Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughOn-field issues the least of Italian worries. Again - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough On-field issues the least of Italian worries. Again - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

On-field issues the least of Italian worries. Again

And so it comes to this; yet another major international tournament with Italy in disarray and controversy being the order of the day.

The tradition goes way back to the 1930s when Argentina in particular were unhappy with the way their players of Italian descent left Argentina to play for the Italian national side; the ‘oriundi’ they were dubbed, who would help the Azzurri win the 1934 and 1938 World Cup. Controversy indeed and that’s before we go into the whole Italy hosting the 1934 event and Mussolini using it as a propaganda tool.

Fast forward through the tragedy of the 1949 Superga air disaster which decimated the Italian national team for the 1950 World Cup, the farce of losing out to the semi-professional North Koreans in 1966, Paulo Rossi bouncing back from a match-fixing ban in 1982 to help Italy lift the World Cup, the triumph in 2006 in the wake of the Calciopoli scandal and the team heading home in disgrace after their meek defence of the World Cup in 2010.

Clearly, Italian football at major international tournaments is often historically mixed up with some manner of scandal, farce or tragedy. However, as can be seen in the cases of the 1982 and 2006 World Cup, this doesn’t stop them from being successful. Indeed, the 2006 match-fixing scandal is often cited as a reason behind their World Cup success that year as the players and staff sought to show the positive side of Italian football.

And so we come to the present day and the latest match-fixing scandal engulfing Italian football before a major tournament.

Already, Italian police have made 19 arrests (including the Lazio captain Stefano Mauri) in connection with match-fixing with prosecutors studying suspicious results in 33 matches.

Furthermore, police raided the Italian training camp on Monday to search for information which then led to defender Domenico Criscito pulling out (or being dropped as an example depending on what you read) of the squad after he was placed under investigation whilst Leonardo Bonucci remains in the squad despite being under investigation too.

All of which led to the Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti suggesting a suspension on football for two to three years, in effect to ‘restart’ the game, and calling for Italy to pull out of the European Championships altogether, a suggestion Italian boss Cesare Prandelli would have no qualms with.

Prandelli told Italian TV; If you told us that for the good of football we should not participate, it wouldn’t be a problem for me. There are things that I believe are more important. I dislike crusades. I prefer to face up to things and not take positions without considering the consequences.”

It says something when a national team’s third consecutive international defeat (in which they played appallingly incidentally) comes as the least of their problems.

So, as Lenin once said in an entirely different context, what is to be done?

Well, as admirable as Prandelli and Monti’s suggestion of not participating in the tournament is, there are many flaws to it.

Whilst the threat of a pull out is symbolic, at such short notice, UEFA would not want their tournament undermined so dramatically with rustling up a replacement being extremely difficult. Furthermore, it also punishes all of those Italian players who are innocent and thus denying them the chance to perform on the highest stage for their country.

Back in 2006, Italy warmed up for the tournament thrashing Germany 4-1 and drawing with Switzerland and Ukraine which shows the kind of unity that the Calciopoli scandal had provided them. However, there was no squad members under investigation back then, unlike now and the bleakness of the situation and perhaps annoyance and anger that it has happened again looks as if it has deflated the Italian squad, despite Prandelli’s insistence last night’s defeat would make them stronger.

Whilst the outcome of the latest scandal will be is unclear (though given the last time it happened there was hope it won’t happen again, it probably won’t be the last scandal whatever happens), Italy’s fate at Euro 2012 looks depressingly foretold; one to add to the historical farce collection rather than a case of success built from adversity.



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