From John Terry sleeping with his teammate’s wife to the savage execution of Colombian international Andres Escobar, football is a sport embroiled in scandals. Although, what can you expect when the sport’s two biggest governing bodies, FIFA, and UEFA, are often the culprits? Although they have recently been cleared of charges, which reeks of corruption itself, former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini both received a ban from football following an ‘unlawful payment’.
Blatter is about as dodgy as they come, with many also questioning his involvement in the upcoming World Cup in Qatar. Hosting the world’s biggest footballing tournament in a country which has never been known for its footballing interest is an odd one, to say the least.
The 2002 South Korea/Japan World Cup created a whole new dynamic for Asian football, being the first World Cup tournament to be staged outside of the America’s and Europe. The 2010 South Africa World Cup was extremely beneficial to their struggling economy and raised the investment into their domestic leagues. For Qatar, neither of these are applicable. Half of the players in the host’s most recent squad list are not even from Qatar, and the income derived from hosting the event will be nothing more than pocket money for the Middle East nation. Other than flexing their wealth, what is the point of Qatar hosting the World Cup?
The decision to allow them to host has been questioned by many, not only from a footballing perspective but also from a human rights perspective. When you look at this damning statement, it’s clear to see why.
If we held a minute’s silence for every migrant worker to have died in Qatar since they won the right to host back in 2010, the entirety of the 64-game tournament would be played in silence
Both tragic and preventable, their deaths can easily be attributed to the subhuman rapacity of FIFA’s hierarchy. But it’s not just FIFA and UEFA that are entangled in scandalous behaviour; league authorities and clubs are in on the act too. One of the most high-profile cases of this was of course in Italy’s top professional football league, Serie A.
In this article, we will take a look back at the well-publicised Calciopoli scandal and the impact it had on one of Italy’s most dominant teams at the time, Juventus.
The Calciopoli Scandal
One bad refereeing decision can change the course of an entire game. As football fans, we always say that the opposition has paid off the ref when a costly decision goes against our side. In May 2006, it was proved that for many of Italy’s top sides, this was actually the case. Like a scene out of a Liam Neeson movie, a series of transcripts from phone taps revealed relations between some of the key figures in Italian football and the Serie A refereeing officials.
It was later adjudged that several Italian teams were hand-selecting referees that agreed to officiate the game in their favour. The teams culpable were Milan, Fiorentina, Juventus, Lazio, & Reggina, although the extent of their involvement varied. Whilst all of them were found guilty of bribing the referees, Juventus were the ones who were seemingly most engrossed in the Calciopoli scandal, as it was later named.
Following investigations into Juventus’ former general manager Luciano Moggi, and former chairman Antonio Giraudo, it was concluded that both were key figures in Italy’s biggest sporting scandal. The pair were alleged to of detained Serie A referee Gianluca Paparesta following a 2-1 defeat away to Reggina in 2004 after he went against their gentleman’s agreement to favour Juve before the game.
Juventus had just come off the back of winning consecutive Scudetto’s under Fabio Capello when the allegations began. Following the extreme revelations of bribing and match-fixing, it’s clear to see how they became champions.
Moggi became close friends with Pierluigi Pairetto, the head of UEFA’s referee committee, and regularly called in for favours regarding Juventus’ Champions League referee allocation. Unbeknown to the pair, anti-corruption prosecutors were also listening in. Despite the favourable advantage that their fixing provided, the Old Lady failed to get past the Quarter Finals in both the 2004/05 and 2005/06 campaigns, the two seasons that the scandalous activities were reported to have taken place.
As to be expected, the scandal dominated mainstream media around the world. In total, 41 people were investigated, and a total of 33 Serie A matches were reviewed. All five teams involved in the Calciopoli scandal were handed a points deduction ahead of the 2006/07 season. Alongside their points deduction, Lazio and Fiorentina were all kicked out of European competitions for the season, despite finishing in the qualifying positions.
Originally, Milan were also due to be banished from the UEFA Champions League, but a successful appeal meant that the decision was overturned, providing that the Rossoneri were demoted to the third qualifying round. Milan actually went on to win the whole tournament, beating Liverpool 2-1 in the final and avenging the infamous Istanbul comeback two seasons prior.
To the relief of pretty much the whole population of Italy, Moggi was handed a five-year ban from football, which was seen as more of a gift than a punishment. Unfortunately for the Juventus fans, his actions would prove costly for the club, as the Italian Football Federation’s lead prosecutor Stefano Palazzi made a real statement about the Italian’s wrongdoings. Not only were the Old Lady demoted to the second tier of Italian football, the Serie B, but they would also start the season on -9 points.
To make matters worse for Juventus, the two Serie A titles they picked up between 2004 and 2006 were completely chalked off by Palazzi. The 2004/05 title was left unassigned, but on the 26th of July 2006, it was officially confirmed that the Old Lady’s 2005/06 scudetto had been awarded to arch-rivals Inter Milan, who finished the campaign in third place. Although it will go down in the record books as an Inter triumph, many in Italy brand it as the ‘Scudetto di Cartone’ which translates to the cardboard scudetto.
