Italian superstars Juventus might be celebrating after clinching the Serie A title, but lowly La Nuova Quarto Calcio football club, near Naples, were just as thrilled this weekend after winning promotion – only two years after the club was sequestered from their Mafia owners.
Until February 2011, Quarto was run by Camorra kingpin Giuseppe Polverino, whose domination of the country’s hashish trade was proverbial. The club was a mascot for the mobsters – and a means of meeting and working illicitly with “respectable” society.
Following 39 arrests, local anti-Mafia prosecutors sequestered the team, just north of Naples, and installed a judicial official to run things, helped by the anti-racket association SOS Impresa.
Camorra expert Corrado de Rosa, whose latest book Mafia Da Legare (Mad Mobsters) is in the best-seller lists, said ownership of the local football team, added considerably to the mobsters’ social status and influence, in football-mad Italy. “In addition to possessing a powerful means of money laundering, being owners of a football team meant credibility and being respected; it also meant being able to influence votes in elections,” he said.
“Football was part of the logic of power,” the deputy Mafia prosecutor Ardituro Antonello told Corriere della Sera. After coordinating the investigation, Mr Antonello even stepped up to become the team’s honorary president. Fires, theft and vandalism have followed the seizure of the club by the authorities. Mr De Rosa said it was telling that during recent break-ins at the club, the only trophies stolen or destroyed were those won since magistrates seized control of the squad from the mob.
But those now running Quarto say they are determined to continue. Lino Busà, the national president of SOS Impresa, hailed the team’s promotion to the “Excellenza” league following the weekend’s 4-0 victory over Villa Literno. “A club owned by and run for the Camorra has been turned on to the path of legality, which is good for the local community – and in keeping with spirit of sport,” he said.
Luigi Cuomo, the club’s new director, told Corriere TV, that winning the championship “was a demonstration of how you can win by playing within the confines of the law and in line with sportsmanship, unlike a lot else that happens in football”.
The Polverino clan has suffered other setbacks since losing control of the football club. Its 54-year-old boss Giuseppe Polverino was finally arrested in Spain a year ago. The mobster had a reputation for being an old-school boss – eschewing trade in class-A drug cocaine. Despite this, his clan has been linked to scores of killings – including eight acid bath murders.