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Italian government to combat match-fixing

A senior Italian government official has called for a special task force to combat football match-fixing following the latest scandal to tarnish the national sport.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told Monday's Gazzetta dello Sport that he has given orders for elite police forces to begin investigating football corruption.

"We want to determine the best ways for prevention and repression of clandestine betting on football matches," Maroni said.

Maroni's announcement followed an emergency meeting between Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Petrucci and football federation president Giancarlo Abete on Sunday in which the pair called for more cooperation with government authorities.

Sixteen people were arrested up and down Italy last week for alleged involvement in a match-fixing and betting ring. Some 18 matches — mostly in Serie B and C — are under investigation by prosecutors in Cremona, where the probe is based.

Matches involving Atalanta and Siena are among those under investigation, which could put the two clubs' recent promotion back into Serie A at risk.

Former Lazio captain Giuseppe Signori was among those arrested, as was Benevento goalkeeper Marco Paoloni.

The investigation began following a Serie C match between Cremonese and Paganese in November. Cremonese players allegedly had their drinks spiked with drugs so they wouldn't play well, and several players felt ill afterward.

Paoloni, who was with Cremonese at the time, has reportedly admitted he was responsible for drugging his teammates.

"I made a mistake and I take full responsibility," Paoloni was quoted as saying by La Repubblica on Sunday.

Paoloni allegedly used his wife's signature to get a prescription for a sleeping drug from a dentist in Ancona, Marco Pirani.

"For seven months I haven't been able to live. I had trouble sleeping — as soon as I fell asleep I woke up again and thought about all the idiotic things that I was doing," Paoloni said, according to Repubblica. "I'm in jail but I feel like I've been freed."