After coming to the realisation that they had been playing two years of football in a corrupt league, over 30 of Serie A’s top talents jumped ship at the first opportunity. Juventus’ squad was completely decimated ahead of the 2006/07 season, with seven of their bigger names not fancying the prospect of playing Serie B football with a nine-point handicap.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Patrick Vieira both moved to the recipients of Juventus’ 2005/06 scudetto, Inter Milan. A bitter blow for the Old Lady, not only weakening their side but also strengthening a direct rival. Adrien Mutu, a player that was never far from controversy, was also on the move just one year after arriving in Turin. The Romanian forward joined Fiorentina for a reported £8 million, where he was later banned for failing a doping test. A bullet dodged as far as I’m concerned.
As the Calciopoli scandal unravelled in the media, I am certain that Real Madrid representatives were sat with their feet up in front of the TV, believing they’d hit the jackpot. First, they nabbed the Old Lady’s manager, Fabio Capello, who joined the club for the second time in his managerial career. The former England boss then proceeded to raid his former side, persuading both Brazilian international Emerson Ferreira, and Italian stalwart Fabio Cannavaro to join his Galácticos project.
Cannavaro’s sale was met with extreme disappointment from the Juve faithful, who had accepted the defender as one of their own following his arrival from Inter. Having just captained Italy to World Cup success in Germany, Juve fans had to begrudgingly watch him lift the 2006 Ballon d’Or, where he became only the third defender in history to be awarded the prestigious honour.
A formidable defence to come up against on their day, the Juventus back line that won two successive scudetto’s was completely dismantled. Lillian Thuram and Gianluca Zambrotta followed Cannavaro to Spain, joining Real’s rivals Barcelona. A penny for the thoughts of Gianluigi Buffon, who arrived for pre-season to find that three of his double title-winning defence had left. Poor Juve fans went from watching Cannavaro in 2006 to Jean-Alain Boumsong in 2007. What a fall from grace.
The Loyal Old Lady’s
Replacing Capello at Juventus was Didier Deschamps, who signed on the dotted line ahead of their Serie B campaign. We all know what the Frenchman has gone on to achieve in his managerial career now, but at the time he was still a relatively inexperienced figure in the dugout. That being said, his arrival was considered a real coup for the Old Lady, whose fans still adored him from his five-year spell at the club as a player. When you consider that Deschamps was managing in a Champions League final just three years prior to his arrival in Turin, it was clear to see that he wasn’t just there out of pity.
Deschamps inherited a team in transition, but a fair few of their double scudetto winning side remained. Alessandro Del Piero was the first to confirm that he would be staying put in Turin. “A true gentleman never leaves his lady” is what the Juve captain was quoted as saying in the media following the whole Calciopoli revelation.
Del Piero’s Italy colleague Buffon also pledged his future to the club despite their demotion to Serie B. Need I say any more about Buffon’s commitment to Juventus? When I think of Juventus, I think of this man. It’s not often you see a reigning World Cup winner in between the sticks in the second tier, but that’s what Serie B fans were treated to in the 2006/07 season.
By the 2006/07 campaign, Pavel Nedvêd was already an undisputed Juventus legend, so it was no surprise that the Czech stuck around for their Serie B campaign. The 2003 Ballon d’Or winner was part of the furniture in the Juve setup, defiant in his intentions to help the Bianconeri return to where they belong. Even to this day, Nedvêd is still heavily involved with the club, as he fills the role of vice-chairman of the board of directors.
Making up the trio of attackers that had Serie B defenders wishing they chose a different career path was clinical striker David Trezeguet. Not exactly a player that was short on interested parties, France’s Euro 2000 hero was being touted to pretty much every top European team out there. Unlike his international colleague Thuram, Trezeguet stayed loyal to the Bianconeri.
Serie B Dominance
Despite starting the season with a nine-point handicap, Juventus completely blitzed the Serie B, losing just four games all season. The season didn’t start as smoothly as many expected, drawing their first game of the season away to 10-men Rimini, but Deschamps’ side soon got into their groove. The Bianconeri followed up the disappointing draw by going on an eight-game winning streak, conceding just one goal.
Del Piero and Trezeguet picked up where they left off the previous season, scoring a combined 35 goals. At the other end of the pitch, Buffon was in terrific form, conceding just 30 goals in 42 games, setting a Serie B record in the process. On the surface, all seemed well, but behind the scenes, trouble was brewing again.
After securing promotion back to Serie A, Deschamps resigned as manager of the club following a falling out with Juve’s director of football, Alessio Secco. It was rumoured that the pair clashed when discussing potential transfer targets for the 2007/08 campaign, with Deschamps looking for new recruits ahead of their return to Italy’s top flight. When you consider the calibre of the players that the Bianconeri lost when they were demoted to Serie B, you could understand the Frenchman’s disappointment.
Nevertheless, Juventus fans could breathe a sigh of relief. The turbulent few years of rumours and punishment were behind them, and the club were back where they belong. The Old Lady went on to completely dominate the Serie A in the 2010s, winning nine of the possible 10 titles available to them, and also reaching two Champions League finals. More importantly, they have steered clear of the corruption and scandals that significantly damaged their reputation in the noughties.