that the problem was so deep and affected the whole system, people preferred to close their eyes and worry about who was doing the investigating rather than who was committing the crimes."

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