A major international tournament approaches and in Italy, that means it’s scandal time.
Yes, it’s happened again.
In the recent days Italian police have made multiple arrests of professional footballers connected to the latest match-fixing scandal known as Calcio scommese or Scommessopoli.
Higher-profile players like Lazio Captain Stefano Mauri and Omar Milanetto formerly of Genoa were among the arrests, and many others have been implicated.
Domenico Criscito, currently at Zenit St. Petersburg but formerly a teammate of Milanetto, even lost his place in the Azzurri setup for Euro 2012 after being notified that he was under investigation.
Juve’s Bonucci has also been linked but not officially, and so he keeps his place.
Among additional targets of investigation is none other than Juventus manager Antonio Conte, whose time at Siena has come under serious scrutiny.
Another blight on Italian football and another opportunity for ridicule from Serie A’s detractors.
As the token Serie A fan in a few arenas, I’ve been asked a lot regarding how I feel about this. And mocked.
I should probably be upset all this. But I’m really not, and I’ll tell you why…
To say I don’t care would be an overstatement.
I do care about my favorite league, in which my favorite team plays, and the reputation of Italian football in general. I want more people to start watching and enjoying Serie A.
I’m not upset because this latest scandal really doesn’t do any damage.
Now this is not a good thing, but these types of sordid affairs have become old-hat in Italy. I have serious doubts that Scommessopoli is going to scare anyone off watching the league.
The reality is if you watch an Italian soccer match these days you can’t be 100% sure that the result is completely fair and unbiased.
If that keeps you from enjoying a league, which is totally understandable, then so be it. But diehard Serie A fans are used to this by now.
Many older than I probably can’t count the number of issues they’ve experienced with calcio like this (some more major than others) with both hands.
Do I wish the situation were different? Of course.
But what many fail to understand, or just totally ignore, is that for the situation in Italian football to be different, a lot has to change with Italy itself.
This will probably sound ridiculous to most, but for me these shenanigans being “part of the game” in Italy is honestly part of the charm of soccer there. A sense of uncertainty adds to the drama.
Part of it could be just that I’m jaded, or indeed morally bankrupt. But cheating is a part of every sport, and has been since sports were invented. Certainly there are different levels of cheating, but what’s a good story without heroes and villains?
Again, I realize it’s not for everyone. But when watching an entire league, or a national footballing culture as a whole, I just simply don’t mind a bit of criminal intrigue thrown in the mix.
What does draw my ire in these scenarios is all the Serie A haters crawling out of the woodwork to bash away at their favorite target. They’ll call for Italian teams to be banned from the Champions League and attack an entire footballing nation rather than 19 suspected criminals.
And you know what? It’s all deserved.
But Serie A isn’t where the reputation of Italian soccer is made anyway. Only a handful of Italian clubs have made huge splashes in Europe and abroad.
The respect Italy has garnered in international football was instead won in an Azzurri shirt, and the 4 stars hovering around the crest are a testament to the great things about the national football culture.
Which is why it’s a good thing these scandals often come right before a big tournament fo Italy. It’s the best way for the league, its country, and its fans to gain some kind of redemption.
You know, not that I care.